Russia has begun solidifying its military presence at a new military base located just 31 miles from its border with Finland.
With Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the United States making partial claims to the Arctic Circle, Russia seems intent on making itself the most powerful militarily in the region. The town of Alakurtti, in the Murmansk region, has been tasked with being a stronghold of Russia’s military presence in the Arctic with about 800 servicemen already stationed there. According to Russian admiral Vladimir Korolev, they will “soon” be joined by roughly 3,000 ground troops with Arctic combat training as well as support from 45 submarines, 39 ships and those that are stationed aboard those vessels.
According to Finnish news network YLE, the base was decommissioned in 2009 when retrofitting began but has been reopened.
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One of three regions to be reinforced
The base did not pop up over night and the move is not a surprise to other countries or NATO. Late last year, the country’s military announced its intention to match perceived NATO expansion on three fronts including the base at Alakurtti. The other locations that Russia wishes to reinforce are the recently annexed Crimean peninsula, and the Russian bases of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.
“In 2015, the Defense Ministry’s main efforts will focus on an increase of combat capabilities of the armed forces and increasing the military staff in accordance with military construction plans. Much attention will be given to the groupings in Crimea, Kaliningrad, and the Arctic,” Russian General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said in a statement that was recently reported by the Sputnik news agency.
Russia’s military expansion and drilling
While the base at Alakurtti will be the biggest military installation in the Arctic for the Russians, the country’s quest to dominate the region don’t stop there. Russia has commissioned the construction of 13 airfields and 10 air-defense stations on the Arctic coast as well as an additional ten search-and-rescue stations and 16 more deepwater ports.
The new construction presumably has but one goal, using to its military to secure its Arctic claims on resources beneath the ice shelf as it melts. According to U.S. estimates, the Arctic seabed holds a significant proportion of the Earth’s remaining untapped petroleum reserves, including around 15% of remaining oil and up to 30% of gas deposits. Russian oil company Gazprom has already begun drilling in Russian while Shell Oil continues its question to begin drilling in U.S. Arctic waters.