Monday, 29 October 2018 13:16

Military activity of foreign countries in the Arctic region

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The Arctic region includes the Northern margins of the continents Eurasia and North America, the Arctic ocean with Islands, and adjacent parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Arctic border on land coincides with the southern border of the tundra zone and with the July isotherm of 10°C (5°C - at sea). The total area is about 27 million km2. Sometimes the southern border of the region is taken by the Arctic circle (in this case, the area is 21 million km2).


In modern geopolitical conditions, the Arctic with its hydrocarbon deposits, bioresources, strategically important sea and air communications is considered by foreign countries as a promising source of increasing national economic and military potential.

Significant changes in terms of the geopolitical interest of countries in the development of the Arctic are taking place in connection with climate changes in the high latitudes. For example, since the 1970s, scientists have recorded a steady decline in the thickness of ice in the region, resulting in mineral-rich Arctic shelves becoming more accessible for development.

We should not forget about the wide transport opportunities in the region. A key role here is played by the development of the Northern sea route, which is twice shorter than the traditional route through the Suez canal and is the shortest route between Europe and Asia. As a result of the melting of ice and the beginning of year-round operation of this route, it can become the main transport highway of international importance.

Together with countries that have direct access to the Arctic waters and claim to establish control over the polar territories (Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland), China, Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom claim the resources of the region to varying degrees. The North Atlantic and European unions are also showing serious interest.

For the settlement of interstate relations in the Arctic have created specialized institutions of different profile and composition of the Arctic Council (AC), the Barents Euro-Arctic Council region, the Council of Ministers of the Nordic countries. A special place in this series is occupied by the AU, which is considered the highest international body that develops proposals for the development of the region and regulates the processes of environmental protection in the high latitudes. Its permanent members are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

The leadership of the European Union in accordance with the Arctic strategy advocates for "equitable" access of the member States of the organization to the natural resources of the Arctic and transport communications of the Arctic ocean.

The European Union, as a candidate for permanent observer status in the Arctic Council, is seeking to develop new international agreements on the Arctic that meet the interests of Brussels.

Currently, the main efforts of Europeans in the high latitudes are focused on increasing the scale of scientific research; expanding cooperation with the Arctic countries in the exploration, production and transportation of energy resources; implementation of environmental protection measures; exploring opportunities for organizing new economic activities in the Far North.

Without the resources to significantly increase the military presence in the region, priority is given to enhancing intelligence capabilities, creating conditions for the deployment of the unit's military contingents, and increasing the intensity of operational and combat training (OBP).

Every year in the high latitudes organized more than 30 events OBP of various sizes. The largest of these is the cold response multinational exercise, which takes place in February and March in the territory and airspace of Northern Norway, as well as in the surrounding marine areas. The main purpose of this exercise is to test, practical development and clarification of plans for the joint use of interspecies groups of troops (forces) in the Far North during the operation to resolve the crisis. Operational groups of headquarters, units and units, aircraft and helicopters, warships, submarines and auxiliary vessels of NATO countries and partner States are involved in the event. Only about 16 thousand soldiers.

Currently, NATO member States do not have groups of troops (forces) in the Arctic. At the same time, in places of permanent and temporary deployment at air bases and in military camps in the Arctic, the personnel of the SV and air squadrons of the US air force, Denmark and Norway are located.

The United States of America in the near future does not plan to create specialized units permanently stationed and designed for combat operations in the Arctic. The main objectives of the United States in the Northern latitudes is to ensure the readiness of the armed forces to adequately respond to the challenges and threats to national security both independently and in cooperation with allies and partners, as well as the development of cooperation in the field of defense with the Arctic States, including joint activities of the OBP.

The country's leadership focuses on the following tasks: sovereignty, protection of the state borders and the territory of the United States in the polar latitudes; improvement of the control system of the sea, air and ground environment through the modernization of existing and introduction of advanced technical means; maintenance of guaranteed freedom of navigation and aviation in the region. In addition, considerable attention will be paid to a comprehensive assessment of the state of the us infrastructure in the Arctic to determine its compliance with the current and future needs of the national armed forces.

The relevance of the work on the creation of a high-tech monitoring system in the Arctic is determined by the inability of the US armed forces to monitor the situation in all areas of the Arctic, despite the presence of space assets in polar orbits, which deprives the us military Department of the ability to timely and guaranteed to perform the tasks of developing a new theater of operations. With this in mind, the Pentagon's main efforts are aimed at creating a situation control system that includes an extensive network of sensors and special Oceanographic buoys, unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, coastal and drifting stations.

In order to obtain rapid information on the activities of foreign States in the region, the United States is actively using the forces and means of the coast guard, the Navy, including the submarine fleet and the network of deep-sea sensors established in the Northern seas, as well as the orbital group of artificial earth satellites for the office of aerospace intelligence of the national Ministry of defence.

At the moment, the regular forces of the us coast guard include two icebreakers - heavy class "polar Star" (1976 built), which underwent major repairs in December 2012 with the extension of the service life to 2022, and the middle class "Healy" (2000). In order to increase the opportunities for the development of the Arctic ocean, the United States leadership plans to postpone the commissioning of a new heavy icebreaker from 2022 to 2020, as well as to start the purchase of ice-class vessels. In total, up to 2030, it is planned to have up to ten different icebreakers as part of the coast guard.

In addition, it is planned to modernize the port of Clarence (Alaska) to shelter ships and vessels from adverse weather conditions in the area of the Bering Strait, as well as to accelerate the construction of the Arctic deep-sea cargo port and the point of basing of warships and auxiliary vessels of the us Navy in the locality of nom (Alaska). Along the Northern and Western coast of Alaska plan to deploy monitoring stations in sea level and transmission of the amendments to the satellite navigation signals and to improve coastal station automatic identification of ships.

When organizing operational and combat training, the command of the American armed forces pays special attention to training special forces to act in the Far North. One of the most important events is the exercise conducted at least twice a year by the US air force and the allies "Red flag - Alaska" (Red Flag - Alaska) to develop aviation units of the countries participating in joint actions during air operations of different intensity. In total, about 1.2 thousand servicemen and up to 100 units of aircraft are involved.

A special place in Canada's foreign policy strategy is taken by ensuring national interests in the polar latitudes, while the country's activities in the Arctic Council are considered as the main mechanism for the implementation of the state's course in this direction.

In order to strengthen the military presence in the Arctic, Ottawa intends to take a number of practical steps:

  • create a comprehensive system of reconnaissance, surveillance and control of ground and surface conditions in the Arctic region, which will include spacecraft and aircraft, including unmanned aerial vehicles;
  • to establish a network of warehouses in the North-Western part of the country for the logistical support of the national armed forces.

Currently, the coast guard of Canada are six icebreakers. The government plans to build up to 2022 to deliver for the national Navy five new patrol ships of the type "Harry Dewolf" with enhanced ice protection. The procurement contract between the Ministry of defence and the canadian shipbuilding company Irving Shipbuilding was signed in 2015.

The laying of the headship took place in June 2016. Delivery is scheduled for mid-2018. The ship will be able to overcome the ice thickness of 1 m at a speed of 3 km. The autonomy of the individual ship in Arctic waters - four months.

The equipment of the ship will include four speedboats placed along the right and left sides. To conduct marine reconnaissance, search and rescue operations and perform General transportation tasks in the hangar on the stern, a helicopter of the CH-148 type is provided, equipped with two anti-submarine torpedoes.

In addition, after 2021, it is planned to purchase about 100 all-terrain vehicles, polar equipment for military personnel, including snowshoes, skis and sleds, as well as to build two space communication stations. These projects will be financed from the budget of the Ministry of defence.

Canadian experts believe that due to global warming and a gradual decrease in the area of ice cover by 2045, the armed forces will be able to operate in the Arctic for a significant part of the year.

The Danish leadership pays considerable attention to the problem of strengthening the country's position in the Arctic region, while using the full range of political, economic and military resources.

The priority tasks, according to Copenhagen, should be the formation of the evidence base for the acquisition of rights to part of the Arctic shelf, the improvement of military and civil infrastructure on the island of Greenland, the active use of the country's Navy and NATO allies to protect national interests in the Arctic.

Thus, in accordance with the Danish Arctic strategy for the period up to 2020, the joint Arctic command of the Danish armed forces, which does not have permanent forces and means, has been created and operates in the locality of Nuuk (Greenland).

In the sea areas adjacent to Greenland island, the Danish Navy warships patrol on a rotational basis.

At the same time, the Danish leadership is carrying out activities aimed at expanding the capabilities of the fleet in the Arctic, enhancing operational and combat training of the naval forces in the region.

The main part of the research, including in the interests of the armed forces, is aimed at solving the following tasks:

  • development of the concept of activity of AF in the polar region based on the principles of complex display of a situation in real time;
  • assessment of the feasibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor climate change and conduct reconnaissance at high latitudes;
  • adjustment of operational plans for the use of troops (forces) in the area of responsibility of the joint Arctic command (n. n. Nuuk), which also has the task of developing guidance documents (manuals, instructions, regulations) that determine the order of basing and operation of weapons and military equipment in the Arctic zone;
  • the study of the connectivity of Denmark to the project of development of satellite navigation system, the EU Galileo, and the European programme for monitoring the earth's surface.

The Norwegian leadership, not excluding the possibility of deepening the contradictions between the Arctic States on the development of natural reserves of the Arctic, has made adjustments to the plans of military construction and plans to form the Arctic rapid reaction force, as well as to increase the combat capabilities of units stationed in the polar latitudes.

Particular attention is being paid to strengthening the control of the marine environment in the high latitudes, which is expected to improve the capacity of the national system for the collection, analysis, processing and distribution of information on the situation in the Barents and Norwegian seas. For these purposes from July 2016, the fleet included intelligence ship "Marjata" fourth generation, equipped with modern equipment, allowing to conduct radio and Radiotechnical reconnaissance, and conduct hydrological studies.

The Norwegian air force intends to adopt more than 50 multi-purpose fighter f-35A "lightning-2" produced by the United States, placing them near the Arctic circle. Also planned purchase of the American aircraft based patrol aircraft P-8A "Poseidon".

At the same time, the Globus-2 radar station located in the locality of Varde (60 km from the border with Russia) is being modernized in order to expand its capabilities to track the launches of Russian Intercontinental ballistic missiles.

On the territory of the country there are objects of advance storage, designed to provide advanced expeditionary forces of the American Navy and military equipment of the armed forces of great Britain and the Netherlands. According to the decision taken by the Norwegian authorities, the us marine corps is stationed in Northern Norway on a rotational basis. In addition, the command of various NATO countries regularly conducts training courses there.

Finland and Sweden, having no direct access to the Arctic ocean, position themselves as full-fledged Arctic States and closely monitor the military and political situation in the Far North.

The leaders of these countries believe that the situation in the Arctic as a whole is stable without signs of rising tensions, despite the marked increase in military activity. For Helsinki and Stockholm, the development and development of the region is a political priority. To solve national problems, the Finns and Swedes are actively promoting the idea of involving the European Union as an independent entity in the consideration of Arctic issues.

It is also assumed that technological progress will lead to increased economic activity in the region, and unequal access to natural resources and the presence of disputed territorial issues will contribute to increased confrontation between the Arctic countries. In view of these circumstances, the Finnish and Swedish leadership attaches great importance to strengthening military cooperation in the polar latitudes, especially in the format of defence cooperation between the Nordic countries, Nordefco, in order to ensure national security. At the same time, the main emphasis is still on working out joint actions of the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian air forces to patrol the Far North.

Great Britain in the Arctic acts in the interests of its NATO allies (Norway, Denmark, Canada, USA). In particular, London supports the American position on the joint international use of Arctic mineral deposits, as well as the desire of Washington and Ottawa to turn the Northern sea route into an international transit route.

Currently, the armed forces of the United Kingdom in the Arctic region are not deployed and are not on combat duty on a permanent basis. Nevertheless, the military leadership of the country pays special attention to the training of national troops (forces) to conduct combat operations in extremely low temperatures. When placing orders for the construction of new ships, one of the requirements of the UK Ministry of defence is their adaptation to the tasks in the Arctic.

China in the implementation of policy in the Far North declares " respect for the sovereign rights of the Arctic States." At the same time, Beijing declares the "international status of the Arctic", the need to implement the principles of freedom of navigation, non-discriminatory fishing regime in the Arctic waters and the unhindered participation of States in solving the problems of the region.

In order to further implement the interests of China in the Arctic, a concept for increasing its presence in the region was developed and published at the end of January 2018. The published "White paper" China's policy in the Arctic " identifies Beijing's strategic priorities in the high latitudes. The main ones are:

  • activation of scientific research in the Arctic through the creation of polar stations on long-term lease from the Arctic States territories, as well as increasing the number and duration of national expeditions in the region;
  • increasing economic presence through the development of mineral and biological resources, as well as expanding the use of Maritime transport routes (Northern sea route and North-Western passage);
  • strengthening political influence in the region through active participation in solving the most important problems of its development and the preparation of international legal documents regulating activities in the polar latitudes.

Thus, the leadership of the Arctic and a number of other interested States pays considerable attention to the implementation of plans to protect their economic and military-political interests in the Arctic and seeks to increase the presence of military contingents in the region and increase the capabilities of national armed forces for combat use in extremely low temperatures.

A. Nazarenko



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