Russia has been building up its military presence in the resource-rich Arctic region for months. And now the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) said in its August 2015 report that Moscow is moving highly advanced and specially modified air defense systems in the Arctic. These missile systems have been modified to functions in temperatures even below -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Russia plans to project hard power in the Arctic
The FMSO notes that Russia is stationing short-to-medium range anti-aircraft SA-22 Pantsir-S1 battalions in key areas near its borders with Norway. It is also placing the twin-barrel Pantsir at unspecified locations in the east facing the U.S. and Japan. The report says Pantsir is the perfect missile system for Russia to deploy at its planned military bases in the Arctic.
The Arctic ice is melting rapidly, opening up new shipping routes through the previously ice-covered areas. Russia is aggressively upgrading its military assets in the region. The Kremlin plans to establish 16 deep-water ports, 10 search and rescue stations, 10 air defense radar stations, and 13 airfields along its Arctic periphery, reports Business Insider. These stations will allow Moscow to project its military might in the new geopolitically important frontier.
Russia submits territorial claims to the UN
Meanwhile, Russia has submitted new territorial claims in the Arctic to the United Nations. Moscow claims that “a considerable part of the Arctic Ocean bed is the natural continuation of the Russian part of the Eurasian continent.” Earlier this month, the US State Department Representative to the Arctic Admiral Robert Papp told reporters that Russia’s new territorial claims in the Arctic were consistent with international laws.
The UN Secretariat is expected to review Russia’s application in the spring of 2016. It would allow Moscow full sovereignty in the underwater space covering an area of 1.2 million square kilometers. Washington estimates that the Arctic seabed has 30% of the world’s natural gas deposits, 15% of oil deposits, and 20% of the world’s LNG. Russia’s geographical location gives it an edge over others.