Mattis concerned as Russia opens first of five Arctic military bases

by WorldTribune Staff, April 19, 2017

Russia has unveiled a 14,000-square-meter (151,000-square-foot) permanent military base in the Arctic, which President Vladimir Putin sees as a key strategic region.

The Arctic Trefoil, the second Putin-era base in the Arctic, was built on a huge ice-covered archipelago called Franz Josef Land.

Russia’s Arctic Trefoil military base. /Getty Images

The first base to be completed was Northern Clover on Kotelny Island, further east.

The new base is built on stilts to help it withstand the extreme cold – winter temperatures typically drop to minus 40C. The base will house 150 personnel on 18-month tours of duty, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

A military airstrip is also under construction at the base in Franz Josef Land, called Nagurskoye, BBC reported on April 18.

Moscow is constructing four other Arctic military bases – at Rogachevo, Cape Schmidt, Wrangel and Sredniy – the report said.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a military presence in the Arctic, including airfields and infantry bases, but there is concern in Washington that Moscow is gaining the upper hand in expansion there.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the issue during his confirmation hearings.

“The U.S. must ensure that Russia doesn’t expand those efforts to dominate the region,” Mattis said.

Retired Col. Viktor Litovkin told RIA news service that Russia is pursuing several strategic goals in the Arctic:

  • Control of international shipping on the Northern Sea Route.
  • Protecting Russian oil and gas resources in the Arctic.
  • Defending Russia against any intrusion by foreign warships and missile threats.

The Arctic region’s huge oil and gas reserves are believed to be worth as much as $35 trillion.

Visitors to the Russian Defense Ministry website can now take a “virtual tour” of the new base. The tour, however, does not show any new military hardware.

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