Norway’s military intelligence unit E-tjenesten thinks Russian authorities are increasingly looking to the Arctic to help counter an economic crisis. Low oil prices are hurting Russia every bit as much as they’re hurting Norway, if not moreso, and the Arctic can represent new opportunities.
E-tjenesten’s new boss, Major General Morten Haga Lunde, said at an annual addres earlier this week that Arctic areas Russia shares with Norway play an important role in the areas of military strategy and economic opportunity. The Arctic also has great symbolic importance for Russia on a regional basis, Lunde said.
“In all three areas, national control through military presence is a key factor,” he added. Russia has become more “threat-oriented” over the last 18 months: “We see repeated statements that Russian interests in the Arctic must be defended … and with the establishment and re-establishment of military bases, divisions and weapon systems, Russia has increased its early warning of incoming threats, its ability to defend itself against aircraft and naval forces, and its ability to hinder other states from operating in Norway’s neighbouring areas.”
Lunde also noted that Russia has increased its ability to “plan, coordinate and carry out operations in and out of the Northern Fleet’s areas of responsibility in the coming years.”