Tensions escalating in Arctic – top Russian admiral
Russia is facing a growing security threat in the Arctic, the nation’s Navy commander, Admiral Nikolay Yevmenov, said on Thursday. The threat is particularly linked to the “growing foreign presence” in the region owing to Finland’s accession to NATO, he told an Arctic forum in St. Petersburg.
Last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia posed a strategic challenge to the alliance in the Arctic, calling for an expanded military footprint in the region. Against this backdrop, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022 after the Ukraine conflict began. While Helsinki officially became part of the US-led military bloc in April, Stockholm’s application remains in limbo over the positions of Türkiye and Hungary.
Moscow is witnessing “negative tendencies in the field of regional security,” Yevmenov said, referring to the Arctic. He called Helsinki’s accession to the US-led military bloc and Stockholm’s aspirations to join it one of the key factors leading to such negative developments.
Competition among the leading world powers over access to the resources in the Arctic and the regional transport routes is growing, the admiral warned. “The collective West is ramping up efforts to impede Russia’s economic activities in the Arctic,” he said, adding that Norway particularly seeks to push Russia out of the Spitsbergen archipelago, also known as Salbard.
A Norwegian territory, Spitsbergen still has a Russian presence in the form of the Arktikugol mining company and the mining community of Barentsburg. Russia enjoys an equal right to engage in commercial activities on the archipelago alongside 13 other nations in accordance with the 1920 Svalbard Treaty, which also made the territory a demilitarized free-trade zone while recognizing Norway’s sovereignty over it.
Moscow warned back in September that NATO military expansion in the Arctic undermines regional security. The US-led bloc supports “forceful scenarios to increase its own security in the North at the expense of the security of other countries,” a senior Russian diplomat, Nikolay Korchunov, told RIA Novosti at that time. The official also warned that Moscow would respond to the challenge with “a set of necessary measures, including preventive ones.”