Why Watch the Artic? (A brief, dirty history)
From the beginning of our history, the Artic has played a role in the human species’ life on this planet. I could go into the theories of migration across land bridges that once connected North America to Asia and the North/South migration in the Americas, but that is well beyond the scope of this blog. What I am looking at here is more recent on the human timeline on this planet.
Also, the fact that Asians came to the “New World” (possibly long before Europeans), is also not going to be addressed as the extent of their movements in the “New World” are still open to some debate.
As European/North American history is well documented, I’m going to talk briefly about the quest for a “Northwest” passage. As many Europeans felt that there should be a way to get to the riches of the Orient by sailing west from Europe instead of the long, dangerous passage around the African Continent they tried to discover this route. Unfortunately, they discovered that North/Latin/South Americas were in their way. Going around South America was longer than the trip around Africa, Latin America had no direct water passage to the Pacific anywhere so that left North America. Many tried to find this “Northwest Passage” and most basically failed to find a speedy passage to Asia. The map of what they were looking for:
The Artic is a harsh land. I remember all of the stories about the “Race to the Northpole” and the conditions that were had by those explorers. I don’t think that there will ever by a definitive number of those who died either from the search for the “Northwest Passage” and the “Race for the Northpole” and points in between.
As technology advanced, people were and are able to withstand the harsh conditions of what I will call the “lower Artic”. One of the most notable uses of the “lower Artic” were and are in Weather forecasting. An example of this would be the Germans of World War Two setting up weather stations in the “lower Artic” because predicting the weather is of extreme importance in warfare – may I say “duh”.
Map of German W.W.II weather stations in the “lower Artic” during the War:
During and after W.W.ll technology advance drastically – as is always the case. Obviously these leaps in technology were good and bad. Jets had replaced piston-driven aircraft opening up the world for travel. Almost every of industry benefitted from this technology.
Unfortunately, W.W. ll was not the end of warfare and the world now had what has been termed “the Cold War”. The Clash of Cultures and Political systems in overdrive. Atomic Weapons and the delivery systems, advances in computers and so on led to the beginning of “Mutually assured destruction”, or MAD, concept of peace. The Artic became important to all sides for shorter air routes, weather and bases.
On 3 August 1958 the use of the Artic as a route for weapons delivery systems occurred when the first nuclear powered submarine – the U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571) – completed the first submerged transit of the North Pole.
U.S.S. Nautilus SSN-571
Further advances in submarine technology made it possible for subs to break through pockets of ice in the North Pole and launch missles and the race was on.
Popular literature and movies of the time frequently used this Artic accessiblity as a backdrop for their plot lines. One of the most popular novels was the 1963 book “Ice Station Zebra” by Alistair MacLean followed by the movie in 1968 with Rock Hudson.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, we all thought the world MIGHT become a better plasce, but unfortunately that has not been the case. Over the past decade, Russia has arisen as just as bad asd the old Soviet Union ever was.
The Artic has become one of the new Russia’s areas of contention. The question is why?
Possibily some of the reasons are as follows:
- Expand Russia’s influence around the World.
- Reclaim the territories once held by the USSR – yes including those countries that broke away from the USSR.
- Hydrocarbons – in other words oil.
- Rare Earth minerals.
- Become the dominant power on earth.
While Russia continues to expand it’s influence around the globe, the Artic has seem to become a particular hotspot for them. The European countries bordering the Artic and Russia have become increasingly worried about Russia’s movements around them. For about 4 years now, the main European countries that fit this description – Finland, Sweden and Norway – have become alarmed by Russian moves in their areas.
Here some of the recent articles and reportstalking about the Artic and Russia.
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service https://crsreports.congress.gov R41153
Coast Guard Artic Strategic Outlook.
Moscow Pressing for International Recognition of Expansive Artic Claims – Jamestown – posted 11/25/19
In a Remote Artic Outpost, Norway Keeps Watch on Russia’s Military Buildup : NPR – posted 11/25/19
On Norway’s icy border with Russia, unease over military buildup – Reuters – posted 11/25/19
The Russian Ministry of Defense says it has obtained comprehensive new proof that supports its claims on the Arctic shelf. – posted 12/28/19
UAWire – Danish intelligence: Russia is building new airbase in Arctic – posted 12/28/19
Deployment of S-400 in Arctic bases creates air defense shield over northern Russia | The Independent Barents Observer – posted 12/28/19
The new military base in Tiksi. Photo: mil.ru
Russia’s top General indirectly confirms Arctic deployment of the unstoppable Kinzhal missile | The Independent Barents Observer – posted 12/28/19
The circles show the approximately combined range of the Kinzhal missile if launched by a MiG-31K from the three west-Arctic airfields of Olenegorsk, Nagurskoye and Rogachyovo. The 1,200 km circles varies in size since this map is unproportional. Map: Barents Observer / Google Earth
Moscow adopts 15-year grand plan for Northern Sea Route | The Independent Barents Observer – posted 01/02/20
UAWire – Finland begins air patrols of border with Russia – posted 01/11/20
Russia releases massive official plans for the Northern Sea Route – The Northern European :: UpNorth – posted 01/13/20
Today’s Arctic Diploemacy Can’t Handle Tomorrow’s Problems – Defense One – posted 01/29/20
Things are getting real: How the 75th Ranger Regiment prepares to fight in the Arctic | SOFREP – posted 01/30/20
These two warships are now on their way for missile drill near Norway’s northernmost gas-pipeline to Europe | The Independent Barents Observer – posted 02/02/20
Russia accuses Norway of restricting its activities on Arctic islands | National Post – posted 02/05/20
The Race For Arctic Oil Is Heating Up | OilPrice.com – posted 02/05/20
UAWire – Russia to deploy two high frequency radars in Arctic ‘to counter hypersonic missile threats’ – posted 02/09/20
Amid jubilant celebration at Svalbard, Norway sends strong signal it will not accept encroachment on sovereignty | The Independent Barents Observer – posted 02/09/20
Military Sealift Command, Seabees support Operation Deep Freeze | Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet – posted 02/13/20
Russia alarmed by U.S. Air Force visit to Norwegian island | Article [AMP] | Reuters – posted 02/14/20
Svalbard – Worth Keeping an Eye On – ICDS – posted 02/17/18
There are other moves being taken by Russia that, when taken in context with the above, seem to imply that Russia is up to something and is setting the stage for future moves.
The articles above talking about Russia building an Airfield in the Artic, plus the staging of Anti-Air Missile sites, are quite telling. Not the most hospitable areas of the world to put military equipment in. Why would anyone do it? I really don’t believe that these sites are “defensive” in nature, but would be useful to isolate Norway, Sweden and Finland from the rest of the world. Also, such sites could be used to shut down North Atlantic trade routes to the area. Think logistics. Germany tried to cut the Atlantic trade routes during WWII and failed.
One other development that caught my eye was when it was announced that Russia was going to develop it’s own “Internet”. Again, why? Then the below caught my eye:
Russian agents went to Ireland to inspect undersea cables: report – Business Insider
Logistics and now Communications. Cut the World’s communications while having your own communications completely secure. and also cut off logistical routes at the same time. Interesting concept don’t you think?
And while all of this is going on, we have an epidemic of Coronovirus breaking out in China and is spreading to the rest of the World, disrupting any number of public and private activities.
Russia in the Artic needs to be watched very carefully and it must be understood that the Artic could quite easily become the flashpoint we never had during the “Cold War”.