There were no emerging problems in Arctic that require NATO involvement and, “moreover, there are no problems there which demand military decisions,” Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said in a foreign policy lecture on Monday.
“We firmly believe that there are no problems in the Arctic which demand NATO participation,” he said according to a report in the ITAR TASS news agency.
“The Arctic is a territory of dialogue… We use this slogan for regular forums in Russia, and the work of the Arctic Council, to a large extent, is drawn up in this way.”
Lavrov’s comments on military forces in general are inline with the declared stances of the eight-nation Arctic Council (Denmark, Russia, Norway, Canada, Finland, U.S., Iceland and Sweden).
Given the difficulty of operating in the Arctic, the focus of the council has been establishing procedures for search and rescue operations, negotiating natural resource rights and improving navigation and communication in the austere region.
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However, despite Lavrov’s comments, Russia is currently reestablishing a robust military presence in the Arctic.
Russia has reactivate ten bases on its northern border to protect its claims in the region and stood up a new Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command earlier this year.
Compared to the U.S., Russia is better equipped to operate on surface the Arctic. The Russians field almost a dozen ice breakers and their surface navy is optimized for cold-weather operations. In contrast, the U.S. Coast Guard has two operational icebreakers and U.S. ships are designed to operate best in the tropics.
Russian military advantage in the Arctic ends at the waterline. U.S. nuclear submarines routinely operate below the Arctic ice pack in war greater numbers than their Russian counterparts.