The UK is to increase its military presence in the Arctic significantly due to concerns of allegedly growing Russian aggression “in our back yard,” according to UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.
According to him, the UK government was drawing up a “defense Arctic strategy” with 800 commandos being deployed to Norway in 2019 and an instalment of a base in the north of the country.
He emphasized that Russia’s reopening of Soviet-era bases and an “increased tempo” of submarine activity is evidence that Britain needed to “demonstrate we’re there” and “protect our interests.”
“We see Russian submarine activity very close to the level that it was at the Cold War, and it’s right that we start responding to that. If we could turn back the clock 10 years many people thought that the era of submarine activity in the High North, in the North Atlantic, and the threat that it posed did disappear with the fall of the Berlin Wall. This threat has really come back to the fore.”
The UK government program revolves around claims of Russian aggression, and the idea that global warming will lead Russia to stake out new claims in the far north, near where old Soviet-era bases exist, for natural resources.
The strategy is aimed at more effectively monitoring Russian submarine activity and ensuring that the British Armed Forces are “well placed” to respond to any threats.
As part of the strategy, 800 Royal Marine and Army commandos will be deployed to Norway every winter for the next decade, operating alongside US and Dutch marines as well as Norwegian troops.
According to ZeroHedge, there has been long speculation of a rush to claim natural resources in the Arctic. However, “NATO nations have been sending more and more troops to every Russian frontier area for years now, always nominally to counter “aggression” that exists purely as a talking point to justify more military spending.”
A report by the UK government’s defense subcommittee warned of Russia seeking to expand its influence. In its report, “On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic,” the subcommittee warned that Britain should be concerned about Moscow’s intentions in the region.
“Russia has shown itself to be ready to use military force to secure political advantage and the disputed operation of a number of international legal norms in the Arctic is vulnerable to exploitation by a revisionist state,” it said.
The UK’s move is only the most recent of many that aim to “deter Russian threat” in Arctic by NATO.
The US expanded its deployment of troops in Norway and it has boosted its military cooperation with the country. US military officials have repeatedly claimed that these actions are aimed at countering the alleged “Russian threat.” As early as June, there are reports of top Norwegian officials asking for the US to double its troops deployed closer to Russia. Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters that the decision had wide support in parliament.
“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”
Oslo previously, before becoming a founding member of NATO, promised not to station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of an attack. Troops have been positioned and according to Norwegian officials they are “rotational” not permanent, but that is yet to be seen.
In August, Norway confirmed the doubling of the troops.
On October 1st, the largest deployment of Marine Corps troops to Norway took place, with about 700 Marines being deployed to Norway as part of the rotational presence to train in cold-weather environments.
In May, the US also resurrected its Second Fleet to counter “Russian aggression” in the Atlantic and North Atlantic.
Adm. James Foggo, head of US Navy forces in Europe and Africa, has said that a “fourth battle of the Atlantic” — which comes after the naval warfare of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War — is already being fought, and it ranges far beyond the waters of the Atlantic.
“I’ve used the term in some of my writings that we are in a ‘fourth battle of the Atlantic’ right now, and that’s not just the Atlantic,” Foggo said.
In March 2018, US forces took part in massive military drill in Alaska ahead of a possible “do-or-die clash with Russia,” according to reports cited by the Daily Star.
One of the biggest military drills is also forthcoming on October 25th. Trident Juncture 18 will be held in Norway and it will test’s NATO’s ability to repel invasion of an ally. Adm. James Foggo told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday that he thinks Russia will want to be there. He said that by observing the defensive maneuvers, called Trident Juncture, the Russians would learn more about NATO’s capabilities.
The exercises will involve 45,000 troops from the U.S. and other NATO member countries, plus Sweden and Finland, which cooperate with the alliance but are not members. Also involved will be about 150 aircraft, more than 60 ships and 10,000 military vehicles. Foggo said that it is the largest NATO exercise since 2002.
At the same time Moscow is actively making moves in the Russian Arctic and is building facilities, as well as expanding its icebreaker fleet. Russia’s Northern fleet has always been its most capable and it plays a key role in the country’s national security.
On August 31st, TASS cited Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who said that Russia’s Northern Fleet is testing new generation military equipment in rigorous Arctic conditions. “With support from the Russian Geographic Society several units of the Northern Fleet’s Arctic brigade are continuing a comprehensive expedition to the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago. In extreme conditions they are testing new generation military equipment and navigation means,” he said at a defense ministry board meeting.
TASS also reported that in spring 2018, the Northern Fleet received the Ilya Muromets icebreaker and the Elbrus logistic support vessel.
The outlet also once again cited Shoigu who claimed that interests of a number of states clash in the Arctic and that may potentially give rise to conflicts in the region.
“Protecting Russia’s national interests in the Arctic region and its active development remain a priority for the army. Today the Arctic has turned into a place where territorial, resource and military and strategic interests of a number of states clash. This may spark a growing conflict potential in this region,” Shoigu said.
According to Shoigu, “the icebreakers of Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Germany, the United States and China are in the north polar region.” He stressed that in order to respond to the current and potential threats the Northern Fleet continues implementing the Defense Ministry’s comprehensive plan for developing the force groupings and troops in the Arctic up to 2020.
As early as in 2015 TASS reported that Russia had finished equipping six military bases along the Arctic shoreline.
The US seems to be falling behind in terms of its icebreaker fleet, with Republicans in Washington DC having suggested diverting funding from the Coast Guard’s initiative to acquire a new heavy icebreaker to the border wall.
The military diplomatic situation around the world remains very tense. The crises are smoldering in the Big Middle East, the South China Sea and eastern Europe with high chances of the escalation even in the cyber space. Recent developments, especially the ongoing US-China and US-Russia conflicts, show that there are little preconditions for a détente.
So far, the Artic has been one of the regions, which are at least formally excluded from of the ongoing conflicts. However, it seems that the region may be turned into a point of instability in the near future. The US is in conflicts with Russia and China and is attempting, with its allies’ help, to portray both countries as enemies. The “Russian” and “Chinese” threat narrative is exploited by the US Armed Forces to boost its military presence in foreign countries, in the key regions around the world. This agenda also facilitates controversial and aggressive policies employed by the Washington establishment and its allies.