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  1. #11
    Senior Member M1917 Enfield's Avatar
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    Aug 2013
    Eastern Ontario

    The Russian Defense Ministry, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, is planning to build a military research and testing center in the Arctic, Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik reported on Friday.

    Russia, the US, Canada, Norway, and other nations are all trying to get a piece of it. But the commandant of the US Coast Guard, Adm. Paul Zukunft, warned earlier this month that Russia has the upper hand.

    In the last few years, Russia has activated a new Arctic command, four new Arctic brigade combat teams, 14 new operational airfields, 16 deepwater ports, and 40 icebreakers with 11 more in the making. Moscow also unveiled its second Arctic military base in late April.

    Russia is saying, "I'm here first, and everyone else, you're going to be playing catch-up for a generation to catch up to me first," Zukunft said.

    What's key to accessing the Arctic are icebreakers, which are needed to punch through sudden shifts in ice cover. The US currently has one, the Polar Star, which was built in 1970 and is past its prime.

    "The highways of the Arctic are icebreakers," Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska said in January 2017. "Russia has superhighways, and we have dirt roads with potholes."

    It is building three nuclear icebreakers, including the world's largest, to bolster its fleet of around 40 breakers, six of which are nuclear. No other country has a nuclear breaker fleet, used to clear channels for military and civilian ships.

    Russia's Northern Fleet, based near Murmansk in the Kola Bay's icy waters, is also due to get its own icebreaker, its first, and two ice-capable corvettes armed with cruise missiles.

    The Soviet military packed more firepower in the Arctic, but it was set up to wage nuclear war with the United States not conventional warfare. Arctic islands were staging posts for long-range bombers to fly to America.

    But in an era when a slow-motion battle for the Arctic's energy reserves is unfolding, Russia is creating a permanent and nimble conventional military presence with different and sometimes superior capabilities.

    Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, is presiding over the reopening or creation of six military facilities, some of which will be ready by the year's end.

    They include an island base on Alexandra Land to house 150 troops able to survive autonomously for 18 months. Called the Arctic Trefoil, officials have said they may deploy military jets there. MiG-31 fighters, designed to shoot down long-range bombers, or the SU-34, a frontline bomber, are seen as suitable.

    Moscow's biggest Arctic base, dubbed “Northern Shamrock”, is meanwhile taking shape on the remote Kotelny Island, some 2,700 miles east of Moscow. It will be manned by 250 personnel and equipped with air defence missiles.

    Soviet-era radar stations and airstrips on four other Arctic islands are being overhauled and new ground-to-air missile and anti-ship missile systems have been moved into the region.

    Russia is also spending big to winterise military hardware.

    “The modernisation of Arctic forces and of Arctic military infrastructure is taking place at an unprecedented pace not seen even in Soviet times,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow Defense Brief, told Reuters.

    He said two special Arctic brigades had been set up, something the USSR never had, and that there were plans to form a third as well as special Arctic coastal defence divisions.

    “Russia's military activity in the Arctic is a bit provocative,” said Barabanov. “It could trigger an arms race.”

    In Murmansk, home to Russia's icebreakers and just an hour from the Northern Fleet's headquarters, the prospect of an Arctic renaissance is a source of pride.

    The city is steeped in Arctic and military history. The conning tower of the Kursk submarine, which sunk in 2000 after an explosion, looks down from a hill above the port.

    And in central Murmansk, scale models of dozens of icebreakers crowd the halls of the Murmansk Shipping Company, while sailors, wrapped in great coats, barrel along its streets.

    “These Arctic bases are on our territory. Unlike some other countries we are not building them overseas,” said Denis Moiseev, a member of the Russian Geographical Society.

    “Other countries are also very active in trying to push their borders towards the North Pole. Our army must be able to operate on all our territory in extreme conditions.”

    One country regularly mentioned as an unlikely Arctic rival is China, a close Moscow ally, which has observer status on the Arctic Council, the main forum for coordinating cooperation in the region, and is starting to build its own icebreakers.


    New roads and a railway are being built and ports overhauled as Moscow expands its freight capacity and, amid warmer climate cycles, readies for more traffic along its Arctic coast.

    It hopes the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska, could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.

    But while the route's popularity inside Russia is growing, relatively high transit costs and unpredictable ice coverage means it has lost some of its lustre for foreign firms.

    Grigory Stratiy, deputy governor of the Murmansk Region, told Reuters there was strong interest in sea route from Asian nations however and that new icebreakers would allow for year-round navigation in the 2020s.

    “Whatever the weather, the Northern Sea Route will be needed. Its use will definitely grow,” said Stratiy, who said Russia was keen to attract foreign investment to the Arctic.

    When asked about his country's military build-up, he smiled.

    “There's no reason to be afraid I can reassure you,” he said, saying it was driven only by a need to modernise.

    “Russia has never had any aggressive aims and won't have them. We are very friendly people.”


    Two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers landed in Anadyr aerodrome in the Arctic for the first time in history on Thursday.

    The aircraft reportedly flew 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) from their permanent base to reach Anadyr, which was recently reconstructed as part of a programme to develop military infrastructure in the region.
    WARNING: story contains descriptions which may disturb some readers. If you need help, you can call the Canada Snowflake Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566. The service is toll free from anywhere in Canada, operates in French and English, 24/7.

  2. #12
    Senior Member RangeBob's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
    I'm not an expert on Russia, but from what I recall ...

    Russia has St Petersburg harbour and Murmansk harbour, near the south and north ends of Finland respectively.
    Across the northern border of Russia are about 200 ports. Russia tries to keep those ports open all year round with ice breakers that go as far as Alaska from time to time, and has north-south rivers and lousy east-west roads to most of them. Siberia's permafrost has always been a challenging terrain.
    Russia is self sufficient in oil. Russia's dependence on western investment and technology in its oil sector is pretty much gone. Whenever world oil prices are over $40 a barrel, they're pocketing the difference into a rainy day fund.

    In Canada, we don't have roads to our northern communities. We talk about building them from time to time.
    In Canada, when the sea is iced, the only way into-or-out-of our northern communities is by airplane. So food and heat are expensive, and building materials out of this world. (flying in drywall and concrete by airplane?)
    Canada has a few small icebreakers, intended mainly for the St. Lawrence river and southern Atlantic.
    Canada is doing deficit spending, because Gerald Butts thought it was a good way to win an election.

  3. The Following 3 Users Like This Post By RangeBob

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  4. #13
    Senior Member M1917 Enfield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Eastern Ontario
    WARNING: story contains descriptions which may disturb some readers. If you need help, you can call the Canada Snowflake Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566. The service is toll free from anywhere in Canada, operates in French and English, 24/7.

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