Against a backdrop of Cold War-like tensions with the West, Russia announced in June that it will expand its presence in the Arctic with new ships and intense patrolling in the second half of 2017, as part of an effort to phase NATO out of the region.
One of two related articles in semi-official Sputnik News carries the headline: "Phasing NATO out of the Arctic: Russia Arming Up Northern Fleet With New Weapons." It explains that as competition for the Arctic mineral wealth heats up with global warming "and NATO continues to build up its military presence near Russia's western borders, the Northern Fleet is becoming key to ensuring the country's national security and economic interests."
NATO, meanwhile, is reported in the Wall Street Journal to be discussing plans to revive a Cold-War-era command to monitor Russian submarine activities and protect Atlantic sea lanes in the event of a conflict.
Russian Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Nikolai Evmenov announced the buildup in the second of the two articles in Sputnik News on Jun 1. He told journalists that the Russian Northern Fleet will be on regular underwater and aerial combat alert in different parts of the Arctic Ocean from the second half of 2017, adding that Russia will also continue the exploration of the Arctic region.
In an interview with Radio Sputnik, independent military and naval expert Alexander Mozgovoi said that Russia is currently reviving the activities launched in the Soviet era. "During the Cold War, the Arctic Region was patrolled underwater and from the air," he explained. "Waters under the Arctic's ice was an active arena of the Cold War."
Canada, a close Arctic neighbor, has been monitoring the Russian buildup. CBC reports that Russia moved ahead with several steps in its Arctic strategy in 2016, refurbishing military bases, constructing new airfields and building outports. "A key element of this policy came together in June, when Russia launched its new nuclear-powered icebreaker in St. Petersburg," according to the broadcaster.
Date written/update: 2017-06-02