The Arctic issue for Russia

Moscow has never hidden its strategic interest in the Siberian Arctic zones. Since 2010, Russian military forces have not built less than 6 new polar bases, and the military system in the Arctic has 14 air bases and 16 deep water ports on the country's 18.000 km of Arctic coastline.

In recent years, 6 new Arctic brigades have been formed, and which have specially developed equipment, such as the TOR-M2DT and Pantsir-A anti-aircraft systems, the T80BVM heavy tank whose turbine allows to operate at very low temperatures, the Mi-8AMTSh-VA Transport helicopter specially designed for flight in extreme cold, and a multitude of high mobility vehicles, ranging from the DT-30PM heavy compartment armored vehicle to the snow- mobile TTM 1901-40. 

It must be said that the Arctic regions are of threefold interest to Russia. First of all, it is the preferred navigation zone for missile submarines of the Russian navy, experts in the field of navigation under polar ice. Secondly, northern Siberia is an ancient sedimentary plateau, and today contains a very significant part of the world's natural gas reserves, essential to the Russian economy. Finally, Russian authorities are betting on ongoing global warming, which could increase the navigability of the northern route linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. According to some forecasts, this route could even become passable all year round by commercial navigation, which would obviously be an important asset for Moscow, and an extraordinary alternative to Beijing's Silk Road.

We must not neglect the proximity of the North American coasts in this table, the route through the poles allowing Russian bombers to reach North America and hope to be able to return. In the absence of American bases, comparable to American bases in Europe, Japan or North Korea, the polar route is in fact the only alternative for the Russian airborne deterrent to be able to threaten American territory.

The remilitarization of the Arctic by Russian forces has not gone unnoticed, and is now leading to a response from the countries concerned, first and foremost Canada, which has integrated polar navigation conditions into its fleet of destroyers currently being acquired. , and launched an Arctic patrol boat program, the first example of which has just entered service. The Scandinavian countries are also in the process of modernizing their military forces and strengthening their winter combat capabilities, to be able to counter, if necessary, opposition with Russian forces.

More surprisingly, China is also developing an Arctic military force, and aims to become a major player in this theater of operations in the years to come.

In any case, by having proven superiority in the Arctic zones, Russia, or the Sino-Russian couple where applicable, would benefit from exceptional mobility to reach all the seas of the globe, and to move quickly troops and equipment. It is therefore essential, for Americans and Europeans alike, to be able to control or even hinder this mobility in extreme cases. For now, we are far from it.

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