Like a stone thrown into a lake, Vladimir Putin’s provocative invasion of Ukraine created a spillover effect far from the front. One of the largest, but surprisingly overlooked, of these ripples can be found in the Arctic Circle. Putin’s violent attack on Ukraine has dramatically improved the security regime of the United States and its NATO allies in the Arctic Circle.
There are two main reasons for this welcome development. First, the entire alliance finally grasps the threat posed by Putin and finally realizes that the only wise course of action is to accept Putin in his words. If he devised a fantasy about the anti-Russian slaughter in Georgia before he attacked, and if he said “Ukraine is not a nation” before trying to absorb it, he would point to a map of the Arctic Circle, Compared to Peter the Great at a later date, then we must confront his declaration that Russia’s interests are “concentrated in the Arctic Circle” and his claim to the vast territory of the Arctic Circle.
For the past decade, NATO has focused on nation-building and counterterrorism in Afghanistan, civilian protection in Libya, horn of Africa anti-piracy, pandemic response and resilience, while Putin has his We have poured military resources into strengthening the claims of the exotic Arctic. These claims include half of the Arctic Circle and the entire North Pole (approximately 463,000 square miles of artic territory).
Putin’s Arctic accumulation includes the activation / reactivation of 6 military bases and 14 military airfields in the Arctic. Activation of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile and radar sites. Some include multiple paratrooper exercises, amphibious landings, large-scale wargames, 80,000 troops and 220 aircraft. And a series of threatening actions directed at the existence of the Arctic Circle in the United States. For example, the Russian Air Force has revived the Cold War era practice of testing air defense in Alaska, ignoring the US Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska and conducting large-scale operations along the edge of Alaska’s waters.
As the Canadian general of NORAD says, “This enemy, this competitor, Russia has made progress in every way.”
That is the second reason why NATO’s position in the Arctic is rapidly evolving and improving. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine forced the two major Arctic countries, Finland and Sweden, to join the alliance. With Ukraine in full view, these long-standing neutrals are better off defending their territory, sovereignty and freedom as members, not just NATO’s neighbors, but also from attacks behind NATO’s shield. We recognize that they are safer than it is.
Sweden and Finland are not alone helping themselves by joining NATO. Unlike recent additions to the alliance, Sweden and Finland will be net security exporters, especially in the Arctic Circle.
Sweden and Finland participated in NATO’s high-intensity, large-scale cold response exercises this year. In this exercise, tens of thousands of troops from 27 allied forces tested their ability to “defend, fight and survive in an Arctic environment.” In 2021, Sweden, along with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, hosted an Arctic Challenge exercise that brought together Swedish and Finnish fighters. In 2020, US B-1B bombers joined Swedish fighters and participated in operations over Sweden, with Swedish and US Air Force and Navy assets conducting combat operations both inside and outside the Baltic Sea. The US Marine Corps has deployed to Sweden for cold exercises and winter war training with Swedish hosts.
Beyond the Arctic Circle, Sweden has contributed to NATO missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. Sweden is ranked in the top 25 on the global index of military power. Swedish companies have designed and deployed some of the best weapon systems in the world, including many anti-tank weapons that protect Ukraine from the army of Putin’s predators and rapists.
Finland has a sturdy army of 280,000 personnel and 900,000 reserves. Finland has contributed to NATO’s operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Finland is also part of NATO’s Strategic Airlift Initiative, participating in NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center and providing back-to-back support to NATO troops based in or passing through NATO territory. .. And Finland invests 2% of GDP in defense. This is the standard that NATO expects from all member countries.
NATO has focused on the North Atlantic and Central Europe (GIUK Gap, Fulda Gap, Swaki Gap, etc.) for 73 years, but some of the current NATO member countries are Arctic countries, the United States and Canada. , Iceland, Denmark, Norway.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Norway announced a significant increase in military spending. This is the most assigned to protect the “High North”. In addition, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Norway moved its military headquarters to the north of the Arctic Circle, moved a significant portion of its operational forces to the north, and placed the largest active troops on top of the Arctic Circle.
Denmark recently invested hundreds of millions of dollars in an “Arctic Capability Package” focused on Arctic safety and surveillance, created an Arctic military headquarters, and with rapidly responding Air Force, Navy, and Ground Forces. We are launching an Arctic response force that is composed.
Canadian troops are conducting Allied and Canadian-only exercises in the Arctic. Ottawa recently announced plans to invest nearly $ 1 billion in a new Arctic radar system to protect the territory of the United States and Canada. And Canada is partnering with the United States in its biennial Arctic Edge exercises.
It brings us a new American focus on Arctic security and deterrence. A recent Pentagon report frankly states, “The United States is an Arctic country.”
To consolidate and strengthen operations in Alaska, the Pentagon redesignated the Army’s 12,000 troops in the 49th State as the 11th Airborne Division in June. Soldiers of General James McConville, Army Chief of Staff of the 11th Airborne Division, vow to be the “master” of “Arctic battles in the mountains and highlands in frigid weather.” According to Maj. Gen. Brian Eiffler, commander of the 11th Airborne Division, American Arctic soldiers will learn lessons from their Canadian and Norwegian brothers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for the US military in High North. Overall, the US military has 22,000 active personnel (and 4,700 guards and reserves) deployed in Alaska. The largest US fifth-generation fighters (F-22 and F-35) are deployed in Alaska, and the Air Force invests approximately $ 6 billion annually in Arctic capabilities.
Some Marine Corps units are training at the Army Northern Warfare Training Center in Alaska. Others are deploying in Norway for training in cold climates.
US submarines have led Arctic exercises designed to explore operational capabilities in this unique environment. A US anti-submarine aircraft is flying from Iceland. US warships are also jointly training with French, British, German, Norwegian and Icelandic forces around Iceland.
With the upcoming addition of Finland and Sweden to the alliance, NATO’s presence, capabilities and interest in the Arctic will only increase.
Britain, a key partner in a series of alliance exercises in the Arctic, recently called for “NATO to take a more aggressive approach to the Arctic.” NATO Secretary General Jason Stoltenberg declared in March that “NATO is an alliance in the Arctic Circle.” He believes that “the existence of a strong, robust and predictable ally is the best way to ensure stability and protect our interests.”
in short, All the components for NATO to address the threat posed by Putin’s militarization of the Arctic are in place. It is time for NATO current and future members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to formalize and harmonize their efforts, combine their abilities, and deal with Moscow from a unity and power stance. There are many approaches the Alliance can take to achieve that goal: the Arctic Affairs Committee or the Arctic Working Group, other centers dedicated to specific security issues, and even the full-scale Allied Command Arctic. The Arctic Safety Center modeled after.
The main goal of such efforts is to discourage Putin from extending his fanatical neo-imperialist war to the Arctic Circle. The second goal is to ensure that the bounty of Arctic natural resources is developed in a transparent manner that adheres to the rule of law, legal exploration and mining practices, and sound trade practices.
As we learned during the Cold War, NATO members can achieve far more than they can by pooling assets, identifying and pursuing common interests, and coordinating plans and deployments. increase.