The Navy has been tracking Russian submarine activity, with a recent collision sparking speculation about cable-mapping activity.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin has said Russia destroying underwater cables could “potentially” be considered an act of war.
Sir Tony – who is also the former head of the Navy – also told The Times in his first interview since becoming head of the armed forces that Russian underwater activity threatens “the world’s real information system”.
“There’s been a phenomenal increase in Russian submarine and underwater activity over the last 20 years,” Sir Tony said.
He said that meant Russia was able to “put at risk and potentially exploit the world’s real information system, which is undersea cables that go all around the world”.
“That is where predominantly all the world’s information and traffic travels. Russia has grown the capability to put at threat those undersea cables and potentially exploit those undersea cables.”
The Navy has been tracking Russian submarine activity, with a collision between the HMS Northumberland and a Russian submarine sparking speculation about cable-mapping activity.
The collision in December 2020 was filmed by a documentary crew from Channel 5 who were working on a television series called Warship: Life At Sea.
In his interview, Sir Tony also said the UK needed to develop hypersonic missiles to keep up with the military competition.
He highlighted Russia’s hypersonic and long-range missile capability as a threat and Britain’s comparative capabilities as a weakness. “We haven’t [got them] and we must have,” he said.
Sir Tony also said he has briefed ministers on Britain’s “military choices” if Russia launches an invasion of the Ukraine but did not reveal any further information.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has previously said it would be “highly unlikely” the UK would send troops if an invasion occurs, while The Times reports cyber attacks “could be an option”.
Talks between Russia, the US and Nato are scheduled for next week amid tensions sparked by a Russian military build up on the Ukraine border. But Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance needs to prepare “for the possibility that diplomacy will fail”.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Friday called for Russia to end its “malign activity” towards Ukraine.