Red Sea, Rizzi (Ecfr): “TLC cable alarm? Europe has already started an alternative network”

It is a land route that, starting from Italy, reaches India

Preventing sabotage of submarine telecommunications cables is practically impossible, because it would require surveillance of all coasts and large stretches of sea. But what can be done is to create ‘alternative routes’ to the Red Sea, which represents “one of the most important bottlenecks also for data traffic and not just maritime traffic”. Alberto Rizzi, a geoeconomics expert from the European Council on Foreign Relations (Ecfr), explains this to Adnkronos after the alarm about the risk of sabotage of the cables by the Houthis, underlining how Europe, already long before the latter crisis in the Middle East, had started “an alternative land connection project” which, starting from Italy, should reach all the way to India.

“It is known that 17% of the world’s data traffic passes under the Red Sea through fiber cables which are little larger than the garden hose and which can be easily damaged”, underlines Rizzi, recalling for example the incident from a few months ago ago in the Baltic Sea, where a Chinese ship’s anchor damaged a cable.

In this already ‘fragile’ context, it is currently unclear “whether the Houthis have the actual maritime and especially submarine capacity” to sabotage the cables, having waged a mainly land war against them over the years. But in recent weeks “they have demonstrated that they have a greater missile capacity than we thought they had”, admits the analyst, according to whom the doubts actually concern even more “their willingness to conduct this type of attack”.

These cables, he underlines, “are also indispensable for the government and defense systems of the countries bordering the Red Sea and among these are Iran, the Gulf countries, India and China. It is difficult to think that Tehran could approve this type of behavior or that other countries whose ships are ‘spared’ from attacks can tolerate it.”

If the alarm has resurfaced in recent days, in reality Europe has already been working on alternative ‘routes’ for some time to avoid ‘bottlenecks’ and “strengthen redundancy” in a region where “the network is overloaded because there ‘there is a growing demand for connection that has not yet been satisfied”, underlines Rizzi. “Last year the land section of the BlueMed cable was activated, which connects Italy with France, Greece and various countries bordering the Mediterranean up to Aqaba in Jordan”, says the Ecfr expert, explaining that the Blue Raman segment arriving in India, in Mumbai, should be operational by the end of the year.