The Arctic is home to a new Russian military base, with facilities to house 150 troops along with nuclear-ready warplanes.
Built in remote Alexandra Land in the Franz Josef Archipelago in the extreme north of Russia’s Artic frontier, the five-story complex is triangular, painted in the red, white, and blue of the country’s flag, and was named Nagursky by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Areas of the base are classified top secret, but military officials have allowed access to the interior of the building.
The unveiling of the complex comes as part of Russia’s largest Arctic military effort since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and as Moscow seeks to lay claim to the area’s massive oil and gas reserves, estimated to be worth as much as £23 trillion.
The base will accommodate 150 troops able to survive autonomously in subzero temperatures for 18 months.
According to officials, Russia might deploy military jets to the compound, such as MiG-31 fighters capable of shooting down long-range bombers, or the SU-34, a frontline bomber.
The Moscow Times reports that the complex boasts a theater, table tennis, and billiards rooms; and a military art studio is also in the works.
Reports note that early in 2016, Moscow began building nuclear icebreakers as it fought to gain dominance in the polar region over traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway, as well as China, which is a newcomer to the area.
Officials, analysts, and reviews of government documents have revealed that Russia’s build-up is the biggest since the 1991 Soviet collapse and will, in some areas, give the country greater military capabilities than the Soviet Union once had.
The expansion is geopolitically relevant in that the Arctic is estimated to contain more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia is marking its territory militarily.
Under President Vladimir Putin’s direction, Russia is hurrying to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and to construct new ones, as it lays claim to almost a half-million square miles of the Arctic.
The Russian government regularly releases photographs of its troops training — while wearing white fatigues and carrying assault rifles — as they ride on sleighs pulled by reindeer.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, approximately 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.
New offshore Arctic projects have been put on hold due to low oil prices and Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but the Kremlin is employing a long-term strategy.
“Under (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev and (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin, our Arctic border areas were stripped bare,” said Professor Pavel Makarevich, a member of the Russian Geographical Society. “Now they are being restored.”
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