In an important sign of Russia’s increasing militarization of the Arctic, a development with troubling implications for several NATO countries, the Kremlin has announced the establishment of a new military command that will be responsible for the country’s north and the Arctic sector. As reported in the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) states it is creating the new Joint Strategic Command (JSC) North* “for the defense of Russia’s interests in the Arctic,” effective 1 October of this year, with all assigned units to be fully manned and equipped by 30 December.
In accordance with the MoD’s “Arctic 2020″ strategic plan that was approved by the Kremlin last year, JSC North will be comprised mainly of forces drawn from the present Western Military District (MD), and will function as Russia’s fifth military district, de facto, though it will not be termed as such. The new command’s lead element with be the Navy’s famed Northern Fleet, which will leave the Western MD by 1 December.
JSC North will be composed also of new military contingents to be deployed in the Arctic zone, on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, Franz Josef Land, and Wrangel Island. Beyond naval units, JSC North will gain authority over the 1st Air and Air Defense Command, specifically the 1st Air and Space Defense Troops, including the 531st, 583d, and 1258th Air Defense (SAM) Regiments, the 331st and 332d Radio-Technical (i.e. Electronic Warfare and SIGINT) Regiments, plus other unnamed units stationed in the Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions. The quick stand-up of the new command will require considerable logistical support from the Central and Eastern MDs, according to Kremlin sources.
JSC North will collaborate closely with the Northwest Regional Command of Russia’s Interior Troops (MVD) and the regional border directorates of the Federal Security Service (FSB). General Dmitriy Bulgakov, Russia’s deputy defense minister, announced that new troops and bases in the Arctic will be in place and fully supplied and armed by the end of September, adding that JSC North will possess an eighteen-month supply of fuel, food, clothing, and medical equipment, to be pre-positioned in the Arctic region.
*ОСК «Север» in the original