Russia continues to expand military bases in the Arctic region despite significant losses Ukrainian waraccording to a new series of satellite images obtained by CNN.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also told CNN in an exclusive interview Friday that there is now a “significant Russian military buildup in the northern highlands,” with recent tensions causing the alliance to This “doubles presence” in response.
The findings also come as a senior Western intelligence official told CNN that Russia has withdrawn up to three-quarters of its ground forces from the High North near the North Pole, sending them to bolster their military operations. the faltering aggression of neighboring Ukraine.
Satellite images obtained by CNN from Maxar Technologies show a series of Russian radar bases and runways being improved over the past year. The images do not show dramatic development, but rather continuous progress in strengthening and expanding an area that analysts say is of vital importance to Russia’s defense strategy. , at a time when Moscow’s resources were under great strain.
According to Maxar, the images show that radar stations at the Olenegorsk site, on the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia, and at Vorkuta, just north of the Arctic Circle, are still operating. They also appear to indicate work is underway to complete one of the five Rezonans-N radar systems at Ostrovnoy, a site next to the Barents Sea, near Norway and Finland in western Russia. The Rezonans-N is claimed by Russian authorities to be capable of detecting aircraft and stealthy objects.
According to Maxar imaging and analysis, three new radar domes, a weatherproof enclosure used to protect radar antennas, were completed this year at the Tiksi air defense site, in the far northeast. sticky rice. There are also improvements to the runway and parking at Nagurskoye Air Base – Russia’s northernmost military facility – and improved runways at ‘Temp’ airbase, on Kotelny Island, in the northeastern part of the country.
Russia has been strengthening its defenses in the far north for many years, refurbishing a series of former Soviet bases with modern design and equipment.
The country’s Arctic region has long been key to its oil and gas sector, as well as to its nuclear defenses, with a significant proportion of nuclear weapons and submarine facilities. sophisticated country in that area.
“That deterrence is always in place,” said a senior Western intelligence official. “Never low availability; it’s a high status all the time,” the official said.
At the start of the war with Ukraine in February, some of the submarines were repositioned to signal “this is a real possibility”, the official added, but they quickly returned to high readiness. standard.
NATO head Stoltenberg argued: “The shortest way from Russia to North America is through the North Pole. So the strategic importance of these areas has not changed because of the war in Ukraine.”
“We see Russia reopening former Soviet military bases and sites, noting that it is also “testing new weapons in the Arctic and in the northern highlands,” he said.
A senior Western intelligence official says the war in Ukraine has led to a major shift in Russian military power in the region. “They only have about 20 to 25% of their original ground force left there. But then, the naval composition was completely unaffected by the war,” they note.
Following attacks earlier this month on two important airfields deep inside Russia at Ryazan and Saratov, Russian military jets and bombers were dispersed across the country and north. North Pole, the official added. Moscow has blame attack on Ukraine, while Kiev made no comment on the blasts at Russian bases.
The Arctic is also important to Russia as melting ice here is rapidly opening up new shipping routes from southeast Asia to Europe, using a much shorter route along the Russian coast.
The Northern Sea Route could cut about two weeks from current journey times through the Suez Canal. Russian state television revealed in launching several nuclear-powered icebreakers, designed to increase Russian influence and power in the region. Critics say Moscow is seeking undue control over a route that is equally accessible to all countries.
Speaking via video link at the launch of the new nuclear-powered icebreaker in St. Petersburg last month (November 22), Russian President Vladimir Putin said the development of the “most important” North Sea Route would allow Russia to unleash its full export potential. and to establish efficient logistics routes, including Southeast Asia.”
At the same time, the war in Ukraine has boosted NATO’s presence in the region. Once Finland and Sweden join the bloc, as is widely expected, seven of the eight Arctic countries will be NATO members.
The alliance has also increased its military influence in the region. In August, Norway rRelease the first images of US B52 bombers flying over their territory escorted by Norwegian F35 and 2 JAS Gripen jets from Sweden.
NATO’s rising signal includes a recent test of a new weapon system, the Rapid Dragon Palletized Munition Deployment, which involves US special forces complex dropping a conventional supply pallet from behind a C130 cargo business.
The pallet contains a cruise missile, which is launched when the pallet is dropped by parachute. The display is designed to show the United States can launch these powerful weapons systems from the back of a conventional cargo plane. The test took place in Norway, not far from the Russian border.
NATO is also increasingly concerned about the risk of damaging Norway’s oil and gas infrastructure. Currently Russian energy is under sanctions, Norwegian natural gas accounts for more than 20% of Europe’s supply, according to some analysis.
“Since the sabotage in the Baltic Sea,” Stoltenberg said, “we have doubled our presence, with ships, submarines, maritime patrol aircraft in the Baltic and North Seas, in part to monitor monitoring, to have better situational awareness, but also to send a message of deterrence and readiness to protect this critical infrastructure.” According to Swedish prosecutors, the head of NATO is referring to the explosions at the Nord Stream pipeline in September as an act of sabotage, after evidence of explosives was discovered at the pipelines. this location.
However, the senior intelligence official said that a recent Norwegian assessment of the security of its infrastructure concluded that no major attack attempt occurred and that “the oil infrastructure The mine is now secure.”