Wall Street Journal on March 2, 2016, reported that as the Russians step up their military activity in the Arctic, the U.S. Navy is also continuing its work in the high north—but publicly the mission remains focused on scientific, not military endeavors. Excerpts below:
A new U.S. Navy Arctic exercise, which will include Canadian, Norwegian and British participants, was announced on March 2 and comes amid stepped-up criticism from Western allies about Russia’s military activities in the Arctic.
While NATO has stepped up its exercises in Europe in response to Moscow’s military buildup, some military analysts have said the U.S. military has been slow to respond in the Arctic to increased activity by Russia.
The U.S. Navy… broke ground on a polar ice camp—part of its biennial Arctic Ice Exercise known as Icex.
On Tuesday, Gen. Philip Breedlove, the supreme allied commander, said Russia was militarizing the Arctic region, a move that was of particular concern to Norway and Canada.
Russia has created a new Arctic command, reopened bases on its north coast and activated cold-weather brigades. Testifying in Washington to the U.S. Senate, Gen. Breedlove said he had been surprised by the size of some of Russia’s military exercises in the Arctic.
“They have certainly increased their capability and capacity there,” Gen. Breedlove said.
For now, America and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization appear to be trying to step up their Arctic activities but without committing significantly more military resources.
Two years ago, as tensions with Russia were first heating up, the Navy’s Icex included test fires of torpedoes and an simulated hunt for a Russian sub.
This year’s exercise will not include any torpedo firing, but Capt. Kirk said learning how to spot—and hide—submarines in the changing conditions of the Arctic will be a part of this year’s Icex.
“Certainly submarines that are working to track one another is part of it,” Capt. Kirk said. “Some of it is developing a better understanding of how sound propagates in that environment.”