Fears have been raised about the beginning of World War 3 after Moscow announced plans for three new military bases within 300 miles of the U.S. mainland.
Russia and the U.S. have been edging closer to conflict due to a number of geopolitical situations from Ukraine to Syria. Now Vladimir Putin has signaled his intention to move Russian forces to within a stone’s throw of the U.S.
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World War 3 – U.S. and Japan targeted by proposed military bases
Plans for the Arctic military bases were revealed alongside blueprints for another base on the disputed Kurile islands, some of which are just 20 miles from Japan. Putin and Russia have already got involved in the conflict in Syria, showing their military strength during a bombing campaign in support of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
Now it appears that Moscow is not content to project its power in the Middle East, and has its eyes on the Arctic and the Far East. The new Russian expansionism has already seen the invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and the latest announcement will only serve to stoke the flames of international tension.
The new bases will pose a direct threat to U.S. and Japanese territory, and significantly increase Russia’s military reach in the East. Once the military outposts are constructed, Russia will boast a military presence in the four extremities of the Asian continent.
Militarization of Arctic next frontier for Putin
In addition to provoking potential reprisals from Washington, the move is sure to upset Beijing as a direct threat to military supremacy in East Asia. Relations with Tokyo are already strained, and the Pacific base will only make matters worse. Japan has a claim to the Southern Kurile islands, which it calls the Northern Territories.
The islands passed into Russian hands after World War 2, and their loss caused such outrage in Japan that the two nations are yet to sign a formal peace treaty. In the Arctic, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that work is underway, or will soon start, on a number of bases located on Wrangel Island, Kotelny Island and at Cape Schmidt.
He told the press that Russia aimed to “completely finish the creation and arming of the entire Arctic grouping” by 2018. “We’re not hiding this from anyone, we have practically finished creating the base in the Novosibirsk Archipelago, on the island of Kotelny,” he added.
Moscow exhibits increasingly belligerent foreign policy
Russia has grown increasingly aggressive in its dealings with foreign powers, and Shoigu did not attempt to hide the importance of the new bases. “This is a really large base that was never seen during the Soviet times, and it has modern equipment, all of the needed equipment for these boundaries,” he said.
Putin had previously agreed not to militarize the Arctic, which is subject to competing territorial claims from multiple countries. However Russian officials have underlined their commitment to making sure that Russian interests are well defended.
The residents of Cape Schmidt, or Mys Shmidta in Russian, number only a few hundred and lived an isolated existence until Putin chose their home as the site of a military base. Most importantly for Russia’s strategic ambitions, the cape is only 320 miles from Point Hope, Alaska.
Putin presumably thinks that by building a military base so close to American soil, he can give Russia the advantage in a potential World War 3. Another proposed site, Wrangel Island, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and home to a nature reserve which will likely be sacrificed at the altar of Putin’s imperialist ambitions.
Russia planning for military operations in the Arctic
The Russian armed forces have undertaken a number of military drills in the Arctic in 2015, and Moscow has revealed blueprints for a network of new naval facilities capable of handling submarines and warships. The Arctic is a particular focus of Russia’s military strategy through 2020.
Moscow already has military facilities in eastern Europe and Asia, in countries such as Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. The Kremlin also maintains the Tartus naval base and the Latakia air base in Syria, which have recently seen the arrival of hundreds of soldiers and pieces of military equipment.
As worrying as these developments are for the U.S. and its allies, the Russian public seems to approve. President Putin currently enjoys an approval rating of nearly 90% following the bombing campaign in Syria aimed at Islamic State fighters and anti-government rebels.
Thanks to increasingly virulent nationalist propaganda, Putin appears to have convinced the Russian public that aggressive foreign policy is the only way for Russia to regain its past glories. The danger is that by projecting its military power to new areas of the globe, Russia runs the risk of sparking World War 3.