Posts tagged ‘winter warfare’

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.
*** *** ***

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 (May 29. 2015)

Keep it Simple … etc.

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal. Paul S. Martinez)

Sometimes, even in this digital world we live in, it’s easier to use some old fashioned tools like this rope line.

This week’s FRIFO shows Marine Corps Lance Corporal Maximilian Roth crossing a gorge on a rope during his final Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at the Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. Roth is a rifleman assigned to Alpha Company, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force.

May 29, 2015 at 3:02 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

HIGH NORTH: Nordic Nations Plan Closer Defense Ties vs. Russia

Eyes on the Bear.

Norwegian F-16 fighter jets during Exercise Cold Response in 2014. (Photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces) CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE

Norwegian F-16 fighter jets during Exercise Cold Response in 2014.
(Photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold, Norwegian Armed Forces)
CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IMAGE

After months of Russian probes, intrusions and military provocations, the countries of Scandinavia have agreed to build closer defense ties among themselves and with the neighboring Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Writing in a joint declaration, the defense ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland said Northern Europe must prepare for possible crises or incidents because of Russia, according to a dispatch from Reuters (via Army Times’ Early Bird).

“Russia’s leaders have shown that they are prepared to make practical and effective use of military means in order to reach their political goals, even when this involves violating principles of international law,” the ministers wrote in a joint statement in the daily Aftenposten.

Over the last year, there have been numerous reports of Russia probing Nordic defenses from an underwater vehicle — believed to be a Russian submarine — entering Swedish waters and Russian bomber flights violating Swedish and Finnish airspace. Estonia was hit by a massive cyber attack, believed to be Russian in origin, in 2007.  Then there is Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed rebels.

“Russia’s actions are the biggest challenge to the European security,” the ministers said. “Russia’s propaganda and political maneuvering are contributing to sowing discord between nations, and inside organizations like NATO and the EU.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: We recommend clicking on the photo above to enlarge it and get the full impact of its technical achievement).

April 10, 2015 at 8:29 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Joint Viking; Norway Defense Budget; Arctic Caucus; Ice Melt

Big Norwegian Exercise.

Thousands of Norwegian soldiers, sailors and airmen are converging on the northernmost county in Norway as part of joint service exercise called “Joint Viking.”

Norwegin troops guide a Bell 412SP helicopter in during Exercise Joint Viking. (Norwegian Armed Forces photo)

Norwegian troops guide a Bell 412SP helicopter in during Exercise Joint Viking.
(Norwegian Armed Forces photo)

Some 4,000 soldiers and 400 vehicles will take part in the largest winter exercise near the Russian border in almost 50 years. Submarines, surface ships and aircraft will also be part of the exercise

The object of the 10-day arctic exercise that began Monday (March 9) is to perfect a concept called “Joint Operative Arenas,: which fuses several sea-air-land-specific exercises together “in order to give all players an increased outcome,” according to the Norwegian Armed Forces website.

Another, pointed but less direct object of the exercise — the largest near Norway’s border with Russia since 1967 — is to send a message to Moscow. Since the end of the Cold War, Norway (a member of NATO) and Russia have conducted several joint exercises in the Barents Sea region — the latest was in 2013. But with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Norway as ended all military cooperation with Russia, according to the Barents Observer.

Meanwhile, Russia has launched numerous military exercises near the borders of NATO nations — including an air force war game last week over the Barents Sea.

*** *** ***

Oslo’s Arctic Buildup.

Norway, Sweden  (CIA World Factbook via University of Texas Libraries)

Norway, Sweden
(CIA World Factbook via University of Texas Libraries)

As we have said in previous posts, Russia’s new aggressiveness all along its borders with former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries (like Estonia and Ukraine) has provoked several Nordic countries to reevaluate their military spending – particularly on equipment and manpower in the High North.

Norway, for one, is planning on an $8 billion defense budget in 2015. Norway is beefing up manpower and equipment for Arctic combat units as part of the Norwegian Defense Forces’ Smart Defense Strategy. The strategy places a higher priority on Arctic-class specialized equipment procurement and more intensive training for Arctic-deployed units.

According to Defense News, a Joint Operational Command Headquarters “is overseeing the evolution of Norway’s High North defenses into a centralized command and coordinated fighting structure” that will be able to rely on air force F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, army battalions deploying CV90 tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles and Archer self-propelled artillery units, naval surface vessels like anti-aircraft and anti-submarine Arctic-class Fridtjof Nansen frigates and Skjold corvettes.

*** *** ***

Congressional Arctic Caucus.

Two U.S. senators are forming an Arctic Caucus in the Senate to focus on building U.S. leadership in the region.

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said March 4 that she and Maine Independent Senator Angus King are forming the caucus to initiate discussions on a range of issues including defense, energy, environment and trade. “I’m calling on colleagues in the Senate to join me, to step up, to help us not only build out policy initiatives, but really take that leadership role we should be doing as an Arctic nation,” Murkowski said from the Senate floor, adding: “Embrace your inner-Arctic self,” The Hill newspaper reported.

The new caucus comes as the United States is poised next month to begin a two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental group that focuses on cooperation in the region.

King said his priorities include: appointing a U.S. ambassador to the Arctic; ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, examining the need for infrastructure investments — such as building more ice-breakers, evalue tthe challenges of Arctic shipping and how the United States might work cooperatively with Russia on Arctic issues, according to the Portland Press  Herald.

*** *** ***

Arctic Sea Ice Melt.

Sea ice still thinning. (Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

Sea ice still thinning.
(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory website)

Research shows that Arctic sea ice is not only covering less of the planet, but it’s also getting significantly thinner. That makes it more susceptible to melting, potentially altering local ecosystems, shipping routes and ocean and atmospheric patterns, The Guardian newspaper and other news outlets report.

“New data compiled from a range of sources – from Navy submarines to satellites – suggests that thinning is happening much faster than models have estimated, according to a study aiming to link those disparate data sources for the first time,” the Guardian said.

According to the report from the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, the extent of Arctic sea ice is well below average, but it remains to be seen whether March will see a rise or set a record low maximum. “Regionally, Arctic ice extent is especially low in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. In the Antarctic, sea ice shrank to the fourth highest minimum in the satellite records,” the report said.

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)

March 10, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 27, 2015)

Boots on the … Air.

Information Specialist Jason Johnston/Released)

Photo by U.S. Army Specialist Jason Johnston

A U.S. Green Beret with the 1st Battalion,  10th Special Forces Group salutes his fellow soldiers while jumping from a C-130 Hercules aircraft over a drop zone in Germany, Feb. 24, 2015. 

February 27, 2015 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 13, 2015)

Big Sky, Big Mountain.

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillon Johnston

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dillon Johnston

Please click on photo to enlarge.

Air Force First Lt. Greg Johnston (left) and Capt. R.J. Bergman fly their UH-1N Iroquois helicopter (popularly known as a Huey) over a mountain range near Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

The flight took the crew over a variety of terrain and altitudes, from flatlands to valleys and mountains. Both Airmen are 40th Helicopter Squadron rescue pilots.

February 13, 2015 at 2:43 am Leave a comment

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