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NATO 'must increase its presence in the Arctic'

August 28, 2022

The NATO chief told a German newspaper that Russia and China have big plans for the polar region that could further spike geopolitical tensions. Washington is set to appoint its first Arctic ambassador.

A wide shot of the North Pole on August 16, 2015
Russia has been stepping up its presence near the North Pole, both with submarines and warplanes Image: Ulf Mauder/dpa/Apicture alliance

NATO must prioritize its military presence in the Arctic, the military alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday.

His comments come amid heightened concerns in the West about Russia's increasing military activity in the polar region, following the invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Stoltenberg said the Arctic was of "great strategic importance" to NATO.

"NATO must increase its presence in the Arctic," Stoltenberg said.

He said the defense alliance is "already investing in maritime reconnaissance aircraft to be able to get a clear picture of what is going on in the far north. But we will continue to step up our efforts."

A NATO in position during a military drill in the Arctic circle, Norway
In March, NATO troops conducted their largest Arctic military drill in decadesImage: Jack Parrock/DW

Russia to station hypersonic missiles

Stoltenberg said that Russia has recently intensified its activities in the resource-rich area by "reopening Soviet-era bases" and "stationing and testing new state-of-the-art weapons there, such as hypersonic missiles." 

China, too, is increasingly interested in the Arctic, he added, noting how the region is becoming increasingly important for shipping due to climate change.

China, which describes itself as a "near-Arctic" state, plans to create a so-called Polar Silk Road, benefiting from receding ice caps.

The proposal would include building the world's largest icebreaker fleet, allowing new shipping routes for the mineral resources its industrial economy needs.

The Welt am Sonntag interview was not the first time Stoltenberg has spoken out about the Arctic.

In an interview with DW last year, the NATO chief warned that climate change could heat up geopolitics in the polar region.

NATO conducts Arctic military drill

US to nominate Arctic ambassador

On Friday, the United States said it would appoint a special ambassador-at-large for the Arctic region for the first time.

The plan, which still needs Senate approval, is aimed at promoting "American interests and cooperation with Allies and partners in the Arctic," a statement from the US State Department said.

The polar region includes territories belonging to Russia, the US, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

mm/kb (AFP, AP dpa)