By Julian Robinson
Russia has unveiled a new Arctic military base capable of housing 150 troops as well as nuclear-ready warplanes.
The triangular complex, painted in the red, white and blue of the Russia’s tricolor flag, has been built in remote Alexandra Land in the Franz Josef Archipelago.
While parts of the base remain top secret, military chiefs have offered a glimpse at the interior of the building.
It comes as part of Russia’s largest Arctic military push since the fall of the Soviet Union and as Moscow moves to lay claim to the region’s huge oil and gas reserves – believe to be worth as much as £23trillion.
The five-storey complex, named Nagursky by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, is on the extreme north of Russia’s Arctic frontier.
It will hold 150 troops able to survive autonomously in subzero conditions for 18 months.
Officials have said they may deploy military jets there. MiG-31 fighters, designed to shoot down long-range bombers, or the SU-34, a frontline bomber are seen as options, it has been reported.
According to the Moscow Times, it also comes complete with a cinema, table tennis and billiards rooms while a military art studio is also planned.
Earlier this year it was reported that Moscow is starting to build nuclear icebreakers as it vies for dominance in the polar region with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.
Interviews with officials and military analysts and reviews of government documents showed Russia’s build-up is the biggest since the 1991 Soviet fall and will, in some areas, give Moscow more military capabilities than the Soviet Union once had.
The expansion has far-reaching financial and geopolitical ramifications. The Arctic is estimated to hold more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia – and Moscow is putting down a serious military marker.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is rushing to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and to build new ones, as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.
It regularly releases pictures of its troops training in white fatigues, wielding assault rifles as they zip along on sleighs pulled by reindeer.
The Arctic, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates, holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.
Low oil prices and Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine mean new offshore Arctic projects have for now been mothballed, but the Kremlin is playing a longer game.
It is building three nuclear icebreakers, including the world’s largest, to bolster its fleet of around 40 breakers, six of which are nuclear. No other country has a nuclear breaker fleet, used to clear channels for military and civilian ships.
Russia’s Northern Fleet, based near Murmansk in the Kola Bay’s icy waters, is also due to get its own icebreaker, its first, and two ice-capable corvettes armed with cruise missiles.
‘Under (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev and (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin, our Arctic border areas were stripped bare,’ said Professor Pavel Makarevich, a member of the Russian Geographical Society. ‘Now they are being restored.’