Both NATO and the U.S. government have signaled this week that they will increase their presence in the Arctic as a result of Russia’s increased military activity in the north of their territories.
NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg has stated in an interview for the German newspaper ‘Welt am Sonntag’ that the Atlantic Alliance “must increase its presence in the Arctic, because Russia is expanding its influence in that area.
“We are already investing in marine explorers to get a clear picture of what is happening in the far north, but we will continue to intensify our efforts,” Stoltenberg said.
The also former Norwegian prime minister has emphasized concerns that both Russia and China are showing interest in the resource-rich region.
“Moscow is in the process of reopening Soviet-era bases and deploying and testing new state-of-the-art weaponry there, such as hypersonic missiles,” the NATO chief explained, after traveling to the Canadian side of the Arctic with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Thus, he has pointed out that China is increasingly interested in the region because of the “great strategic importance”, especially, as the ice melts, because new trade routes are opened, in order to be able to build a “polar silk road”.
“It is the crucial connection between North America and Europe. The Arctic is also the shortest distance between North America and Russia,” he explained.
On Friday, following Stoltenberg’s visit to Canada’s Arctic territories, NATO’s secretary general warned that Russia’s increased presence in the region constitutes “a strategic challenge for the entire Alliance.”
“Russia has established a new Arctic Command. It has opened hundreds of new and old Soviet-era Arctic military sites, including airfields and deep-water ports. Russia is also using the region as a test bed for many of its new weapons systems,” Stoltenberg said.
For his part, Trudeau explained that his country’s change in attitude towards NATO’s involvement in the Arctic is due to the drift of the geopolitical situation in recent months. Understanding that Russia is a growing concern for all of us makes it timely for us to share with the secretary general and NATO all that Canada is doing through NORAD,” he said.
The U.S. State Department announced Friday that it would appoint, should the Senate approve the measure, a special ambassador for the Arctic region for the first time.
The purpose of this figure would be to “promote U.S. interests and cooperation with allies and partners in the Arctic,” deputy spokesman for the Office of Global Public Affairs, Vedant Patel, has explained.
“It will engage with counterparts in Arctic and non-Arctic nations, as well as with indigenous groups, and will work closely with domestic stakeholders, including state, local and tribal governments; businesses; academic institutions; nonprofit organizations; other federal government agencies; and Congress,” Patel has recounted.
The United States has insisted that the region has to be “peaceful, stable, prosperous and cooperative,” having considered it to be of “critical strategic importance to the United States.”