Moscow has made no secret of its interest in positioning itself as the paramount military power in the Arctic in recent months.
As the Kremlin looks to take advantage of the potential bounties of the far north as the Arctic melts, its neighbours are paying attention.
Russia has “twofold objectives” in the Arctic, a senior official in the Finnish Defence Ministry told The Wall Street Journal.
The first is to “secure the Northern Sea Route and [exploit] the energy-resources potential,” while the second is to increase “their ability to surveil that part of the world, to refurbish their abilities for the air force and the Northern Fleet.”
He added that Russian military planners are “exercising their ability to move their airborne troops from the central part of Russia to the north.”
The allure of being a commanding actor in the Arctic is obvious. By 2030, the WSJ notes, the Northern Sea Route will be passable by ships nine months a year. The route could cut down travel time between Europe and East Asia by as much as 60% while compared to current routes through the Panama or Suez Canals.
Additionally, the US estimates that a significant proportion of the Earth’s untapped petroleum — including about 15% of the world’s remaining oil, up to 30% of its natural gas deposits, and about 20% of its liquefied natural gas — are stored in the Arctic seabed.
By militarizing the region, Russia is positioning itself to have the strongest claims to control both trade and resource extraction in the region. The potential income Russia could claim from the region is so great that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in a succinct tweet that “the Arctic is a Russian Mecca.”
Since Russia adopted an updated military doctrine in December 2014, the Kremlin has placed added emphasis on development and militarization of the entire Arctic region.
Moscow has undertaken a construction blitz across the Arctic to establish military superiority in the region. Russia is constructing ten Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and ten air-defence radar stations across its Arctic coast.
Simultaneously, Moscow has created Joint Strategic Command North (JSCN) from components of the Northern Fleet in order to maintain a permanent military presence in the region. It is likely that this command will become a fifth Russian military district.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.