NATO Keeps Wary Eye on Russia's Military Buildup in the Arctic

russian arctic
Russian nuclear sub surfaces through Arctic ice (Russian Ministry of Defense)

Published Apr 18, 2021 7:32 PM by Ankur Kundu

Not all countries regret global warming. Take Russia for example: the country is actively pitching its Northern Sea Route, poised to connect Europe with Asia, as a viable alternative to the Suez Canal for maritime commerce.

However, satellite imagery is also showing a Russian military buildup in Arctic areas recently freed from ice due to global warming. The reason: Russia securing its northern coastline and opening up the Northern Sea Route.  The country has amassed considerable military strength in the Arctic, and analysts around the world are watching how this affects the geopolitical balance in the region.

Recently, CNN received satellite imagery by Maxar that detailed Russia's long-running buildup in its Arctic coastline. Along with with underground storage facilities likely to be used for storing the Poseidon nuclear long-range torpedo and other new high-tech weapons, the airfields host bombers and MiG-31BM jets.

NATO and the US have expressed increasing concern in the wake of this buildup, especially after reports were revealed about Russia's troop movements near the Ukrainian border. Speaking to CNN, a senior State Department official said, "There's a military challenge from the Russians in the Arctic. That has implications for the United States and its allies, not least because it creates the capacity to project power up to the North Atlantic."

Norway to host the biggest exercise inside Arctic Circle since the Cold War

The Russian buildup, both in the Arctic and the Ukrainian border, has prompted Norway to plan the biggest exercise inside the Arctic circle since the cold war. Dubbed 'Cold Response 2022,' next year’s war games will see active participation from Norway's Navy and Air Force. Set to take place in an area where U.S., British and Dutch soldiers frequently drill in Arctic warfare, it's meant to be a show of strength to the Kremlin as much as an exercise.

EU nations and NATO-aligned countries are committing more resources and military training in the region, according to General Eirik Kristoffersen, head of the Norwegian Armed Forces. “There is a significantly increased interest among our allies for the north and the Arctic,” he told The Barents Observer.