Pubblicato in: Armamenti, Geopolitica Militare, Russia

Russia. Controllo militare dell’Artico. Le basi sono più importanti delle parole.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2021-06-13.

Franz Josef Land 001

Il controllo militare, economico e politico dell’Oceano Artico è diventato terreno di confronto tra le grandi potenze.

2021-05-23__ Franz Josef Land 002

Tra le pochissime isole, la Franz Josef Land è l’arcipelago più a nord di tutto il continente: il suo possesso è quindi vitale, sia come punto avanzato di avvistamento radar, sia come base missilistica  di interdizione a missili, aeroplani e navi.

«Franz Josef Land archipelago is the closest land to the North Pole in the eastern hemisphere (about 870 km to the North Pole).

It has been discovered in 1873 by the Austrian – Hungarian “Tegetthoff” expedition, under the leadership of Carl Weyprecht, who named the islands after Emperor Franz Joseph I.

The extremely northern position of the islands attracted expeditions of the pioneer age (late 19th – early 20th century), which usually saw Franz Josef Land as a useful advanced base for attempts to reach the North Pole.

The archipelago was more fully explored by expeditions such as one led by Nansen (who spent the winter of 1895–96 in Franz Josef Land).

In 1926 the islands were taken over by the Soviet Union, for research and military purposes; many of the Russian Polar stations are now abandoned, and the whole archipelago is given back to the wildlife. Polar Bears, walruses, arctic foxes, belugas and whales, and lots of Arctic birds.

Nowadays it is one of rare ‘wild’ places left on Earth – it is unpopulated except for one permanent Russian base.

The archipelago consists of 191 islands, mostly covered with a permanent ice cap. Islands of volcanic origin, including Alexandra Land, Prince George Land, Bell Island, Hooker Island, Prince Rudolf Island, Hall island…» [Ultima0thule]

* * * * * * *

2021-05-23__ Franz Josef Land Saint Nicholas Church 001


«Now Franz Josef Land is home to a Russian military base and the source of added tension in relations with the West»

«The US has once again accused Moscow of “militarising” the Arctic and the head of Russia’s Northern Fleet has told the BBC that Nato and US military activity in the region is “definitely” provocative and on a scale not seen since World War Two»

«The airfield has been upgraded to allow all kinds of planes to land all year round, though emerging on to the tarmac was like stepping on an ice rink»

«Less than 960km (600 miles) below the North Pole, conditions are extreme, with deep snowdrifts and blizzards even in mid-May»

«Even the structure of the base is meant to make a statement: it’s painted in the colours of the Russian flag, bright against the blank canvas all around»

«Known as Arctic Trefoil for its three-leaved shape, the base is the second of its kind in the Arctic – this one is meant for 150 soldiers.»

«But the main show is outside, where Bastion missile launchers raise and lower their firing mechanisms as a soldier in white camouflage stands guard, gun across his chest»

«The missile systems are “to destroy enemy ships”»

«The Northern Fleet put on a far greater show of strength earlier this year when three nuclear submarines smashed through the ice simultaneously, a manoeuvre never seen before»

«Such posturing is making the United States and Nato wary as Russia’s military presence in the region expands to a level not seen since the Cold War»

«we were bussed to a battlecruiser moored in the closed military town of Severomorsk. At 252 metres long, the nuclear-powered Peter the Great is the giant grey flagship of the Northern Fleet.»

«We see such activity as provocative so close to the Russian border where we have very important assets. By that, I mean nuclear forces»

«As the polar ice melts, removing a protective natural curtain, Russia’s long northern frontier will become vulnerable»

«Trade would include exports of the large oil and gas reserves beneath the sea here»

Nota.

Pyotr Velikiy è il nome russo dell’incrociatore atomico Pietro il Grande.

* * * * * * *

Aver costruito, tenuto in manutenzione ed in ottima efficienza bellica una sofisticata base militare in una zona dal clima così avverso significa aver messo a punto una congerie inenarrabile di mezzi: dagli abiti da indossare, a sistemi di arma operativi anche a -50°C, missili e rampe di lancio mobili atte a lavorare a quelle temperature. Per non menzionare anche i mezzi più umili ma indispensabili, quali i lubrificanti che non congelino.

Le beghe legali lascerebbero alquanto sorridenti: le armi comandano.

*


Russia flexes muscles in challenge for Arctic control.

Now Franz Josef Land is home to a Russian military base and the source of added tension in relations with the West.

The US has once again accused Moscow of “militarising” the Arctic and the head of Russia’s Northern Fleet has told the BBC that Nato and US military activity in the region is “definitely” provocative and on a scale not seen since World War Two.

                         Making the Arctic a priority for Russia

We were among the first foreign journalists taken to visit the facility on Alexandra Island, over two hours’ flight from Murmansk up over the Arctic.

The airfield has been upgraded to allow all kinds of planes to land all year round, though emerging on to the tarmac was like stepping on an ice rink.

Less than 960km (600 miles) below the North Pole, conditions are extreme, with deep snowdrifts and blizzards even in mid-May. For a while, rattling along in a military truck, I could make out nothing but white through the window.

In deepest winter the temperature drops to minus 50 degrees C and the soldiers occasionally have to head out in their vehicles to disperse the polar bears who amble right up to the base.

                         ‘Like a space station’

Even the structure of the base is meant to make a statement: it’s painted in the colours of the Russian flag, bright against the blank canvas all around.

Known as Arctic Trefoil for its three-leaved shape, the base is the second of its kind in the Arctic – this one is meant for 150 soldiers.

Ahead of a tour, the commander in charge said it was so high-tech and ecologically efficient it was “like a space station, just in the Arctic emptiness instead of in orbit”.

But the main show is outside, where Bastion missile launchers raise and lower their firing mechanisms as a soldier in white camouflage stands guard, gun across his chest.

The missile systems are “to destroy enemy ships,” another soldier said. They are “effective”, he informed us.

The Northern Fleet put on a far greater show of strength earlier this year when three nuclear submarines smashed through the ice simultaneously, a manoeuvre never seen before. On the same Arctic exercises, two fighter jets flew over the North Pole, refuelling in mid-air.

Such posturing is making the United States and Nato wary as Russia’s military presence in the region expands to a level not seen since the Cold War.

Nato’s spokeswoman confirmed that the alliance had stepped up its patrols and exercises, in response, she said, to a “more challenging security environment”.

                         Blaming Nato for build-up

But Russia doesn’t see things that way.

Before we were flown to the archipelago, we were bussed to a battlecruiser moored in the closed military town of Severomorsk. At 252 metres long, the nuclear-powered Peter the Great is the giant grey flagship of the Northern Fleet.

On board, the Fleet’s commander, Adm Alexander Moiseyev, addressed us in front of a portrait of Peter I, the Tsar who founded Russia’s navy and turned the country towards the West.

But he accused Nato forces and the US of military actions in the Arctic that increased the risk of conflict.

“There haven’t been so many of their forces here for years. Decades. Not since World War Two,” Adm Moiseyev countered, when I put it to him that Nato blamed Russia for the surge in tension. “We see such activity as provocative so close to the Russian border where we have very important assets. By that, I mean nuclear forces.”

As for the Russian build-up, the troops are returning to a region Russia abandoned in the 1990s when the Soviet Union fell apart.

“We’re just recreating the capacity to protect our borders, not to threaten anyone,” argues Lev Voronkov, an Arctic expert from MGIMO university. “After the USSR collapsed, even border posts in that region were left unmanned.”

That won’t be an option for much longer. As the polar ice melts, removing a protective natural curtain, Russia’s long northern frontier will become vulnerable.

                         Land of opportunity

As the Bastion missile launchers danced for the cameras on Alexandra Island, I spotted a Russian ice-breaker cutting through the frozen landscape in the distance. A smaller cargo ship followed in its wake and an iceberg loomed behind both of them.

The vessels were crawling along the northern shipping route that skirts the archipelago and that Russia hopes to develop and control as global warming makes it easier to navigate. Trade would include exports of the large oil and gas reserves beneath the sea here.

Admiral Moiseyev calls his troops the “main instrument” for protecting those economic interests, as well as Russia’s borders.

As competition begins to heat up, our visit to Franz Josef Land was a chance for Russia to flex some muscle and send a message: that its ambitions for the Arctic are great and growing and they are interests it’s ready to defend.