New satellite images show massive Russian military expansion in Arctic, U.S. said to be watching closely

New satellite images show massive Russian military expansion in Arctic, U.S. said to be watching closely
Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
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Russia's ambitions for Arctic conquest have become plain to see with the release of new satellite images this week, which show the construction of massive military bases along Russia’s Arctic coastline and Nagurskoye airfield on Alexandra Land island.

Imagery released by satellite intelligence firm Maxar Technologies shows that Russia is currently renovating its Soviet-era airfields with the construction of new radar systems and coastal missile defense systems, reports CNN

Reports by Russian state media revealed that President Vladimir Putin has requested an update on a “key stage” of the tests of a Russian superweapon called the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo. Designed as an unmanned stealth torpedo, the Poseidon is powered by a nuclear reactor and designed to sneak past coastal defences by hiding on the seafloor.

In theory, the Poseidon functions as an underwater drone that is intended to deliver a nuclear warhead of multiple megatons, according to Russian officials, which could decimate entire coastlines and render coastal cities uninhabitable. 

According to the satellite images, a March 16 capture shows what appear to be state-of-the-art MiG31BM “Fox Bat” interceptor fighter jets at the Nagurskoye airfield. 

“Russia is refurbishing Soviet-era airfields and radar installations, constructing new ports and search-and-rescue centers, and building up its fleet of nuclear- and conventionally-powered icebreakers,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell told CNN. “It is also expanding its network of air and coastal defense missile systems, thus strengthening its anti-access and area-denial capabilities over key portions of the Arctic.”

Concerns over Russia's militarization of the Arctic north were previously raised by retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, who warned of their developments last year when he was the commander of NORAD. 

“The threats facing the United States and Canada are real and significant. The Arctic is no longer a fortress wall and the oceans are no longer protective moats,” he said in March 2020. “They are avenues of approach for advanced conventional weapons and the platforms that carry them. Our adversaries’ capability to directly attack the homeland has leapt forward, and they are engaged in overt, concerted efforts to weaken our national technological, economic, and strategic advantage.”

“The Arctic is the new frontline of our homeland defense as it provides our adversaries with a direct avenue of approach to the homeland and is representative of the changing strategic environment in our area of responsibility,” he said. “More consistently navigable waters, mounting demand for natural resources, and Russia's military buildup in the region make the Arctic an immediate challenge for USNORTHCOM, NORAD, our northern allies, and our neighboring geographic combatant commands, U.S. European Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.” 

Radio Free Europe reports that the Pentagon is watching Russia’s military activities in the Arctic “very closely.” 

“Without getting into specific intelligence assessments, obviously we’re monitoring it very closely,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing on April 5. “Nobody’s interested in seeing the Arctic become militarized.”

He noted that the Arctic “is key terrain that’s vital to our own homeland defense and as a potential strategic corridor between the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the [United States],” adding that the United States is “committed to protecting our U.S. national-security interests in the Arctic by upholding a rules-based order in the region, particularly through our network of Arctic allies and partners.”

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