Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 405

405 Arctic Yearbook 2015 demonstrate that Russia retains its great power status and has world-class military capabilities. In a sense, Russian military strategies are comparable with those of other coastal states (especially the U.S. and Canadian ones). Still, some impact of the Ukrainian crisis could be seen in the increasing number and scale of the Russian military exercises in the Arctic. For example, in March 2015 Putin ordered to inspect the Northern Fleet for combat readiness. Some 38,000 soldiers, 3,360 vehicles, 41 naval vessels, 15 submarines and 110 aircrafts were involved in the inspection. In August more than 1,000 soldiers, 14 aircraft and 34 special military units took part in drills on the Taymyr Peninsula (northern Siberia). However, it should be noted that the March combat readiness inspection was a response to NATO’s preceding drill in Norway which involved 5,000 troops, the largest military exercise on the NATO northern flank since 1967. As for the August exercise, according to the Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolev, this exercise was purely defensive as it was done more than 3,000 km away from the Norwegian border and directed to protect economic security of the AZRF (to prevent poaching, smuggling, illegal migration as well as to conduct search and rescue operations) rather than to plan any offensive moves. So far, Russia has responded to NATO’s moves with more rhetoric than action in the Arctic, notes Andreas Østhagen, an Arctic policy expert with the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies. In contrast with the Baltic Sea region where the NATO-Russian tensions have obviously increased over the last year, “The situation in the High North is close to normal compared to the activity of the last years,” the head of the Norwegian Joint Command Headquarters, Lt. Gen. Morten Haga Lunde believes. “This is in spite of the tense situation that has evolved between Russia and NATO.” According to official numbers from the Norwegian Joint Command Headquarters, there had &VV