Tromsø, Northern Norway: "Despite the war in Ukraine, Russia is still exercising a level of dominance in the Arctic," says US Senator for Alaska, Lisa Murkowski (R), stating that it is important to show strength towards Russia. Especially now.
As covered by the High North News, the US military is currently exercising in near-Arctic conditions to improve readiness to face Russia and China in the Arctic, in line with last year's new Arctic strategy to expand and advance American military presence in the Arctic.
According to US Senator for Alaska, Lisa Murkowski (R), it is important to show strength towards Russia, especially now as NATO is preparing to welcome Sweden and Finland, making seven out of eight Arctic countries members of the alliance.
“Russia has not taken its eye off the ball in the Arctic," says the Senator to High North News during her visit to the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Northern Norway.
“We are seeing levels of Russian activity whether it is flyovers or sailing. And not long ago we actually saw not only Russian ships – that happens, as we know – but what was unusual and different was that also Chinese vessels accompanied the Russians. That was a first," says Murkowski,
It was the US Coast Guard that encountered three Chinese naval ships and four Russian naval vessels, including a destroyer, all in a single formation, in the Bering Sea in September last year.
We have not done what needs to be done to be at a readiness level.
The US Senator says that these are signals that clearly demonstrate that despite the war in Ukraine and Russia’s focus there, they are still exercising a level of dominance in the Arctic.
“So we are paying very close attention to Russia."
The exercise “Northern Strike” is one of many conducted by the US forces, but the fact that the goal this time is to face China and Russia has not been voiced before.
Have the threat from the East accelerated?
“We need to be diligent about Norway’s northern neighbor, given all that is going on in Ukraine. I think that it is important to send a message of strength," says Murkowski.
“Being prepared and knowing how to handle cold weather exercises is important. We passed a bill a month ago called the “Arctic warrior legislation”, because, in the US Arctic, we have not done what needs to be done to be at a readiness level. It is warfare training, but it is also practical realities of how one operates in a northern environment”, informs the Senator.
The United States has been involved with a number of training exercises in Norway over the years.
“This is not only important, but it is also an important message to send to Russia and China," states Murkowski.
She spoke with the two Russians who fled from the East coast of Russia last year, making it across to Alaska by a small motorboat in the open seas. A conversation that proved to be an eye-opener.
“I spoke with them when they were in transit to go the lower 48, and I heard from them that this was not only a situation of the Russian military forcing them to travel to the front. Russia is specifically targeting the indigenous communities”, Murkowski says.
“Where perhaps news of the war might not have been honestly articulated. Which is probably an understatement. It was a very direct reminder to the United States of the proximity, and the very real threat that so many are facing," concludes Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Believes in Norway
The Senator also believes that Norway is well-situated to assume leadership of the Arctic Council in May;
"Norway has had a relationship with Russia for a long time and has the knowledge and experience to see this through," she adds.