“The enemy is not going to move,” claims Commander Ivan Glushchenko, standing within the glittering white snow that encircles an ultra-modern Russian navy base within the heart of the Arctic, the positioning of Moscow’s standoff with NATO.
The growing entry to pure assets and navigation routes on this quickly melting area has attracted world competitors, and Moscow’s pursuits collide with these of many different nations, together with the US.
These tensions are prone to re-emerge in Reykjavik on Wednesday on the Arctic Council’s ministerial assembly, together with Russia, the US, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
Previous to the assembly, the place Russia would assume the rotating chairmanship, AFP journalists visited the northernmost navy base of Russia’s “Arctic Trefoil” situated on the distant Franz Josef Land Islands within the Arctic Ocean.
On the island of Alexandra Land, inhabited solely by navy personnel and coated by Permafrost, Russian forces are stationed in a clover-shaped advanced painted within the colours of the Russian flag: white, blue and crimson.
Constructed on the ruins of an previous Soviet website, the advanced now covers over 14,000 sq. meters (150,000 sq. toes) and is able to sustaining itself independently for greater than a 12 months.
The bottom is provided with necessities akin to an electrical energy station, and water purification and heating techniques. It has a clinic, fitness center, cinema, sauna and even a church.
– ‘Like an area station’ –
All amenities are linked by sizzling tunnels, permitting 150 or so troops to outlive the tough climate outdoors, the place temperatures can drop to as little as -42 ° C (-43 ° F).
“This advanced is sort of a area station, the one distinction is that it isn’t in orbit however within the Arctic desert,” says Common Igor Churkin, one of many commanders of Russia’s Northern Fleet that occupies the bottom.
Regardless of the sturdy winds and brutal climate situations, the bottom additionally has an enormous airfield. From there, two MiG-31 fighter jets, one of many world’s quickest plane, accomplished a flight over the North Pole in March, the primary flight for the Russian Navy.
The bottom additionally has a Bastian coastal protection system with a spread of 360 kilometers (220 mi). Commander Balabek Aminov says that it has demonstrated its reliability within the excessive climate situations of the Arctic.
As Moscow seeks to say its affect within the Arctic, navy disputes have intensified in recent times, with each Russian and NATO forces conducting maneuvers to exhibit their ambitions.
One of many base’s officers, Glushchenko, says his males noticed a Norwegian reconnaissance aircraft earlier that week.
Though it handed with out breaching the border, the Russian navy despatched considered one of its plane “alongside” for a couple of hours.
– ‘provocative’ verbs –
In keeping with Northern Fleet Commander Alexander Moisev, the US and NATO forces are conducting maneuvers within the Arctic with growing regularity.
“We had not seen it because the finish of World Warfare II,” he says, using on a nuclear warfare cruiser within the port of Severomorsk, a closed metropolis off Russia’s Arctic coast and the bottom of the Northern Fleet.
He condemned Washington’s “provocative” actions within the space, akin to its strategic bomber flights near Russian borders, and the deployment of American ships off the Barents Sea and NATO member Norway’s coast.
Russia has additionally elevated its navy presence in recent times, notably by deploying its state-of-the-art S-400 air protection techniques within the area.
Because the ice cowl within the Arctic decreases, Russia additionally hopes to make use of the Northern Sea Route delivery channel to realize financial impression and export oil and fuel to overseas markets.
Russia has invested closely to develop the route, which cuts journey to Asian ports by 15 days in comparison with utilizing the normal Suez Canal route.
International Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday warned different nations to make claims within the Artic.
“That is our land and our water,” he insisted.
The Arctic Council summit is predicted to carry its first face-to-face assembly with Lavrov’s US counterpart Antony Blinken in a time of heightened stress between Moscow and Washington.
However for troopers stationed within the “Arctic trefoil”, the presence of polar bears has thus far been restricted. Officer Sergei Murzayev says he has seen three there in his two and a half years.
This story has been revealed with out amending the textual content from a wire company feed. Solely the title has been modified.