Russia is openly and actively building up its military presence in the Arctic. New satellite pictures indicate Russia’s military intentions in the region, according to independent research analytical company Stratfor.
In its recent report, Stratfor states that the new satellite pictures show that Russia has begun building a number of permanent military bases in the region.
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Moscow aspires to create a large military outpost in the Arctic and at the same time claim territory rights, but it has yet to boost its large-scale military presence in the region, according to the report.
It must be noted that the Kremlin has a great number of interests in the Arctic, but the most important ones are natural resources and the geopolitical leverage that Russia has in the region. It is believed that the Arctic contains about 30% of world’s unexplored natural gas reserves and 13% of unexplored crude oil reserves.
Moreover, these potential reserves are a crucial source of foreign investment that can boost the Russian economy, according to Statfor analysts.
Russia is our important partner in the Arctic – U.S. coast guard admiral
Russia is an important partner for the United States in the Arctic, according to a U.S. coast guard admiral.
Speaking at a U.S. House of Representatives Emerging Threats Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Charles Mitchel noted the importance for the U.S. that Russia has as a partner in the Arctic.
“Engagement with the Russian Federation is a key feature of effective environmental response in the Arctic,” Mitchel said on Tuesday, as reported by Sputnik News. “The Russian Federation is an important partner with responsibility for vast regions of the Arctic.”
Even though Russia and the U.S. have a number of unsettled policy disagreements, Mitchel believes that it is in U.S. national security interests to maintain open lines of communication with the Russians.
That partnership in the Arctic is necessary “to ensure effective cross-border search and rescue operations, maritime law enforcement and pollution response,” Mitchel explained.
Mitchel also added that the U.S. Coast Guard has stepped up its cooperation with the Russian Border Guard to coordinate fisheries law enforcement operations as well as search and response in the Bering Sea and North Pacific between Washington and Moscow.
Russia’s growing global presence
Ever since Russia announced last month that it was planning to build three new military bases within 300 miles of the U.S. mainland, concerns have been raised about the high risk of military confrontation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
As reported by ValueWalk last month, Russia revealed plans and blueprints to build Arctic military bases on the disputed Kurile islands, some of which are just 20 miles from Japan, a major U.S. ally in the region. The news came amid Russia’s military operations in Syria, where it is bombing Syrian U.S.-backed rebels as well as ISIS targets.
But Russia’s recent moves in the Arctic indicate that the Kremlin does not intend to project its power exclusively in the Middle East. It seems Russian President Vladimir Putin also has major plans for the north pole.
The planned new military bases in the Arctic will pose a direct threat to U.S. and Japanese territory, and will significantly boost Russia’s military reach in the east. When the bases are built, Russia will have an intimidating military presence in all four extremities of the Asian continent.
Russia builds large military bases in the Arctic
The Russian defense ministry said last month that it had built a military base in the far northern Arctic where as many as 150 soldiers can live autonomously for up to 18 months, according to the Telegraph.
The Russians said that the military base on the large island of Alexandra Land, which is part of the Franz Josef Land archipelago, is about 97% complete. The base is named the ‘Arctic Trefoil’ and is a permanent structure located on the 80th parallel north and has an area of 150,000 square feet. Franz Josef Land is a chain of islands between the Barents and Kara seas north of Novaya Zemlya archipelago.
The military base will be capable of housing up to 150 soldiers and stocking enough fuel and food to let the soldiers operate there autonomously for a year and a half, the ministry said, as reported by the British news outlet.
Russian soldiers can also move around the base from one building to another without the need to go out into the Arctic’s extremely cold temperatures, which can go down to -57 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Franz Josef Land islands had maintained a Russian border post for some time, but Moscow withdrew its military presence there in the 1990s. Russia restored its military presence in the region in November 2014, when Russia’s Northern Fleet dispatched air defense contingents there.
Russia’s military plans in Arctic through 2020
Russia has ordered a great number of military drills in the Arctic in 2015, while the Kremlin also revealed blueprints for a network of new naval facilities capable of handling submarines and warships, as reported by ValueWalk last month.
Putin has military plans for the Arctic stretching through 2020. As of today, Russia has military facilities in Eastern Europe and Asia, in countries such as Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Moscow also has the Tartus naval base and the Latakia air base in Syria, which have been a stronghold of Russian troops and military equipment since the start of Russia’s military campaign in the war-torn country.
Moscow has increasingly asserted itself as an Arctic nation, filing with UN this year to claim a large swathe of the region including the North Pole, as well as holding several military drills in the region.