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Military Aspects of Russia’s Stance in the Arctic

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In the midst of a deepening multidimensional crisis in contemporary international relations, it is increasingly important to ensure a nation’s survival. The latter can be construed as the resilience of national economy under a long-term instability of the global markets, restricted trade-economic and investment opportunities, unfair competition and transport blockade. Furthermore, the national political system must be capable of ensuring a normal flow of social activities as well as of protecting the vital interests from a wide range of challenges and threats. The Arctic accounts for a third of Russia’s entire territory and, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, new Arctic and northern territories will be attached to Russia in the decades to come.

Expansion in the Arctic

The fact that the Arctic and subarctic regions are already generating at least 10% of the GDP and about 20% of Russia’s export, with a significant potential for further growth in absolute indicators, could be used as a reference data highlighting the importance of Russia’s “Arctic third”. Today, 17% of all Russian oil, 80% of natural gas and about one third of fish are produced in the Arctic belt. The continental shelf is rightly considered a strategic stockpile of explored mineral resources to secure hundreds of years of prudent consumption. The Northern Sea Route (NSR), for all the complexities and controversial points in its operation, is a real working sea lane for commodity transportation. In 2021, this artery was used to deliver a record 33.5 million tons of cargo, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas concentrate accounting for one third of transported freights. By 2024, the traffic volume may reach 80 million tons, and by 2030 – up to 110 million tons, largely due to oil projects and booming coastal voyages.

From a military perspective, Russia’s presence in the Arctic is contingent upon the physical deployment of strategic nuclear forces in this region, along with strategic non-nuclear capabilities to prevent individual or collective aggression by other nations. The area’s importance is proved by the fact that the national leadership has raised the status of the Northern Fleet by turning it into a military district. The Northern Fleet’s united strategic command (USC) is called to ensure the integrated security of Russia – unified management of all forces and means across the vast expanse from Murmansk to Anadyr. The USC includes the Air Force and Air Defense Army as well as a special Arctic brigade (the plan calls for the formation of at least two such brigades). The key bases of the Arctic forces—Polar Star on Wrangel Island, Arctic Trefoil on Franz Josef Land and Northern Clover on Novosibirsk Islands—back the presence of combat troops throughout the entire area of responsibility.

What is most important in the Arctic?

The phrase “ensuring integrated security from Murmansk to Anadyr” implies a rather long list of possible items. As per the Strategy for Developing the Russian Arctic Zone and Ensuring National Security through 2035, among the key priorities is the uninterrupted supply of strategic commodities as well as the smooth operation of transportation routes Arkhangelsk – European part of Russia and Anadyr – Kamchatka – Sakhalin – Vladivostok.

In the meantime, several military perspectives can be added to the economic dimensions. Undoubtedly, Moscow seeks to prevent objectionable uses of the NSR and the Russian Arctic zone by taking anti-access and area denial measures. Key for the Russian leadership is retaining, under any circumstances, of the strategic strike capability in the form of missile-carrying submarines and long-range aviation with guaranteed use when required. Developing submarine, air and missile defense in the Arctic is also perceived as extremely important in bolstering the national defense potential. The implication is that the Northern Fleet must be capable of assisting the Baltic Fleet on NATO’s eastern flank, while also interacting with the Pacific Fleet in case any threat emanates from the Asia-Pacific.

Direct and explicit threat

The threats and dangers faced by Russia in the Arctic can be divided into those that already exist and prove out to the fullest extent already today, as well as those that can significantly aggravate the situation in the future. However, if the current problems are ignored rather than solved, the situation will inevitably deteriorate, which will call into question the effective protection of national interests in the Arctic.

Thus, the facts that infrastructure development in the Arctic is lagging behind the real needs of the nation and regions; that ships, aviation and electric power are in short supply; that there is no permanent emergency rescue service, and communication is unstable—are definitely a cause for concern. The said shortfalls cripple the continuous operation of civilian and military facilities in the Arctic, needed to boost socio-economic development and the national defense potential.

It should be borne in mind that the high pace of global warming and ice melting may result in a situation where navigation in the Arctic will be possible without icebreaker support already by 2045. Under these circumstances, the research, commercial and, inevitably, military activities of foreign nations in the Arctic will roar ahead, apparently giving Russia a headache.

With the global consensus on universal responsibility of mankind to the Arctic, attempts by representatives of the Collective West to challenge Russia’s Arctic status and their denial of its Arctic shelf claims appear absolutely irrelevant. However, a results-oriented settlement of the disputes—for instance, within the Arctic Council—is complicated by the practice of establishing closed cooperative frameworks. In particular, in line with the logic of “denying Russia’s claims,” we see the redoubling of efforts to transfer the agenda of multilateral cooperation in the Arctic to exclusive platforms like Nordic Plus, where Moscow is not even invited.

The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO apparently threatens Russia’s interests in the Arctic, given that the Alliance may one day deploy military assets in their territory, including strike capabilities. The mounting potential for conflict in the Arctic, due to a predictably higher intensity of air-force and naval operations conducted by the U.S., UK and other NATO member states, compels Russia to constantly increase the combat power of its Armed Forces in this region. Bolstering the military component of security is fraught with high costs, but Russia is clearly not ready to sacrifice its commercial and infrastructure projects. Therefore, urgent adaptation of the Arctic strategy is needed, to develop a comprehensive approach and to determine the hundred-percent accomplishable and feasible objectives.

Special objectives

The Russian leadership has identified a number of top priorities to strengthen its influence in the Arctic. For instance, consistent effort is needed to delineate the outer perimeter of the continental shelf that would be recognized by the international community; however, given the current confrontation with the collective West, this can hardly be accomplished in the near future.

To preclude the waning of Russia’s posture, it is vitally important to develop the deployment infrastructure, to ensure operational preparedness of the territories, to equip the Russian Armed Forces with special Arctic-adapted weapons and hardware, and to put some boots on the ground (e.g., in the Spitsbergen archipelago). Apart from countering military threats, preventing extremist and terrorist activities as well as monitoring of emergencies is also extremely important.

Specific measures taken to achieve the identified objectives include the integrated development of seaport infrastructure and shipping lanes in the NSR waters, namely the Barents, White and Pechora Seas, establishment of a maritime operations headquarters to manage navigation, as well as the maintenance of military assets in six areas of the Arctic. The efficiency of the NSR economic uses and facilitation of Russia’s Armed Forces will allegedly be provided by building rescue, hydrographic, pilot and cargo ships (including those powered by gas motor fuel), as well as nuclear icebreakers like Arktika and Leader. To meet military and civilian needs in communications, authentication and hydrometeorology, a high-elliptical space system and an underwater fiber optic line are being created.

An equation with many unknowns

The promotion of Russian interests in the Arctic is fraught with certain difficulties, mainly related to multiple scenarios and uncertainty regarding the plans, penchants and activities of other nations.

Amidst the cessation of investment and technological cooperation with the West, the key transport, energy and infrastructure projects in the Arctic need to be revisited. The emphasis on interaction with Asian partners (primarily China, India, ASEAN and countries of the Middle East) is undoubtedly justified by the logic of forming a workable alternative to Western domination. However, the most important financial, technological and logistical issues are yet to be addressed, to ensure reliable and uninterrupted operation of the NSR and Arctic projects.

Not all the initiatives are fully feasible, or they may take too much time to pan out. For example, the port of Arkhangelsk appears to be the most important “growth point” not only for the Russian Arctic, but for international cooperation as well. Yet, its profound and quality upgrading will be contingent upon the deeper involvement of foreign stakeholders and partners. However, it is highly unlikely that the Arctic Council, Barents Council and Northern Dimension Partnership will resume their normal operations in the short-term outlook, and so Russia should promote a significant part of its ideas bilaterally as well as within the SCO and BRICS frameworks.

The intensification of Russia’s border disputes with Canada and Denmark over the Lomonosov Ridge, with Norway in the Barents Sea (despite the treaty signed in 2010), and with the United States over the seabed delimitation near Alaska, cannot be ruled out either. In general, creating hotbeds of tension along the entire perimeter of Russia’s borders is compliant with NATO’s behavior patterns, so attempts by NATO member states to partially obstruct Russia’s access to the Arctic potential should be expected.

Snow Dragon

The position of some nations, having extensive interests in the Arctic, but lacking direct access to this region, remains a great unknown. China, for example, has expressed its willingness to join the ranks of the “great Arctic powers” and has declared the Arctic a sphere of its national interests. In 2018, a White Paper on Arctic Policy was published, where the key strategic point is creating the “Ice Silk Road”. The 14th Five-Year Development Plan of China also emphasizes the potential of the Arctic.

Beijing hardly intends to lay any claims to the Arctic belt, but the Chinese interpretation of harnessing the transportation and resource potential is somewhat different from how Russia sees it. In particular, China does not rule out independent economic activities outside the exclusive economic zone and tends to consider the Arctic latitudes as falling under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Chinese also carry out robust investigation of the ice and seabed, increasing the coverage of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in the Arctic, and have not yet given up on joint research, communication and economic projects with European partners.

At the same time, Beijing also aims at developing cooperation with Russia in the Arctic, including participation in major resource and transportation projects, such as the mining, processing and transportation of coal, metals, oil and gas, as well as the construction of the deep-water seaport Arkhangelsk. The Chinese side is also interested in gaining access to seafood fishery in the Arctic.

The lack of rivalry and dissent between the Russian and Chinese leadership in the Arctic seems to be the key point bringing the two nations together. Overall, nothing in Beijing’s doctrinal papers on the Arctic policies directly conflicts with Moscow’s interests. In the meantime, careful coordination of plans and actions will be required to avoid ambiguity, the dispersion of forces, and to focus on the principle of mutual benefit.

From our partner RIAC

PhD in Political Science, Assistant Professor at the International Relations Department of Far Eastern Federal University, RIAC Expert

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Defense

Gung-ho statements by India’s jingoist military and civil leaders

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Cross fire between Indian and Pakistan forces was a recurrent phenomenon. It usually hurt the unarmed civilians rather than the troops. Realising futility of intermittent exchange of fire across the border, India and Pakistan, always at daggers drawn, agreed to ceasefire that is still being upheld. However, an agreement on no-firearms use between the two countries, akin to Sino-Indian agreement, is nowhere in the offing. Despite the accord, India and China still engaged in fisticuffs at Galwan.

As if in deliriums tremens, India’s Northern Army Commander Lt General Upendra Dwivedi shouted, “As far as the Indian Army is concerned, it will carry out any order given by the Government of India [to annex Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan “(Whenever such orders are given, we will always be ready for it, The News International, November 22, 2022).

His statement is a sycophantic follow-up to a similar statement by India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh “of taking back PoK”. Besides Rajnath many other Indian leaders including Bipen Rawat, Ajit Doval and Narendra Modi have made provocative statements about AK and GB. Pakistan’s army chief has replied to Dwivedi’s statement in befitting words. In 1994, India’s lok Sabha (house of people) passed aresolution under the then prime minister Narasimha Rao. The resolution stated that AJK and GB are an integral part of India by virtue of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India.

India’s claim to accession of the Jammu and Kashmir is unfounded. India never showed the so-called Instrument of accession to the United Nations. The UNO passed two resolutions to outlaw probable accession by the puppet JK assembly to India. The UN resolutions recognise that the dispute could be resolved only through a plebiscite. Till about 1954, India continued to owe allegiance to the UN resolutions. Then in a volte face, Nehru declared that the UN resolutions are mediatory, not mandatory in nature. India’s unilateral renunciation of the UN resolutions eminently qualified it as a rogue state subject to international sanctions.

India treacherously annexed over 500 other princely state by hook or by crook. For instance, Junagadh annexation is still an unresolved item on UN agenda.

Dwivedi means ‘one who knows two vedas’. In Sanskrit, Dvi means ‘two’ and Vedi means ‘to see’. Therefore, a Dwivedi is one with ‘two-fold vision’, or someone who is able to distinguish between right and wrong. The general’s statement reflects that he has purblind vision, not seeing consequences of a war between two nuclear armed neighbours. Victory in case of a nuclear confrontation will, at best, be pyrrhic.

Dwivedi appears to have been infatuated by provision of K9-Vajra self-propelled howitzer (50 mile range) is being manufactured by Larsen and Toubro in Gujarat. China has already provided Pakistan similar howitzers to neutralize India’s fire power (China supplies mounted howitzers to Pak to maintain arms parity with India, Hindustan Times Jan 27, 2022).

Dwivedi appears to be oblivious of facts about Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

Gilgit Baltistan

On November 1, 1947, the governor of Gilgit, Brig Ghansara Singh surrendered to the Gilgit Scouts and signed an instrument of surrender on November 3, 1947. The people of the region proclaimed Gilgit as part of Pakistan and hoisted Pakistan’s flag. Skardu was liberated after about a year on August 14, 1948, when Lt Col Thapa of 6th Jammu and Kashmir infantry along with 250 soldiers surrendered to liberation forces.

Historian Yousaf Saraf if of the view that Gilgit –Baltistan is a part of Azad Kashmir as is evident from Accord signed between AK and Pakistan government. Sartaj Aziz committee recommended to the federal government to make Gilgit-Baltistan a full-fledged province with representation in both the houses of parliament.

A psycho-analytic view” Indian leaders “frogs”

Indian civil military leaders suffer from a fight-and-flight complex. The human beings, particularly the macho typos, like Indian military leaders, think they are independent decision makers. But, subconsciously they are slaves to the subconscious to the scripts they have learned to live with. In his book, Scripts People Live, Claude Steiner analyses “life scripts” which we choose at an early age and which rule every detail of our lives until our death. Steiner postulates that people are innately healthy but develop a pattern early in life based upon negative or positive influences of those around them. Thus children decide, however unconsciously, whether they will be happy or depressed, winners or failures, STRONG or dependent, and having decided, they spend the rest of their lives making the decision come true. For those who choose a negative script, the consequences can be disastrous unless they make a conscious decision to change.

The tragedy is that the person who needs to rewrite his or her life script most is unwilling to admit that he needs to revamp his life script.

Narendra Modi is such a person who by his conduct and political statements reflects that he suffers from a negative life script. He wants to pose as a “prince”, though he is actually a “frog”. Modi’s recent statements provide a clue how he is neurologically programmed.

Concluding reflections

Modi is convinced that his electoral achievements are due to his Macho (strongman) image. Lest his image should be shattered he delayed withdrawing anti-farmer laws for about a year since the farmers began protesting. He trumpets his “surgical strikes”, celebrates “Kargil victory”, and anti-Muslim citizenship laws.

Modi is still fettered to his teen-age memory of being a waiter at a tea-stall. The Modi government should turn a new leaf in India’s relations with its neighbours by shunning the strong-man image. He could do better by attending to the economic welfare of the masses and promoting social harmony.

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Ukraine recruits fighters from Africa

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“If Ukraine decides to pay me a very good amount of money, which I know I cannot earn here, I will definitely go there and fight,” Kimanzi Nashon, a student in the Kenyan capital Nairobi said. “When we go there, and then the war ends before anything happens, I will come back to Kenya and be a millionaire.”

And Nashon isn’t alone in harboring such naive thoughts of being a hired fighter in Ukraine.

“If an opportunity presented itself for me to fight in Ukraine as a mercenary, I would be on my heels running there,” Beatrice Kaluki, who is unemployed in Kenya, told ‘Deutsche Welle’. “I would rather die on the front line in Ukraine knowing that my family would be compensated even after my death, rather than die from depression because of the insane unemployment rate!”

However, African countries have come out strongly to condemn Ukraine’s call for African fighters to join the “international legion” against the Russians.

Now Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria have criticized Ukraine’s efforts to enlist international fighters as it resists a Russians. Analysts say those who have responded to the call need to reconsider.

According to Ryan Cummings, director of ‘Signal Risk’, a South African-based security risk management consultancy, ‘President Zelenskyy might be capitalizing on Africa’s challenging socio-economic conditions to lure African fighters to Ukraine.’ According to the Nigerian daily, ‘The Guardian’, more than 100 young men registered their interest in fighting for Ukraine at the country’s embassy in Abuja.

A spokesperson for Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Francisca Omayuli, said Nigeria would not allow its nationals to volunteer as mercenaries.

Senegal has also expressed its displeasure with Ukraine’s government, saying that at least 36 people in Senegal were ready to confront Russian forces. Senegal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was astonished to learn that the embassy of Ukraine in Dakar had posted an appeal on its Facebook page for foreign citizens to come to Ukraine’s military forces.

In a statement, the Senegalese government criticized the initiative and warned its citizens that recruiting volunteers, mercenaries, or foreign fighters on Senegalese soil is illegal.

“These young people who want to get involved [in Ukraine] have not fully considered political or religious implications,” said Serigne Bamba Gaye, a researcher on peace, security and governance at the US-based Peace Operations Training Institute (POTI).

“They are only interested in answering a call without perhaps understanding the issues surrounding the Ukrainian conflict,” Gaye said.

For security and risk analyst Ryan Cummings, African countries need to consider the implications of allowing their citizens to travel to Ukraine as hired guns. “Russia has stated any country that is actively assisting Ukraine in this war, or as Russia calls it: ‘A special military operation to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine,’ will be considered at war with Russia,” he said.

He warned that the Kremlin could also retaliate by ending diplomatic relations with African countries that support Ukraine in this way.

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The Reagan Institute poll: Americans are losing trust in the military

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The current era is marked by fading trust in U.S. institutions, but confidence in one pillar has held up: the military. But now even that is eroding, and the question is whether the brass will get the message, writes “The Wall Street Journal”.

The Reagan Institute releases an annual survey of public attitudes on national defense, and this year only 48% reported having “a great deal of confidence” in the U.S. military in results first detailed here. That’s down from 70% in 2018, and within the margin error of last year’s 45%.

Some 52% also had reduced confidence in uniformed officers.

General Mark Milley’s speech to Congress last year that he wanted to understand “white rage,” in response to reasonable inquiries about whether cadets at West Point should be learning critical race theory, was a lapse in judgment. Many Americans think the military is no longer an institution that runs on excellence, merit and individual submission to a larger cause.

The Pentagon denies this is a problem, but it surely is if half the public believes it.

Americans on the left have their own reasons for declining confidence in the military: 46% cited right-wing extremism, even though this scourge has been wildly overstated.

This drop in confidence comes at an ominous moment, as the public seems to know.

Some 75% in the Reagan survey viewed China as an enemy, up from 55% in 2018, and the percentage of those worried about Russia has doubled. Some 70% are concerned China might invade Taiwan within five years, and 61% support increasing the U.S. military’s Pacific footprint.

International Affairs

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