After being away from public appearance for 10 days, the Russian President first thing Monday ordered full alert in a snap combat readiness exercise for the Northern Fleet based on the Kola Peninsula.
The President, in position of being the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, orders all units of the Northern fleet to be ready for combat readiness.
The inspection started on 08:00 reports the Russian Ministry of Defence. Defence Minister Seri Shoigu says 38,000 soldiers, 3,360 vehicles, 41 naval vessels, 15 submarines and 110 aircrafts are involved in the inspection.
Russia’s Northern fleet has its main base in Severomorsk north of Murmansk and several bases where nuclear powered submarines are located from Gadzhievo in the east to Zapadnaya Litsa in the east. In addition to the naval bases, the garrisons like Sputnik and 19 Kilometres in the Pechenga valley near the border to Norway are within the structures of the fleet.
The Ministry writes on its portal that the drill aims at assessing the ability of the Northern Fleet to carry out tasks in the Arctic.
“New challenges and threats to the military security require further enhance of combat capabilities of the Armed Forces…,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says.
On task during the drill is to see how quick and effective strengthening of forces for Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef land can be done.
The Defense Ministry continues: “…regrouping special forces over long distances, protection of Russia’s state border in the Far North; deployment of comprehensive support trrops in naval training areas….”
Norway ends largest drill since 1967
The Russian naval readiness drill comes as Norwegian armed forces are ending a week-long exercise in Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost county. The Joint Viking exercise, involving some 5000 soldiers, is the largest in Finnmark since 1967.
As a part of the exercise, Norway’s newest frigate “Thor Heyerdal” made port call to Kirkenes in the northeastern corner of Finnmark and only a few kilometres from the border to Russia.
Criticises northeastern NATO drills
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov says on Monday that the growing number of NATO drills near Russian borders leads to destabilization of the situation in north-eastern Europe.
“Russia is deeply concerned about the growing number of NATO drills near our borders. It is especially surprising that this is happening in north-eastern Europe, which is the most stable region not only on our continent, but also maybe in the whole world,” Mashkov says to TASS news agency.
He adds that such NATO actions lead to destabilization of the situation and increasing tensions in north-eastern Europe.
From military cooperation to freeze
Norway and Russia both have coastline to the Barents Sea. Norway and Russia have over the last 20 years developed a sphere of post-Cold- War military cooperation with several joint exercises. The last one, named Pomor 2013, included naval vessels visits to both Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula and Tromsø in Northern Norway.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March last year, Norway however suspended all military cooperation with Moscow, arguing Russia’s action violates international laws.
Nordic military cooperation
In May this year, more than 100 planes from eight countries will take part in the Arctic Challenge Exercise that takes place in the skies of the Barents Region using the airports in Luleå (Sweden), Rovaniemi (Finland) and Bodø (Norway).
The three Nordic countries have over the last few years initiated a closer military cooperation.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Arctic Council: The evolving role of regions in Arctic governance, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot
Finland: US seeks Finnish support for Arctic goals, Yle News
Greenland: Greenland urged to work with Arctic Council, CBC News
Iceland: Iceland conference draws on hopes, concerns for changing Arctic, Alaska Dispatch
Norway: Permanent Arctic Council Secretariat opens in Tromso, Blog by Mia Bennett
Russia: Russia still open for cooperation in the Arctic, Barents Observer
Sweden: Scandinavian Arctic should cooperate more: report, Radio Sweden
United Kingdom: The British Invasion – The Arctic Circle and observer states, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot
United States: U.S. Arctic rep: Russia’s Arctic buildup not necessarily martial, Alaska Public Radio Network