Russian ships are skulking around underwater communications cables, causing the U.S. and its allies to worry the Kremlin might be taking information warfare to new depths.
Is Moscow interested in cutting or tapping the cables? Does it want the West to worry it might? Is there a more innocent explanation? Unsurprisingly, Russia isn't saying.
But whatever Moscow's intentions, U.S. and Western officials are increasingly troubled by their rival's interest in the 400 fiber-optic cables that carry most of world's calls, emails and texts, as well as $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions.
"We've seen activity in the Russian navy, and particularly undersea in their submarine activity, that we haven't seen since the '80s," General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. European Command, told Congress this month.
Without undersea cables, a bank in Asian countries couldn't send money to Saudi Arabia to pay for oil. U.S. military leaders would struggle to communicate with troops fighting extremists in Afghanistan and the Middle East. A student in Europe wouldn't be able to Skype his parents in the United States.