Courtesy of the Russian defense ministry, you can now take a tour of Russia’s newest military base. A virtual tour, anyway.
The base, dubbed "The Arctic Trefoil" due to its three-point structure, was built on Franz Josef Land – an archipelago in a remote region of the Arctic.
The 14,000-square mile complex, which will house about 150 personnel for up to 18 months, will serve in a capacity of protecting Russian airspace and other interests in the region.
“With the help of the web application, defense ministry website visitors will be able to interactively assess the convenient and ergonomic modular layout of the base, which allows the Russian military to perform service and combat tasks in the hardest natural and climatic conditions of the Arctic,” A Russian defense ministry spokesperson said.
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, who told Fox News’ Bret Baier back in January 2016 that “there are all kinds of countries that are interested in the critical strategic importance of the Arctic,” said he is concerned about the completion of this new base.
“While seemingly a modest investment, the construction of this base sends a clear message to the Arctic community about Russia's ongoing militarization of this strategically important region,” Sullivan told Fox News. “The Russians make claims of wanting a peaceful Arctic, but their actions – building bases, ports, conducting snap exercises with thousands of troops, installing surface-to-air missiles, and conducting bear bomber flights close to American airspace – seem to reveal their real intent.”
Russia has been building up its Arctic military infrastructure for several years, starting with President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 announcement establishing an Arctic command structure. In April of that year, Putin addressed a Russian Security Council meeting, saying the country should strengthen the military infrastructure.
"Specifically," he said, "I’m referring to the creation of a united system of naval bases for ships and next-generation submarines in our part of the Arctic.”
The Arctic Trefoil is the second such base built under Putin. The first ever self-contained Arctic military base, dubbed Northern Clover, was completed on Kotelny Island in late 2015.
In October 2015, then-U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops at Fort Wainwright, Alaska how important the Arctic region is.
“It will be important to the United States. It will be important to other countries,” Carter said. “It will be important that we help keep the peace and a rules-based kind of order and way of thinking about things up there.”
Sullivan echoed those sentiments.
"We need to wake up to the fact that the United States is an Arctic nation, with significant strategic interests in the region, including new global commercial and transportation routes, massive natural resource opportunities, and the well-being of American citizens living in the Arctic,” Sullivan said. “Nevertheless, we are falling behind.”
Sullivan told Fox News that he, along with other senators, is working with the Department of Defense on a new Arctic military strategy, but says more has to be done.
“Building port infrastructure,” he said, “to help facilitate critical missions in the Arctic is a key way to increase our Arctic presence and show both our adversaries and our allies that we are steadfastly committed to this critical region."