NATO warns of Russia’s increased Arctic presence as a challenge

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday that Russia’s increased presence in the Arctic constitutes a “strategic challenge for the entire Alliance.”

“Russia has established a new Arctic Command. It has opened hundreds of new, former 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 has explained, after visiting Canada’s northernmost territories for the first time.

The also former Norwegian prime minister has indicated that, with the forthcoming accession of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic, seven of the eight Arctic states will be NATO members.

In this sense, the head of the Atlantic Alliance has warned that “the shortest way to North America for Russian missiles would be the North Pole”. Thus, he assured that the role of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD, formed by the US and Canada) will be vital both for the North of the American continent and for NATO.

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In turn, Stoltenberg has denounced that China is also expanding its reach in the area, as it plans to build the world’s largest thread breaker and is investing billions of dollars in energy and infrastructure projects.

NATO’s secretary general has visited the Arctic alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where they observed military exercises. “Our answer is a strong and predictable allied presence in the region,” Stoltenberg has said.

For his part, Trudeau has explained that his country’s change of attitude towards NATO’s involvement in the Arctic is due to the drift of the geopolitical situation in recent months.

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“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 has said.

Despite this, the Canadian leader has stressed that “there is no profound change in Canadian policy.” “We are proud members of NATO. We will continue to work with NATO in everything we do and we will ensure that NORAD is fully equipped to defend North America,” he added.

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