January 1, 2015 // 03:47 PM CET
Most people might be pledging to themselves that they’ll eat less MacDonald’s or go to the gym more, but for Vladimir Putin, his New Year’s resolution is a new Russian war machine for the Arctic.
In a recent appearance on Russian television, top general Valery Gerasimov said the Russian army is looking to install a new “Air Army” in the north by 2015, with an eye at protecting hotly contested Arctic borders.
"We have already assigned an air defense division to the fleet, and we will form a joint air and air defense army there," Gerasimov said, according to a report from Russian state media service Sputnik.
The move is clearly in line with Russia’s overall plans of bolstering its northern presence to fend off the inevitable diplomatic claims of rival states like Canada, on so-far undetermined international Arctic borders.
In the same television interview, Gerasimov said the Russian military would be reopening old airfields and building new ones, stationing new specially trained arctic soldiers in Siberian bases, and all the while installing radar detection sites capable of catching enemy aircraft.
Amidst economic calamities in Moscow, the Russian military has continued to make announcements on new capabilities and purchases for its rapidly modernizing forces.Just last November, defence officials claimed the Russian military was in line for new hypersonic missiles in 2020 and a brand new drone base in northern Siberia.
Despite these new developments, Vladimir Putin was keen to dissuade the international community of any underhanded Russian plans for the Arctic, claiming in December that his country was against the militarization of the Far North.
“Once again I stress that we are not going to engage in the militarization of the Arctic. Our actions in the region are measured and reasonably moderate, and they are absolutely necessary to ensure Russian defense capabilities,” said Putin in a Sputnik report.
With estimates putting billions of square feet of natural gas and countless barrels of oil lying in the Arctic crust, Russia and other so-called Arctic states are circling the potential revenues at their doorstep. Putin, who presides over a major petro-economy in Russia, has made it his national and fiscal plan to conquer the Arctic.
But that’s not without the impositions of Canada’s own Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has made plays for the Arctic in his own right. Drones for the Arctic are at the top his wish list, too, along with new fighter aircraft to patrol the frigid skies.
Both countries also played the fighter jet version of cops and robbers in 2014, as Russian MiGs and Tu-95 heavy bombers were seen and intercepted near Canadian airspace in what most saw as a pesky military response to Canada’s strong stance on the invasion of Ukraine.
In the end, while Putin may publicly state his nation isn’t interested in escalating its Arctic military capabilities, the creeping bombers, bases, and Arctic soldiers speaks volumes for the future: the Arctic is his gem and Russia is prepared to defend its claim.