Russian Defense Minister Shoigu inspects military bases in the Arctic, including a training ground for testing nuclear weapons.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on August 12 that Minister Sergei Shoigu and the director of the State Nuclear Energy Corporation (Rosatom) Alexey Likhachev visited the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean region. The visit aimed to inspect the garrison in the Arctic region, as well as the protection of “especially important infrastructure.”

Russian officials inspected a nuclear weapons test site that was used during the Soviet era. The Russian Defense Ministry said the facility was the site of “high-level assessments of a number of weapons and military equipment” but did not disclose details.

Shoigu also visited the base serving ships of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet that have just been deployed to the region, including the destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov, the amphibious ship Alexander Otrakovsky and the rescue ship Altai. MiG-31 fighters were mobilized for air defense, reconnaissance and coordination exercises with units stationed in the Arctic during Mr. Shoigu’s visit.

Russia has been building up its military presence in the Arctic since before it launched its campaign in Ukraine in February 2022. It has renovated a number of Soviet-era bases in the region and deployed additional weapons and the S-400 long-range air defense system.

The Arctic still has huge reserves of oil and gas. Climate change is melting the region’s ice, opening up opportunities for fossil fuel extraction and opening new shipping routes between continents around the Arctic.

Russia assesses Finland and Sweden, two countries with territories bordering the Arctic, to join NATO is a threat to national security as well as Moscow’s interests in this region. Finland joined NATO in April, while Sweden could join the alliance in the next few months.

The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental organization promoting cooperation, is in turmoil because seven members refuse to work on a political level with the eighth member, Russia, due to the war in Ukraine, disrupting cooperation. on important issues such as climate change.

Location of Novaya Zemlya region, north of Russia.  Graphics: Britanica

Location of the Novaya Zemlya Islands. Graphics: Britanica