The Arctic is heating up. And it’s not just due to climate change. The appearance of new shipping lanes and access to once isolated resources as the ice retreats has Moscow racing to stake its claims.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, it will demonstrate its ability to exercise its military might in the northern frontier in August-September. The Tsentr-2019 exercise will bring together Russia’s Northern Fleet, Pacific Fleet and Central Military District in what it calls a “serious test of the battle capacities of the Arctic troops”.
In 2018, Russian and Chinese forces combined in a rare display of co-ordinated firepower in the northern regions of Siberia and Mongolia. More than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks and 1000 aircraft took part.
The exact scale of the Tsentr-2019 exercise is not yet certain. But Moscow says it will be among the year’s biggest, and the scale of the operation requires the expansion and updating of existing northern port infrastructure.
Russian state-conrolled news service Izvestia reports the exercise will be held between the Novaya Zemlya and New Siberian Islands, covering a large swath of the count ry’s north. It is intended to put a range of new weaponry through its paces to determine the impact of the cold, wet conditions, including air-defence missiles, armoured vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and support equipment.
As the exercise takes place during the northern hemisphere summer, conditions for ground troops practising combat inside the Arctic Circle will not be pleasant, Isvesta quotes a military expert as saying. The melting, loose ice turns the region into a swamp.
“But in the Arctic, divisions and armies do not fight,” he said. “Summer and the beginning of autumn are the most favourable time for the fleet, since the waters of the coastal seas will be without ice.”
Isvesta says sme 500 new military facilities have been built in the Arctic region during the past four years.
Originally published as Russia prepares for real cold war