Posts tagged ‘Arctic’

ARCTIC NATION: Another Russia-NATO Flashpoint?

Kola Peninsula.

One of the most interesting articles in Thursday’s New York Times was an opinion piece by a German journalist about the Kola Peninsula, Russia’s northwestern-most territory in the Far North.

kola-peninsula-tundra-map

Kola Peninsula tundra ecoregion highlighted along the Barents and White Seas. (Source: WWF via the Encyclopedia of Earth).

Ice-coated barbed wire fences, surveillance cameras and settlements that look more like military installations mark this frigid region, but the coastline is warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, according to Jochen Bittner, a political editor for Die Zeit.

That makes the forbidding landscape of the Kola Peninsula “a gigantic marine pier, guaranteeing Russia’s naval fleet access to the Atlantic and offering a hub for operations in an area of the world that might become the next crisis zone between Russia and NATO: the North Pole,” says Bittner.

It’s no secret the Russian military has been building up its facilities in the Arctic, including several new air bases. But Bittner’s piece brings some diplomatic and political perspective to what’s at stake for Russia and the West in this increasingly important region.

To read more, click here.

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

 

April 28, 2016 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC: U.S. Army Strykers in Arctic; Russian Arctic Power Plants; Arctic Coast Guard Forum

Live from Deadhorse.

U.S. Army Alaska Stryker vehicles from Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, unload from an Air Force C-17 Globe master III above the Arctic Circle as part of Operation Arctic Pegasus. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joel Gibson)

U.S. Army Alaska Stryker vehicles from Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, unload from an Air Force C-17 Globe master III above the Arctic Circle as part of Operation Arctic Pegasus.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joel Gibson)

For the first time ever, the U.S. Army has deployed Stryker vehicles north of the Arctic Circle — with the help of the Air Force.

According to U.S. Army Alaska, elements of the Army’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team were deployed via an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. Four Stryker vehicles and approximately 40 soldiers were delivered to Deadhorse, Alaska as part of Operation Arctic Pegasus, a joint, multi-agency exercise.  tested the rapid deployment capability

The 1st BCT regularly trains for rapid deployment across U.S. Army Alaska’s area of operation — which stretches from the Arctic Circle to the southern reaches of the Asia-Pacific region.

The average winter temperatures in the area where the Stryker platoon was deployed November 3-45, range from 23 degrees below zero to minus 11.

Click here to see an Army video of the Strykers operating in the Far North.

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Russia Seeks Mobile Nuke Power Plants for  Arctic.

Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to develop mobile nuclear power plants designated for military installations in the Arctic, according to the RT website. Introduction of the first mobile nuclear power plant (NPP) could take place by 2020, RT reported.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has ordered a pilot project of a mobile low-power nuclear station to be mounted on a tracked vehicle or a sledged platform to be delivered where needed in the Arctic region.

“The project has already begun and is going through a research stage now,” Yury Konyushko, CEO of the engineering company chosen to work on the project, told TASS.

Preliminary data is to be presented to the military by the end of this year, Konyushko said.

Once the ministry approves the project, full-scale development, estimated to take up to two years, will begin. After that engineering and construction of an operable prototype will be launched, RT reported.

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Arctic Coast Guard Forum.

Eight countries in the High North have organized a Coast Guard cooperative group to leverage collective resources to secure maritime safety in the Arctic.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft joins leaders from all eight coast guard agencies of the Arctic nations in to sign a Joint officially establishing the Arctic Coast Guard Forum at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. ., Oct. 30, 2015. The Arctic Coast Guard Forum is an operationally-focused, consensus-based organization with the purpose of leveraging collective resources to foster safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft joins leaders from all eight coast guard agencies of the Arctic nations in establishing the Arctic Coast Guard Forum at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

The new Arctic Coast Guard Forum was formally set up at a ceremony in New London, Connecticut last week ( October 30).

According to Coast Guard Compass, the official U.S. Coast Guard blog, “the Arctic Coast Guard Forum is an operationally-focused, consensus-based organization with the purpose of leveraging collective resources to foster safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic”.

The signatories to the new cooperation agreement are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

The increasing number of passenger cruise ships in the Arctic and the risk of pollution are considered to be the biggest threats currently facing the Arctic region.

“Iceland’s contribution could be valuable, given the work currently being put into setting up an international Arctic rescue station, to be located in Iceland,” the Head of the Icelandic Coast Guard, Georg Kr. Lárusson, told Iceland Monitor.

“Iceland boasts good facilities for conducting rescue operations and well-trained staff in the rescue services, the Icelandic Red Cross, the police, the Icelandic Coast Guard and various other institutions,” the Icelandic Coast Guard chief added.”

November 5, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 30, 2015)

Purple Eagle.

California National Guard photo by Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Chris Drudge

California National Guard photo by Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Chris Drudge

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle jet fighter prepares to taxi out for takeoff at 5 Wing Goose Bay, a Canadian air force base, in Newfoundland, Canada. Approximately 700 service members from the Canadian Armed Forces and the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Air National Guard participated in the 12-day exercise Vigilant Shield 16 that ended Monday, October 26.

To see more photos from Vigilant Shield, click here.

October 30, 2015 at 12:13 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 16, 2015)

Northern Lights.

U.S. Navy photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Men

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall

The shimmering aurora borealis seems to ride over the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy in the Arctic Ocean, October 4, 2015.

The Healy is supporting the National Science Foundation-funded Arctic Geotraces project, part of an international effort to study the distribution of trace elements in the world’s oceans.

Click on the photo to enlarge the image. To learn more about the Northern Lights, click here.

October 16, 2015 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Obama Visit; Melting Ice Signposts; Walrus Woes; Russia Stakes a Claim

North to Alaska.

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama announced today (August 13) that he will journey to the Alaskan Arctic at the end of the month. In a video released by the White House, Obama — who is vacationing in New England — said he’s going to Alaska because it is on the “front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“You see, climate change once seemed like a problem for future generations, but for most Americans, it’s already a reality,” Obama added. The Times noted that Obama’s August 31 to September 3 trip to see melting glaciers and speak with hunters and fisherman in Alaska would be the first Arctic visit by a sitting president.

Later in September, Obama plans to talk with Pope Francis about climate change when the pontiff visits the White House during a tour of the northeastern U.S., as both prepare for an international climate summit in Paris in December, he Times said.

The White House described Obama’s trip as part of an “all-out push” on climate-change issues during the final 18 months of his second term, the Wall Street Journal reported. The trip comes just weeks after his administration’s release of standards to limit carbon emissions from power plants — a move widely criticized by Republicans as hurful to the economy and costly for consumer, the Journal noted.

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Ice Melts, Maps Change.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

So much sea ice has melted in the Arctic recently that the National Geographic’s annual Atlas of the World has had to revise its map of the Arctic Ocean.

The 10th edition of the annually published atlas — released in September — includes a map of the Arctic Ocean that looks dramatically different from 15 years ago, according to the website Quartz.

The melting ice hasn’t stopped since last fall, and it’s likely to have shrunk even further than the newly published maps now reflect, said Juan Jose Valdes, a geographer with the magazine.

To see the maps, including an animated one showing how Arctic sea ice has melted  between 1999 and 2014, click here.

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They am the Walrus.

For the second year in a row, walruses in the Arctic are running out of sea ice and may begin crowding onto a small beaches in northern Alaska.

Walruses prefer to spend their time out on the Arctic sea ice, which allows them a resting place in the open ocean where food is abundant. In the summer, when sea ice begins to melt, walruses typically follow the retreating ice north and migrate back south again when the ice refreezes in the fall, according to the Washington Post.

But last year, sea ice in the Chukchi sea between Alaska and Russia dropped to such low levels — an increasingly common occurrence as climate change dramatically reshapes the Arctic — that tens of thousands of walruses in the area were forced to drag themselves onto the Alaskan shore in search of res. And this year, ice is already low enough again that it’s looking like it could happen again soon, the Post said.

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Claim Jumper?

Like gold miners in the Yukon at the turn of the 20th Century,  Russia has formally staked a claim with the United Nations to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole — and all the riches that may lie beneath the ice.

The foreign ministry said in a statement August 4 that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Arctic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore, the Associated Press reported.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration, according to the AP.

 Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the U.N. sent it back for lack of evidence. It submitted a partial revision regarding the Okhotsk Sea in 2013 and the commission issued a recommendation the following year, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the  High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the Arctic. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening “international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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August 14, 2015 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 17, 2015)

July in the Arctic.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard photo

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle on July 14, 2015. We’d be the first to admit this blog doesn’t run enough photos of Coast Guard operations. So here’s one we thought was both pretty and arresting.

This image was taken — not from an airplane or helicopter — but from an Aerostat, an unmanned, airship that is tethered to the ground — or in this case, a ship. In fact in this photo you can see the cable tethering the aerostat to the Healy’s deck.

Aerostats, which have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to enhance perimeter security around the larger U.S. bases and in the Caribbean to monitor illegal drug trafficking by airplane, provide — in the words of this photo’s official caption– a “self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads [radar and video cameras] and other devices into the air.”

The recently released annual report on the world’s climate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society finds that temperatures on the ocean surface reached their highest levels in 135 years of record keeping. For several years, experts have been worried about the rising rate of sea ice melt in the Arctic and its implications for climate, sea levels and maritime commerce. In March, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s maximum extent of sea ice was the lowest on record since satellites began monitoring the Arctic.

July 17, 2015 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

HIGH NORTH: Latvian MoD Says NATO Base Needed in Baltic Region

Baltic to Potomac.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work (right) and Latvia's Minister of Defense Raimond Vejonis pass through an honor cordon in order to discuss matters of mutual importance at the Pentagon Apr. 23, 2015.  (Photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Latvia’s Minister of Defense Raimond Vejonis (left) arrives at the Pentagon to discuss matters of  mutual importance with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work April 23, 2015.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

It seems like nearly every day Russia is doing something new to provoke, irritate or worry its Western neighbors, from flying combat aircraft dangerously close to Swedish and Finnish airspace to a senior Moscow official’s recent unannounced and uninvited visit to one of Norway’s Arctic islands.

In response to the potential threat, several Scandinavian nations are planning to increase their defense spending and reaching out to their neighbors across the Baltic Sea for mutual security exchanges. All three of the so-called Baltic states — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — as well as Poland are NATO members.

Latvian Minister of Defense Raimond Vejonis was in Washington this week, speaking at a think tank and meeting with Pentagon officials. According to a Pentagon spokesman, Vejonis met for about 30 minutes with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work (Defense Secretary Ash Carter was out of town) to discuss “the importance of clear NATO unity against Russian aggression, continued presence of U.S. forces in the region, and ways to work together to better support NATO deterrence measures.”

Work also praised the Latvian government for committing to raise its defense spending to 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (an agreed upon, but sparsely reached, NATO target for member nations) and to increase the size of Latvia’s armed forces from 15,000 to 17,000 by 2018.

Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade iduring a training exercise with Latvian troops to show commitment to NATO obligations and interoperability with allied forces as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.  (U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Michael T. Crawford)

Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during a training exercise with Latvian troops to show commitment to NATO obligations as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Michael T. Crawford)

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington policy institute (April 21), Vejonis said having U.S. and other NATO troops in Latvia for exercises like Operation Atlantic Resolve was helpful but to effectively deter further Russian aggression “we really need a visible NATO presence in the region … on a rotational basis.”

Such a strategy, he said, will keep Moscow from making a dangerous miscalculation because they think NATO is weak after President Vladimir Putin successfully annexed  Crimea from Ukraine without a NATO military response. (Ukraine is not a NATO member nation). He noted Russia’s economy “totally depends on its raw materials, especially energy.” And with oil prices slumping, “there is a requirement to deliver military victories to the Russian public to cover [the] economic gap.”

Vejonis added that Russia rebuilt a former helicopter base less just 15 miles from Latvia’s eastern border to house Moscow’s newest combat helicopters. Finland, which also borders Russia, has reported Russia is building new bases and conducting large training activities near the Finnish border.

Countries bordering the Baltic Sea. (Map via wikipedia)

Countries bordering the Baltic Sea.
(Map via wikipedia)

April 23, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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