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Russian militarization of the Arctic shows no signs of slowing down


Russia continues to expand its military bases in the Arctic region despite heavy losses suffered in its war against Ukraine, according to a new series of satellite images obtained by CNN.

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(CNN) --

Russia continues to expand its military bases in the Arctic region despite heavy losses in its war against Ukraine, according to a new set of satellite images obtained by CNN.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also told CNN in an exclusive interview on Friday that there is now "a significant Russian military buildup in the high north," and that recent tensions have caused the alliance to "double its presence." in response.

The findings also come as a senior Western intelligence official told CNN that Russia has withdrawn up to three-quarters of its ground forces from the High North region near the Arctic, sending them to reinforce its faltering invasion of its neighbor Ukraine.

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The satellite images, obtained by CNN from Maxar Technologies, show a number of Russian radar bases and airstrips undergoing upgrades in the past year.

The images do not show a spectacular development, but rather the continued progress of fortifying and expanding an area that analysts say is of vital importance to Russia's defensive strategy, at a time of great pressure on Moscow's resources.

According to Maxar, the images show the continuation of work on the radar stations in Olenegorsk, on the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia, and in Vorkuta, north of the Arctic Circle.

They also appear to show the progress of work to complete one of five Rezonans-N radar systems at Ostrovnoy, a site located along the Barents Sea, close to Norway and Finland, west of Russia.

Russian authorities claim that the Rezonans-N are capable of detecting stealthy aircraft and objects.


According to Maxar images and analysis, three new radomes, the watertight enclosures used to protect radar antennas, have been completed this year at the Tiksi air defense site in the far northeast of the country.

Improvements have also been made to the runway and parking deck of the Nagurskoye airbase, Russia's northernmost military installation, and to the runway of the "Temp" airbase, on Kotelny Island, northeast of the country.

Russia has spent years bolstering its defenses in the far north, renovating a series of former Soviet bases with modern designs and equipment.

Its Arctic region has long been key to its oil and gas sector, but also to its nuclear defences, with a significant portion of its sophisticated nuclear weapons and underwater facilities located there.


"That deterrence has always been on point," said a senior Western intelligence official.

"She's never been underprepared; she's always been very prepared," he added.

At the start of the war with Ukraine in February, some submarines were relocated to signal "this is a real capability," the official added, but they soon returned to their standard high-availability status.

NATO chief Stoltenberg reasoned: "The shortest path between Russia and America passes through the Arctic North Pole. So the strategic importance of these areas has not changed because of the war in Ukraine."

"We see that Russia is reopening old Soviet bases, military sites," he said, noting that it is also "testing novel weapons in the Arctic and the high north."

The war in Ukraine has led to a major adjustment in Russia's troop strengths in the region, the senior Western intelligence official said.

"They have been reduced to between 20 and 25% of their original ground forces. But the naval component has not been affected by the war at all," he noted.

Following attacks earlier this month on two key airfields inside Russia, in Ryazan and Saratov, Russian military planes and bombers have spread across the country and the Arctic north, the official added.

Moscow has blamed the attacks on Ukraine, while Kyiv has not commented on the explosions at Russian bases.

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The Arctic is also vital to Russia because its melting ice is rapidly opening up new shipping lanes from Southeast Asia to Europe, using a much shorter route along the Russian coast.

The Northern Sea Route could reduce the current journey time through the Suez Canal by about two weeks.

Russian state television has bragged about the launching of several atomic-powered icebreakers, designed to boost Russian influence and power in the region.

Critics say Moscow is seeking to exercise inordinate control over a route that should be equally accessible to all nations.

Speaking via video conference at the launching of a new nuclear-powered icebreaker in St. Petersburg last month (22 November), Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the development of the "most important" Northern Sea Route "will allow Russia to reveal fully its export potential and establish efficient logistics routes, including to Southeast Asia".

At the same time, the war in Ukraine has boosted NATO's presence in the region.

Once Finland and Sweden join the bloc, as is widely expected, seven of the eight Arctic states will become NATO members.

At Russia's northernmost military installation, the Nagurskoye airfield runway has visibly progressed in the past year despite Russia's war against Ukraine.

Nagurskoye is one of several "clover" bases, with a three-pointed building in the colors of the Russian flag.

The base, located in Alexandra Land, in the Arctic Circle, was built by the Soviets in the 1950s and has been renovated in 2015. (Photo: Maxar Technologies)

The Alliance has also increased its military influence in the region.

In August, Norway released the first images of American B52 bombers flying over its territory escorted by Norwegian F35 jets and 2 Swedish JAS Gripen.

NATO's increased signaling included a recent test of the new weapon system, the Rapid Dragon Palletized Ammunition Deployment, which involved a complex drop by US special forces of a standard pallet of supplies from the rear of a C130 cargo ship.

The pallet contains a cruise missile, which is launched as the pallet parachutes down.

The exhibit was designed to demonstrate that the United States can launch these powerful weapons systems from the back of a normal cargo plane.

The test took place in Norway, not far from the Russian border.


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NATO is also increasingly concerned about the possible sabotage of Norwegian oil and gas infrastructure.

Now that Russian energy is subject to sanctions, natural gas from Norway accounts for more than 20% of Europe's supply, according to some analyses.

"Since the sabotage in the Baltic Sea," Stoltenberg said, "we have doubled our presence, with ships, with submarines, with maritime patrol planes in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, partly to monitor, to better understand of the situation, but also to send a message of deterrence and preparedness to protect this critical infrastructure".

The NATO chief was referring to the explosions at the Nord Stream gas pipeline in September, which were caused by an act of sabotage, according to Swedish prosecutors, after evidence of explosives was discovered at the sites.

The senior intelligence official said, however, that a recent Norwegian review of its infrastructure security concluded that there had been no major attack attempts and that "the oil infrastructure is now well protected."

War in UkraineNews from Russia

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-12-21

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