As of January 13, approximately 800 servicemen from Russia’s Northern Fleet had been stationed in the Russian town of Alakurtti, in the Murmansk region. Alakurtti is due to become one of Russia’s key strongholds in its quest to fortify its position and influence over the Arctic region.
The rest of Russia’s Northern Fleet — which includes 3,000 ground troops trained for combat in Arctic conditions backed by 39 ships and 45 submarines — will be stationed there “soon”.
Finnish news network YLE confirms that Russia has reopened the military base in Alakurtti. The base had previously been shut down in 2009, but was now being retrofitted to fit a garrison of 3,000 radioelectronics experts.
Russia’s drive to militarize the Arctic is in keeping with the country’s new military, which was signed into law on Decemeber 26 last year. The new doctrine explicitly states that NATO’s expansion was the main external threat facing Moscow and that Russia should reinforce three key geopolitical fronts.
“In 2015, the Defence 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, according to Russia’s Sputnik news agency.
Aside from relocating personnel to Murmansk, Russia has undertaken a construction blitz across the Arctic in a bid to ensure that it remains the unchallenged military power in the region. Moscow is constructing 10 Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and 10 air-defence radar stations across its Arctic coast.
According to the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), Moscow will also create in the Arctic a naval infantry brigade, an air defence division, a mechanised brigade, a coastal missile defence system, and missile regiments in outlying archipelagos in the Arctic Ocean.
Russia’s focus on the Arctic stems from the unclaimed natural resources under the ice. The US estimates that a possible 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, 30% of its natural gas, and 20% of its liquefied natural gas are stored within the Arctic sea bed.
Currently, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US all have partial claims to the Arctic Circle.
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