The Arctic ice floes are a world away from Syria's fiery deserts or the plains of eastern Ukraine. Yet the High North risks becoming another theater of tension between Russia and the West as global warming frees up resource riches. This is reported by Censor.NET citing Global Post.
"The unlocking of the region's enormous economic potential could... have significant geopolitical implications," warns a report presented to lawmakers and senior Western security officials last week. It highlighted dangers of "competition and perhaps even confrontation" in the region.
"The Arctic is a harsh environment; it should not become harsher due to increased military and resource competition," said the report prepared for NATO's Parliamentary Assembly.
Moscow aims to open 10 new airbases in the Arctic region by the end of this year in addition to four that are already operational. Last December, Russia set up a new Arctic strategic command and began revamping Cold War-era naval, army and air defense installations across its vast northern region.
A motorized infantry brigade was stationed close to the border with Finland; another brigade will be based just eight miles from Norway's northeast frontier. The NATO PA report says Russia is increasing its special forces presence in the region by more than 30 percent and stepping up Arctic warfare training.
Norway is stepping up military spending in response.
The government last week asked parliament for a 9.8 percent increase in the defense budget next year. It wants to spend over a quarter of the budget on new equipment like high-tech F-35 stealth fighter planes and powerful anti-ship missiles.
A 25 percent increase in intelligence spending is also planned.
Some NATO allies oppose further militarization of the High North, fearing an Arctic arms race. The Norwegians argue that Western allies must prepare for the worst.