He said Russia was expanding military presence in the Arctic region, building infrastructure on its islands.
The minister told a session of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council that restoration of airfields was launched recently at the Novosibirsk Islands and on Franz Josef Land, airfields were being reconstructed in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, Vorkuta, Anadyr and Rogachevo, to defend national interests in the region.
Earlier reports said Aerospace Defense Forces were building radar stations to create a radar field covering the whole country. The Defense Ministry said plans were to create this field by 2018.
The formation of the Arctic military command is part of Russia’s ongoing extensive program to build up military presence in the Arctic. Last March, President Vladimir Putin said that the armed forces’ training and development efforts should incorporate measures to increase the combat component of the Arctic group. The Defense Ministry has since made several steps along these lines.The Russian Northern Fleet will be detached from the Western Military District by December 1 to become the main striking force of the mooted Unified Strategic Command (USC) Sever (North), which is under formation in Russia with the aim of protecting the country’s interests in the Arctic, a source in Russia's Defense Ministry earlier told ITAR-TASS.
Russia announced it was recreating its military base on the Novosibirsk Islands in the Laptev Sea. An airfield was opened on Kotelny, the largest island of the archipelago. Another military airport, Rogachyovo, commissioned on the southern island of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, is capable of accommodating fighter jets.
The construction of the Tiksi airdrome in Yakutia’s northernmost locality, inside the Arctic circle, will be completed in 2015. Three airdromes - in the Alykel community (the Krasnoyarsk Territory), in Vorkuta (the Komi Republic), and in Anadyr, the administrative center of Chukotka, will be expanded.
The Russian Armed Forces have stepped up military exercises in the Arctic. Last April, airborne troops were parachuted to the drifting base Barneo, in the Arctic. Belarussian troops are scheduled to join Russian paratroopers for a similar airdrop operation in 2015. However, there are no immediate plans for a permanent presence of Russian airborne troops in the Arctic.
On August 4-8, the area of the Franz Josef Land was a scene of exercises for pilots of the Central Military District, involving strategic bombers Tupolev-95, long-range interceptors MiG-31 and frontline bombers Sukhoi-24.
Kommersant daily reported in August citing a source in the General Staff that the first two military garrisons would be deployed on the Wrangel Island and the Chukotka Peninsula’s Cape Schmidt. A total of six such garrisons are to crop up in the region, one of them in the Amderma community, the Nenets Autonomous District - a strategic point for keeping under control the entire western section of the Northern Sea Route.