The Russian Northern Fleet and the (Re)militarisation of the Arctic
Over the last decade, Russia has considerably ramped up its military presence in the Arctic. This is something that attracted much attention from Western countries, especially against the backdrop of deteriorated relations and general mistrust following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Current developments are to some extent familiar, as they echo the militarisation of the Arctic during the Cold War and the attendant US-Soviet tensions. Although comparisons with the Soviet Union’s Arctic military posture lie close at hand, we need to analyse Russia’s current military build-up in the Arctic with fresh eyes. Two of the most indicative developments were studied. Firstly, the formation of a single Arctic military command, with its implications for a reassessment of the Arctic strategic direction; secondly, the physical expansion of its Arctic military footprint, which includes both the construction of modern facilities and the increased activity of its armed forces there. In both these developments, the Northern Fleet is taking on a leading role, but the overall military posture relies on other military and civilian actors as well, and is closely related to security concerns of the developing latitudinal axis of the Northern Sea Route, rather than the Cold War longitudinal axis of a massive nuclear weapons exchange.
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Keywords:Russia, armed forces, Northern Fleet, High North, Arctic, bastion, Northern Sea Route, C2, joint strategic command, militarisation, climate change
Copyright (c) 2022 Jonas Kjellén
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