The US-led NATO military alliance has voiced concern about what it calls Russia’s increased submarine activities in the Atlantic region.
NATO has had strained relations with Russia since conflict erupted in Ukraine in 2014.
Russia has long accused NATO of attempting to expand eastward, toward its borders. NATO has built up its forces in the Baltic states, near Russia’s western borders, recently.
“The Russians are operating all over the Atlantic,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as cited by The Washington Post on Friday. “They are also operating closer to our shores,” he added.
Other military figures within the alliance’s leading members have echoed the concerns.
US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, who is the commander of NATO’s submarine forces, claimed, “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”
“It’s a pattern of activity, and it’s a vulnerability,” British Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach said.
He had earlier voiced similar concerns.
Lennon and Peach, meanwhile, tried to suggest that Moscow could be targeting the data cables that provide Internet and other communication connections to North America and Europe.
“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” Lennon said.
“Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted, which would immediately and potentially catastrophically affect both our economy and other ways of living if they were disrupted?” Peach said.
According to the Post, NATO has responded with plans to reestablish a command post serving the North Atlantic, which was shuttered after the Cold War. Its member states are also speedily boosting their anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
On Friday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the country’s extended annual meeting of the Ministry Board that NATO had significantly bolstered its military presence on Russia’s western border over the previous five years, Russia Today reported.
The escalation, he said, had forced Moscow to take retaliatory steps.