Russia has finished equipping six new military bases throughout the Arctic in a move to recreate the country’s military presence to levels it had during the Cold War, Russian news agency Tass reports.
The six military bases are located throughout Russia and are placed on both the country’s northern shore and on outlying Arctic islands. The locations are now fully equipped with the materials and amenities necessary for long-term deployments of soldiers to the region.
“According to the General Staff’s execution documents, the work for the deployment and equipment of six military bases on the Arctic islands and in the polar part of mainland Russia is completed,” a source familiar with the militarization told Tass.
Now that the bases are complete, Moscow will begin moving “hundreds of Russian military servicemen” to the bases starting in 2016.
The equipped bases are at Nagurskoye, Rogachevo, Sredny Ostrov, Temp, Mys Shmidta, and Zyvozdny. The completion of these bases marks a major step towards Russia’s overall goal of reopening and extending the military bases it once owned and operated throughout the Arctic during the Cold War.
In total, Moscow’s plans involve the opening of ten Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deep-water ports, 13 airfields, and 10 air-defence radar stations across its Arctic periphery.
Once completed, this construction will “permit the use of larger and more modern bombers” in the region, Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at New York University, writes for The Moscow Times. “By 2025, the Arctic waters are to be patrolled by a squadron of next-generation stealthy PAK DA bombers.”
The Arctic is set to become a geopolitical battleground in the future. The warming of the polar ice cap will likely reveal large untapped natural resources. The US estimates that 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.
Additionally, receding Arctic ice would enable faster global shipping routes.
By 2030, the WSJ notes, the Northern Sea Route will be passable to shipping for nine months a year. The route could cut down travel time between Europe and East Asia by as much as 60% compared to current routes through the Panama or Suez Canals.
Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.