In February, President Joe Biden made the declaration that “America is back” to allies at the Munich Security Conference. The president added, “The United States is fully committed to our NATO alliance. And I welcome Europe’s growing investment in the military capabilities that enable our shared defense.”
It wasn’t just the NATO partners that took notice.
Russia has responded in kind and announced recently that it will form twenty new units to counter what Moscow claims is a growing threat from NATO. Those units will be placed in Russia’s western region, which borders Ukraine and Belarus. Those units will reportedly receive upwards of 2,000 new pieces of weaponry this year.
The head of NATO quickly responded to the potential build-up of Russian forces.
“What you see is a pattern of Russian behavior, where Russia over the last years have invested heavily in new modern military capabilities from conventional to nuclear weapon systems,” explained NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “But not only that but Russia has been willing to use military force against neighbors—in Georgia, in Ukraine.
Stoltenberg also noted Russia’s increased military presence in the Baltic Sea, the Bering Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
“This is one of the main reasons why NATO, in the last years, have increased readiness of our forces and also why we have deployed battletroops to the eastern part of our alliance,” the secretary general added.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has thrown its support behind separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. To date more than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The Bear Awakens
On Tuesday, the National Centre for State Defence Control of the Russian Federation, under the leadership of the head of the military Department, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, held a teleconference with the leadership of the Armed Forces, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced.
“First of all, I would like to congratulate our military transport aviation with big anniversary, big date – 90 years. A lot has been done over the years. Millions of tons and millions of passengers, especially since these passengers are our servicemen,” said Shoigu, who also congratulated the Northern Fleet on its 288th anniversary.
“It’s hard to imagine that 288 years ago our fleet came there, construction and creation began there,” added the Minister of Defence. “Of course, today it is our pride, I hope that everything that we have outlined there in this and next years, everything that has been done in previous years, will allow us to keep our fleet in the highest positions. The Northern Fleet, today, is practically at the forefront of countering the NATO forces, I mean the naval forces.”
In addition to building up its forces in the western region, Russia has sent a clear message to the west that it sees the Arctic as its own.
In recent months, Moscow increased its military presence at the Nagurskoye airbase, which is located on the Franz Josef Land archipelago about 600 miles south of the geographic North Pole. The base, which was first built in the 1950s as a weather station and communications outpost between the Eurasian mainland the North Pole, features a “shamrock-shaped facility” that consists of three large pods extending from a central atrium called the Arctic Trefoil. It is painted in the white-red-blue colors of the Russian national flag.
The expansion of the facilities coincides with Moscow’s increased exercises over the Polar Regions with its MiG-31 (NATO reporting name ‘Foxhound’) earlier this year. Russia was truly defining what it meant by ‘all-weather’ fighters after a group of aircraft entered duty in the Arctic.
Moscow is clearly ready to defend its claim on the region, which is rich in natural energy deposits. Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has cited estimates that the value of the mineral riches could be worth $30 trillion.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.