Russia has announced plans to boost its military presence in the Arctic as part of the country’s efforts to consolidate its place in a region believed to be rich in resources.
“Every Arctic island where there are bases of the Northern Fleet is being outfitted with all-season airfields which will be able to host different types of aircraft including heavy transport planes and fighter jets,” commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet Vice Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov said on Friday.
“We are creating a system to monitor the abovewater and underwater situation in the Northern Passage and to fully control the entire airspace in our zone of responsibility in the Arctic,” the Russian military official stated.
He added that the air defense systems in the Arctic would continue to improve and grow following the deployment of the first air defense regiment in Novaya Zemlya archipelago in 2015.
These include the “Arctic Trifold” base on the Alexandra Land island of the Franz Josef Land archipelago, and the “Northern Clover” on Kotelny island of the New Siberian Islands archipelago.
A total of 100 military infrastructure objects are set to be completed this year in the Arctic.
“Every Arctic base of the Northern Fleet can function autonomously without re-supply like an orbital (space) station for one to one-and-a-half years,” Yevmenov said.
Over the past years, Russian forces have held regular exercises and significantly boosted military presence in the Arctic as neighboring countries make rivaling claims over the region.
Meanwhile, global warming has opened new waterways and made the Northern Passage more attractive as a shorter link between Europe and Asia.
Earlier this week, the Russian Defense Ministry said its expeditions had discovered eleven new islands and six straits in the Arctic over the past five years.
In August, a Russian tanker carrying liquefied natural gas completed a 4,060-kilometer journey from Norway to South Korea in a record six days and 12 hours via the Northern Passage without the help of an ice breaker.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Arctic earlier this year. During his visit he cited the multi-billion dollar value of the Arctic region’s natural minerals, oil and gas resources.
The president said the importance of the region was “huge for both strengthening Russia’s position in the world and ensuring its economic interests.”