The new Russian Unified Strategic Command (Obedinonnye Strategicheskoe Komandovanie—OSK) “Sever” was deemed operational on December 1, 2014. It has been created to strengthen the vast border’s security and protect the growing Russian interests in the Arctic. But the question is if the creation of OSK Sever could jeopardize allied security in the Arctic?

In October 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to never surrender Russia’s hold on the Arctic. The Russian Defense Ministry then started working on a plan to protect Russia’s interests in this vast region.

The first major move towards creating the new Russian Arctic command was the transfer of the Northern Fleet from OSK West to OSK Sever in September 2014. Russia’s Defense Ministry has announced that the Northern Fleet and two Arctic-warfare brigades—approximately 9,000 soldiers—would form the newly established Unified Strategic Command North. In addition to those two elements, air force and air-defense units are to be included by the end of 2017.

The fact that it was called a unified strategic command instead of a military district really raises questions. It is believed that the Russian presence in the Arctic and the reason its military is being deployed to Cold War-era military bases is solely to protect the extensive natural resources in the region.

But the establishment of a wartime strategic command casts doubts on the true nature of the permanent military presence in far-flung regions of Russia. Russia is also planning the construction of new military installations—even in environmentally protected areas—many of which will be operational in 2015. It was likely done this way to justify a larger budget and to give OSK Sever priority over other military commands that are still working within a peacetime framework.

The Northern Fleet Headquarter will be kept in Severomorsk and will also include the 200th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade, based at Pechenga in the Murmansk Oblast.

Sukhoi PAK FA. This multi-role fighter is the equivalent of the F-35 and should enter service in 2016.
Sukhoi PAK FA. This multi-role fighter is the equivalent of the F-35 and should enter service in 2016.

Russia has already planned to build 13 new airdromes and 10 radar sites in the Arctic. Such a move demonstrates the willingness to keep Russia’s borders tight and almost hermetic. These 13 airdromes could also be strategic launching sites for Russian incursions in countries such as Canada and the United States. The radar sites could be used to eavesdrop and gain valuable data on the adjacent country’s military maneuvers and border security. The new military installations are believed to be in, but are not limited to the following areas.

Cape Schmidt Far Eastern Chukokta region
Kotelny Island Off the coast of Yakutia
Alakurtti village Near the Finnish border
Soutern island Novaya Zemlya Archipelago
Tiksi Yakutia’s northernmost locality, inside the Arctic Circle
Alykel Krasnoyarsk Territory
Vorkuta Komi Republic
Anadyr Administrative center of Chukokta
Novosibirsk Islands Sakha Republic
Delta IV class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine.
Delta IV class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine.

There are five main factors to consider when analyzing the current Arctic militarization. The risk of future conflicts differs for each of them.