NATO expansion toward Arctic intensifies potential conflict: Russia
NATO expansion on different fronts is strirring problems and possibly conflicts.
Expanding NATO’s interests to entail the Arctic intensifies the potential of conflict of NATO with other countries, notably Russia, said the Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry and a senior official of the Arctic Council, Nikolai Korchunov, to Sputnik.
"The inclusion of the Arctic into the NATO area of interests only complicates the military and political situation in the region, increases the degree of conflict, and creates serious challenges for other countries, including Russia," Korchunov said.
Earlier, US Principal Director for the Arctic and Global Resilience at the Defense Department Greg Pollock stated, on September 16, that the US recognizes a need to alter its Arctic strategy owing to developments in the global security situation, such as Ukraine and climate change.
Pollock also announced that NATO and the Arctic seven must be ready for a range of outcomes and to ensure they develop the right capabilities and interoperability in the region, including through large-scale exercises.
Prior to that, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, on September 5, during the Ecosystem - Reserved Land youth forum on Monday, that Russia had returned to the Arctic for economic purposes, as well as to safeguard its sustainable defense capabilities and ensure the prevention of emergency situations.
Putin highlighted that "Russia is returning to the Arctic both from an economic point of view and in terms of ensuring the country's defense capability, as well as from the perspective of preventing emergencies," noting that "we will develop the infrastructure of the [Russian] Ministry of Emergency Situations [EMERCOM] there."
"The development of the Northern Sea Route will take place and we have already launched some major economic projects there, including in the energy sector," he stressed.
On August 25, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that cooperation between Russia and China in the Arctic poses a strategic challenge to the values and interests of the alliance.
"Russia has significantly increased its military activity in recent years, setting up a new Arctic Command, opening hundreds of new and former Soviet-era Arctic military sites, including airfields and deep-water ports, and using the region as test-bed for the novel weapon system," Stoltenberg wrote in an article for Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. "Russia’s ability to disrupt Allied reinforcements across the North Atlantic is a strategic challenge to the Alliance."
China is also expanding its presence in the region, declaring itself a "near-Arctic state" and planning to create a "Polar Silk Road" connecting it with Europe through the Arctic, Stoltenberg wrote.
Nikolay Korchunov, Russia's Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation, said on May 22 that the Arctic area has become an "international theater of military operations" since Finland and Sweden filed for NATO membership.
On May 24, it was reported that the US plans to invest billions in Arctic defense, including modernizing its Thule Air Base in Greenland, citing an American military report. The report detailed that neither Denmark nor Greenland had been informed of the plans.
The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that deals with issues faced by the Arctic governments and the Indigenous people within the region.
The Arctic Council is made up of 8 arctic countries including Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. Until this moment, Russia remains chair of the Arctic Council until May 2023, and the other seven member states have suspended their participation in response to the war in Ukraine.