It has been no secret that Russia is building up its forces in the Arctic region as the Kremlin covets and wants to protect future access to the natural resources in the region.
Russia is also actively preparing to militarize its eastern coastline with large numbers of troops to be garrisoned from near the U.S. border in Alaska to the Kuril Islands in the south, currently disputed with Japan. The new forces scheduled to arrive in 2018 will be as close as 85km to the US border.
Speaking at a Defense Ministry meeting on Tuesday, Sergei Shoigu confirmed that “there are plans to form a coastal defense division in 2018 on the Chukotka operational direction.”
The minister added that this decision was actually made in July 2015, and is part of a plan to establish a unified system of coastal defense stretching from the Arctic in the north to the Primorye Territory in the south.
The system, according to Mr. Shoigu, is intended “to ensure control of the closed sea zones of the Kuril Islands and the Bering Strait, cover the routes of Pacific Fleet forces’ deployment in the Far Eastern and Northern sea zones, and increase the combat viability of naval strategic nuclear forces” operating in the area.
In other words, the new division will help ensure the defense of Russia’s sparsely populated eastern coast, reports Russian state news agency Sputnik.
Sputnik also quoted some rather threatening comments by Russian military analyst, Sergei Ishchenko, in detailing this deployment. “And most important, of course, is the air base.
It’s from its well-heated hangers that the newest fifth generation U.S. fighter, the F-22 Raptor, rises into the air to intercept the Russian strategic bombers which have resumed regular patrols along the edges of US Arctic borders.”
Effectively, the analyst suggested, “if we suppose that alongside the coastal defense division, Russia deploys the Iskander mobile short range ballistic missile system, the U.S. F-22s may no longer have time to intercept the Russian bombers, while U.S. missile warning stations could unexpectedly go dark.”
In any case, he noted, “the staff at the Elmendorf base, and the troops at Fort Richardson will go to bed at night with an uneasy feeling, as they did during Cold War days.”