The US-led alliance's activities bring both environmental and security risks to the region, a top official said.
Moscow is concerned with the growing activities of the US-led NATO bloc in the Arctic region, which may have grave security and ecology implications, according to a senior Russian representative to the Arctic Council, Nikolay Korchunov. The official made comments to the TASS news agency in an interview published Sunday.
The internationalization of the alliance's military activities in high latitudes, involving non-Arctic NATO states, causes nothing but concern. There are the risks of unintentional incidents that can cause serious damage to the fragile Arctic ecosystem, according to Korchunov.
The US-led bloc has ramped up its activities in the region, staging increasingly massive military exercises, the official said. In the north of Norway, a large-scale military exercise of the alliance took place recently, and in our opinion, it does not contribute to the security in the region, according to Korchunov, referring to the two-week Cold Response exercise that took place in March.
1,500 US troops and eight other NATO countries and partner nations were among the participants in the drills, which included 1,500 US troops and 15,000 in total. The exercise was marred by a crash of a US Marine Corps MV-22 B Osprey aircraft. Four people were killed on board when the tilt-rotor went down in a remote mountain range.
Korchunov believes that the potential expansion further north creates additional risks for the Arctic region, apart from direct military activities of the bloc. Sweden and Finland, which have maintained non-alignment polices for decades while enjoying close ties with the U.S.-led alliance, are considering joining it in the wake of the conflict between Russian and Ukraine.
Russia has advocated for the strengthening of NATO at the cost of traditionally non-bloc countries, but it is not a good idea for security and mutual trust in the Arctic, according to Korchunov, who said that Russia has always advocated for NATO expansion at the expense of traditionally non-bloc countries.
The large Russian military offensive that kicked off in Ukraine late in February has been used as an excuse to disrupt the work of the Arctic Council. In early March 2022, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland suspended their participation in the Council, citing Russia's special military operation in Ukraine. Korchunov said there was no way for development in the Arctic region without Russia.