Russia’s latest push into the Arctic circles is perhaps nowhere more exemplified than at the Northern Clover military base on Kotelny Island where the country’s latest and one of its mightiest military base is fast nearing completion.
The base is important for President Putin on multiple counts, prime among which is to project power into the energy rich Arctic basin which is expected to unfold huge reserves of natural resources once the ice shelf disappears. The proximity of the base to Alaska is another reason the base is important for Russia as it can keep an eye on all US military movements in and around the region. It’s strategic location makes it nearer to the US than it is to Moscow.
The base right now houses up to 250 soldiers and have been equipped with radars and weapons specifically designed to operate in extreme cold weather conditions. The base has also been adequately equipped to sustain operations for more than a year on its own with no replenishments from the mainland.
Among the weapon systems installed on the base include the Pantsir medium-range surface-to-air missile for coastal defense. The proven system has been specifically adapted for operation in extreme weather conditions with temperatures dipping below -50 degrees. A ‘polar’ version of the S400 surface-to-air anti-missile defense system too is in the works.
Not to be missed is the Chinese connection that is funding most of the military expansion in the region. China in turn has a lot to gain too as the Northern Sea Route traversing through Russian exclusive economic zone cuts travel time from Europe to Asia by 40 percent. The country received the first shipment of liquefied natural gas from Russia via the Arctic route just in July 2018. Russian icebreakers too are accompanying Chinese cargo vessels to Europe.
The US meanwhile seems to be taking cognizance of the development and is working on its own icebreaker ship to travel through the frozen region.