Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has plans to build four military ships for Arctic duty by 2020, deputy head of the Border Service of the FSB Col. Gen. Nikolai Rybalkin told reporters on Monday.
“Shipbuilding priorities of the FSB Coast Guard have been determined in light of the Arctic objectives. Four ships will be built for the Arctic zone before 2020,” Rybalkin was quoted by Russian news agency Interfax.
“The deployment is being done in line with the federal target program for 2012-2020.”
The announcement of the four ships follow plans announced in August to build ten to eleven bases along the so-called northern sea path — formerly known as the northeast passage — along Russia’s northern coast.
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“The initial goal of these bases will be to provide ships with fuel and ammunition and allow for ‘light repairs’ of military vehicles on deployment,” wrote USNI News contributor Mark Adomanis in August.
“But in 10 to 15 years down the line, any of these installations could be developed to the point that they are considered legitimate military.”
The FSB, successor to the infamous Soviet KGB, absorbed the Russian Federal Border Guard Service in 2003. The maritime agency is equivalent of the U.S. Coast Guard but its vessels are more heavily armed than U.S. cutters.
The Russian service fields Krivak III frigates that field a powerful deck gun, anti-air missiles, torpedoes and the ability to deploy mines. In contrast, the U.S. National Security Cutter has one 57mm deck gun.
Russia has a keen interest in maritime security and protection of mineral rights in the Arctic as the previously impassable ice floes recede in the summer seasons.
Russian Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin said in late 2012 that Russia would continue to expand its capabilities in the region.
“It’s crucially important for us to set goals for our national interests in this region, Rogozin said in a December Moscow meeting reported by . “If we don’t do that, we will lose the battle for resources which means we’ll also lose in a big battle for the right to have sovereignty and independence,”
On Monday, Russian Natural Resource minister, Sergei Donskoi, said Russia had plans to create a $223 million permanent Russian research base in the Arctic by the end of the decade.
Russia is one of eight members of the Arctic Council — along with U.S., Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland — tasked with creating international standards for the region.
The U.S. has focused its efforts in the Arctic through the Coast Guard. It plans to deploy a National Security Cutter to the region, near Alaska, during the summer ice-free periods.