US reaffirms its intention to defend national interests in the Arctic

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Russia’s military activities in the Arctic and building up its infrastructure in this region do not go unnoticed, the Pentagon said.

“We will not go into the details of the intelligence data, but of course we are monitoring it very closely,” spokesman John Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.

The announcement was preceded by media reports that Russia is amassing unprecedented military power in the Arctic and testing the latest weapons to defend its northern coast and open a key shipping route from Asia to Europe.

Weapons experts and Western officials have expressed particular concern about Russia’s “superweapon” – the Poseidon 2M29 torpedo.

This unmanned stealth torpedo is powered by a nuclear power plant and is designed to bypass coastal defense systems, for example, American ones, along the seabed.

According to Russian officials, the device is designed to deliver a warhead with a yield of several megatons, the use of which can cause a radioactive wave that will render targeted sections of the coastline uninhabitable for several decades.

Satellite images provided to CNN by technology company Maxar detail the serious and continuous buildup of Russian military bases and equipment along the country’s Arctic coast. They also show underground warehouses, probably intended for storing Poseidons and other new high-tech weapons.

Other Russian equipment in the Far North, according to experts, includes bombers and MiG-31BM aircraft, as well as new radar systems near the coast of Alaska.

“Obviously, the Russians are posing a military challenge in the Arctic,” an unnamed senior State Department official told CNN. “This has implications for the United States and its allies, not least because it creates opportunities for projection of military power all the way to the North Atlantic.”

The US has interests in the Arctic, Kirby said.

“We certainly recognize that the region is a vital territory for our own defenses and a potential strategic corridor between the Indo-Pacific region, Europe and our homeland, making it vulnerable to growing competition,” Kirby said. “We are committed to upholding US national security interests in the Arctic by maintaining a rules-based order in the region, especially through a network of our allies and partners in the Arctic who share the same deep mutual interests that we do.”

The Arctic Strategy, presented to Congress by the Department of Defense in 2019, outlines the three goals of the Defense Department in the Arctic: protecting the United States, ensuring freedom and openness of common spaces, and rivalry when necessary to maintain a favorable balance of power in the region.

“The Arctic is a potential corridor between the Indo-Pacific region, Europe and the United States for enhanced strategic rivalry,” the report said. “Strategic rivals can take malicious or coercive action in the Arctic to achieve their goals in those regions.”

Kirby said the US military is well aware of Russia’s activities in the Arctic, and reiterated that the US has interests to defend.

“Of course we are watching this, and as I said, we have national security interests there that we have to defend,” he said. “As I said, nobody is interested in militarizing the Arctic.”

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