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Old 02-13-2020, 12:40 PM
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Arrow The Air Force visited a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic and Russia is freaking

The Air Force visited a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic and Russia is freaking out
By: Reuters Staff & Task & Purpose - 02-13-20

Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conduct a landing zone survey at Jan Mayen Airfield, Norway, Nov. 19, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)

MOSCOW/OSLO (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday it was alarmed by a trip to a Norwegian outpost in the Arctic by a U.S. Air Force unit and urged Oslo to refrain from what it said were de-stabilizing moves in the strategic region.

A squadron of U.S. Air Force staff visited Norway's air base on the island of Jan Mayen in the North Atlantic in November to test the airfield and to see whether U.S. C-130J Super Hercules military transport planes can land there.

Tensions have been rising in the energy-producing Arctic as climate change has opened up the region, and Russia has built up its own military presence there and touted the potential of the Northern Sea Route across its northern flank.

Map link:
Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and sits astride sea lanes between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.(Google Maps)

Moscow has repeatedly raised concerns over NATO-member Norway's military spending, its moves to develop its military infrastructure and the deployment of foreign military personnel in the country.

Commenting on the U.S. visit to the island, the Russian Foreign Ministry told Reuters Moscow believed Norway's recent military activity was ultimately aimed at Russia and that such actions destabilize the region.

"...the sheer fact of the possible presence of the U.S. Air Force on the island, albeit occasional, is alarming," it said.

"We hope Oslo will be responsible and far-sighted in building its policy in the north and will refrain from actions that undermine regional stability and damage bilateral relations," the ministry said.

Earlier this month, Moscow accused Norway of restricting its activities on the archipelago of Svalbard, a remote chain of islands in the Arctic, and said it wanted talks with Oslo to have the issue resolved.

The U.S. Air Force visit has also raised questions in Oslo.

Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen has played down the implications of the visit on the security situation in the north and Norway's relationship with Russia.

"Individual transport flights to Jan Mayen with planes from allied countries will not impact the security policy picture in the north," he told parliament.

He said a request to help with transport flights to Jan Mayen was sent to allied countries in 2019 as Norway's air force was stretched.

He said planes from military forces from Austria, Sweden, Denmark and France had flown to Jan Mayen between 2017 and 2019.

"Jan Mayen will not be used for military activities," he said.

Other statements being made: Russia Is Mopping The Floor With The US In The Arctic, And It's Downright Embarrassing
By: Paul Szoldra April 18, 2018 at 01:54 PM

Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft has once again appeared before Congress to basically beg for a scrap or two so the service can compete against Russia in the Arctic.

In a Tuesday hearing with the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee, Zukunft told lawmakers the US had to demonstrate it was "serious" about building a new icebreaker, which would augment an existing active icebreaker fleet with a grand total of one (yes, 1!) the US is currently operating.

That's not to mention the fact that the icebreaker, named Polar Star, is 42 years old, needs constant maintenance, and has about five years left before it'll be useless, the service says.

Russia, meanwhile, has at least 46 icebreakers, and China is working on its second.

The Coast Guard commandant has been doing somewhat of a congressional and public relations tour for at least the past year to sound the alarm over what seems an embarrassing shortfall. Besides narrowly surviving a potentially devastating slash of $1 billion from his budget last year, Zukunft has also been trying to get the cash for at least three more icebreakers into production and underway by 2023, 2025, and 2026, respectively.

And yet, at a time when Congress is totally fine continuing to flush money down the drain in Afghanistan, that request is like pulling teeth.

The Arctic, which has roughly 13% of the world's oil and about one-third of its natural gas, could potentially turn into a South China Sea-like situation. Just as China has done with its creation of artificial islands in that region to gain control of shipping lanes, Russia and its fleet of 40+ icebreakers has exerted itself in the Arctic to become the dominant player.

"We're starting to see militarization of some of their outposts," Zukunft told me in March 2017.

Having American icebreakers around to check Russia and others in the region, while opening a passage for commerce and oil exploration, seems like a no brainer as far as economic and national security.

So what gives?

"What has been our national security strategy in the Arctic? Well I think until recently, from the U.S. perspective, from the [Pentagon] perspective, it really hasn’t existed," Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), said at a Center for Strategic International Studies event last year.

Foxtrot Alpha explains further:

Meanwhile, Washington doesn’t have as nearly a robust Arctic plan. There are many reasons for this. For starters, the Arctic is pretty damn harsh, and people try to stay away from it as much as possible. Also at play are environmental interests lobbying the U.S. and Canadian governments heavily with anti-drilling campaigns. Russia, however, does not have to contend with such issues because its government is not “predisposed to the will of the people.”

Another problem is the U.S. Coast Guard, which operates U.S. ice breakers, has been criticized for its rigid requirements of what it wants them to do. For example, $1 billion has been allocated to building a new icebreaker, an extreme sum of money, even for the Pentagon. Coast Guard officials are also reluctant to purchase or lease icebreakers from other nations, especially if they are nonmilitary vessels. Another problem is that U.S. law requires that Coast Guard vessels be built in America, unless the president has a compelling reason for them to be built overseas.

Then there's another biggie: The two companies that built the current U.S. icebreakers are closed. Hmm. I wonder why.

Nevertheless, the Coast Guard put out a request for proposal for a new heavy icebreaker back in March.

But it looks like even if Zukunft gets exactly what he wants — three heavy and three medium icebreakers — he, and by extension, the U.S., will be left far behind.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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