Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 421

Arctic Yearbook 2014 421 While those improvements are often seen as serious in terms of military capabilities, the majority of advertised military programmes have been launched to modernize current capabilities and replace decommissioned weapon systems. It means, in the best-case scenario, that they slow the gradual downsizing of armed forces. The icebreaker fleet is a cogent example of the continuously shrinking capabilities, which will not be able to maintain current levels even through the already declared modernization plans. Altogether, these changes have little or nothing to do with power projection outside of Russian territory. Most of them are supporting border patrol capabilities and protecting national territories that have recently become more accessible. Therefore, the Kremlin’s strong announcements about the large acquisition of military capabilities are misleading and have little prospect of being completely realized (mainly for financial reasons). These “political dances” are mostly addressed as a message for domestic audience, even though they have drawn international attention. The Russian strategic interest is to maintain the status quo, as within the current situation they have the most advantage. Cooperation with other Arctic states is the utmost priority for Moscow, as it guarantees some level of stability and necessary know-how for economic prospects. Any changes at the international platforms, which could lead to the isolation of Russia, would have dramatic consequences, as it could weaken Russia’s Arctic position. As Byers notes, even though the Arctic Council was established as part of efforts to engage Russia in the post Cold War era, the latest developments might stir the Kremlin’s biggest concern, that is that NATO could potentially speak with one voice against Russia (Byers 2014). Russian shortfalls in transparency about their long-term military ambitions could also have a negative impact on the region’s security, and in the end on Moscow’s strategic position as well. Russia’s unclear and insufficient communication about the current status of their armed forces and modernization plans could lead to serious concerns on the part of other Arcti