A contingent of U.S. Marines is among 350 allied soldiers joining Norwegian troops for Arctic exercises in that country.
The continent is part of a larger group of 5,000 mostly Norwegian army troops and is an indication of the growing importance the region holds for the United States and its NATO allies.
Tensions are rising between Russia and the alliance as the former pours more military and civilian resources into the Arctic as ice recedes and Moscow begins to stake claims to potentially oil-and-gas-rich waters.
Called Joint Reindeer, the exercises are occurring under freezing conditions in Troms County, the second northern-most region in Norway. Hundreds of military vehicles and armor are taking part in the drills, along with a core combat unit of the Norwegian army.
Local media reports said that troops will practice GPS jamming and engage in coordinated, air, ground, and sea exercises. The exercises are being held around 500 km by air (about 310 miles) from Russia’s border. In the past, Russian fighters have reportedly flown close to the exercises.
In addition, Russian bombers also reportedly conducted simulated attacks against a Norwegian military radar station and NATO ships operating off the Norwegian coast over the last year. [source]
Analysis: NATO and the United States are playing catch-up with Russia in the Arctic. Moscow has been refurbishing old Soviet-era military installations there as well as constructing new ones while building up its already large icebreaker fleet in order to move more freely throughout the region.
Like China is creating its own islands in the South China Sea as a way of dominating the entire body of water, Russia appears to be using a similar strategy in the Arctic, parts of which are claimed by other countries. The U.S. and NATO, while late to the game, obviously don’t intend to just hand over the region to the Kremlin.