Military Review

North Arctic theaters


The problem of delimiting the water area of ​​the Arctic Ocean has now faded into the background of international life, pushed aside by the turbulent and significant events of late March - early April, but has not at all been removed from the agenda of interstate relations.


By the way, this problem arose not at all a few years ago, but already in the first half of the twentieth century, when mankind, more or less seriously, began to develop the Arctic. As of today, the views of the coastal countries (Russia, Canada, the USA, Norway and Denmark, which has access to the Arctic Ocean through Greenland) on its division in general are as follows.

Moscow advocates drawing the boundaries of the Arctic possessions of the circumpolar states along the meridians from the extreme points of their coast to the "crown" of the Earth, on which the boundaries of all sectors converge. With this option, most of the Arctic Ocean turns out to be Russian. The Russian Federation regards the Northern Sea Route as its internal waters.

A similar position is adhered to by Canada, which declares the Northwest Passage as its internal waters and also supports the sectoral option. Ottawa is very serious about the problem of the Arctic, where the main oil and gas fields of the Maple Leaf Country are located. The Federal Council for the Arctic operates, its chairman, when solving regional issues, has the status of prime minister. All structures and bodies are accountable to him, including economic (including oil and gas production) and military.

Washington has a completely different view of the problem. The United States insists that the states that have access to the Arctic Ocean only own the 12-mile zones they know along their coast. Accordingly, the pole is a no-man's land, the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are international. On this basis, the United States is already quarreling with Canada.

Oslo and Copenhagen - for dividing the Arctic along the median line (that is, passing at an equal distance from the coastline of states), in this case, Denmark gets the pole.

Border disputes in specific areas take place between Russia and Norway (in the Barents Sea), between the United States and Canada (Alaska and the Yukon province), Canada and Denmark (for the Hans Island with an area of ​​1,3 sq. Km, more precisely, for the adjacent water area ).

Norway established a 1977-mile economic protection zone around Svalbard in 200, but only Finland and Canada recognize it. This is precisely the subject of its strife with Russia, since the entire eastern part of this 200-mile zone falls on the waters that the Russian Federation, in accordance with the sectoral option, considers its own.

Separate history is the problem of Greenland, through which Denmark goes to the Arctic. On November 25, 2008, a referendum was held here and 76% of the local residents with the right to vote spoke in favor of a higher degree of autonomy from Copenhagen. Denmark now remains in charge of foreign policy and defense, and the Greenlanders received the right to dispose of the natural resources of the island, solve legal and law enforcement issues, and partially control foreign policy.

The area of ​​Greenland is 2 million 175,6 thousand square meters. km (the largest island in the world). This is 98% of the area of ​​the entire Danish kingdom. But the population is less than 60 thousand people. The Greenland shelf may contain more than 160 billion barrels of oil. On the island there is a US Air Force base (although it is not constantly used) and an early warning radar station in Tula. By the way, in 1946 the US wanted to buy Greenland, but Denmark refused to sell it. Now there is a feeling that Washington has nothing against the growing Greenlandic separatism.

It is interesting that China, which seems to be far from it, did not stay away from the problem of the Arctic. In 2008, a research station of the PRC appeared on the Norwegian Spitsbergen. The icebreaker "Snow Dragon" is regularly sent to the Arctic Ocean. Beijing is looking for resources everywhere. He doesn't care how the Arctic will be delimited. The Celestial Empire will be satisfied with any option in which it gets access to these resources in some way.

It should be noted that throughout the twentieth century, the delimitation of the Arctic Basin was mainly of an academic nature, since it was covered with ice for most of the year. But in recent years, this ice cover has begun to shrink significantly, which opens up the possibility for year-round navigation. Moreover, not only along the Northern Sea Route and the North-Western Passage, but also in high latitudes. But more importantly, there are prospects for oil and gas production on the shelf of the Arctic Ocean. And the hydrocarbon reserves here, apparently, are not less than in the Persian Gulf.

That is why the problem of the Arctic has moved to a practical level. This became especially noticeable after the Russian expedition planted our national flag at the site of the earth's axis. The organizers of this action have forgotten a good Russian proverb: "Don't wake up dashingly while it's quiet."

And "dashing" in the face of other circumpolar countries "woke up" finally. Russia's Arctic neighbors are seriously engaged in the discussion of the problem, as well as practical studies of the shelf. In addition, they all condemned the actions of the Russian Federation, since, in their opinion, this is the style of the Cold War. Canada reacted especially sharply - both to the installation of the flag and to the flights of Russian strategic bombers (although they fly over neutral waters).

The Western Arctic states are trying to develop a common approach to the problem. Moreover, all of them are members of NATO, and therefore must demonstrate solidarity in the face of "Russian expansion". At the same time, however, as mentioned above, there are quite a lot of contradictions between them. All participants in the process regularly hold meetings at a fairly high level (the last one took place in Canada, where the foreign ministers arrived), but they do not bring any real results.

There is nothing to fight

It is, of course, difficult to imagine a military clash in the Arctic. Both geographically and climatically (despite the melting ice), and from a political point of view. Nevertheless, it makes sense to consider the military balance in the region.

Let's start with Russia, the length of the Arctic coast of which is 19,7 thousand km. The grouping of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is deployed only on its westernmost edge, in the northwest of the Kola Peninsula. This is one motorized rifle brigade, one marine brigade, three air bases and two S-300P anti-aircraft missile regiments. In total, they include about 100 tanks, more than 100 armored personnel carriers, over 100 artillery systems and 60 combat aircraft, about 30 attack helicopters and the same number of transport helicopters.

If you move along the Arctic coast to the east, then there is still only one warhead - the S-300P anti-aircraft missile regiment near Severodvinsk. Further - to the Bering Strait - there is nothing.

In general, in the entire Leningrad Military District, including the grouping in the isolated Kaliningrad enclave, the Airborne Forces formation, as well as equipment mothballed at storage bases, there is one airborne assault division, 8 brigades of "new look", 12 tactical missile systems "Tochka-U ", 300 tanks (mostly T-80), 400 infantry fighting vehicles and BMD, more than 1,2 thousand armored personnel carriers, 1 artillery systems, 80 air defense systems. The Air Force has 10 air bases, 9 S-300P air defense missile systems, about 200 combat aircraft (Su-24, Su-27, MiG-31) and about 60 Mi-24 attack helicopters. All other military districts have nothing to do with the Arctic (even if they geographically extend to its coast), their units and formations are located along the southern border of the Russian Federation.

The Northern fleet Russia includes (we will not take into account nuclear missile submarines belonging to the strategic nuclear forces) 16 nuclear and 7 diesel submarines, 1 aircraft carrier, 3 cruisers, 2 destroyers, 5 large and 6 small anti-submarine ships, 3 small missile ships, 7 minesweepers, 5 landing ships. At the same time, 7 nuclear and 1 diesel submarines, 1 cruiser, 2 BODs, 3 MPKs and 3 landing ships are under repair or conservation. From repairs in our Navy, ships are rarely returned to service. Much more often they go to butchering.

In addition, it should be borne in mind that our Northern Fleet is, in fact, considered not only and even not so much “northern” as “Atlantic”. For this, there are actually 9 submarines, 6 submarines, 1 aircraft carrier, 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, 3 BODs, 3 IPCs, 3 MRKs, 7 TSCs and 2 DKs "a little bit". Especially if we take into account that of the surface ships, only the nuclear cruiser Peter the Great and the BPK Admiral Chabanenko, which were commissioned in the 90s, are more or less modern and combat-ready.

However, in Canada, the situation is even worse, its giant Arctic territories are controlled only by ski patrols. And all the country's armed forces are located in its civilized south (approximately at the latitude of Volgograd, maximum - St. Petersburg). In addition, they are, to put it mildly, small - only three motorized infantry brigades, 86 tanks, of which only 20 Leopard-2s meet modern requirements (66 Leopard-1s are only suitable for scrap), about 500 armored personnel carriers, more than 100 artillery systems , 80 F-18 combat aircraft.

Not much larger than the army of the European Arctic countries. In Norway, from 1990 to 2009, the number of tanks dropped from 205 to 81 (52 Leopard-2A4, the rest were poor Leopard-1), artillery systems - from 531 to 68, combat aircraft - from 90 to 57 (F-16 ). In Denmark, respectively, from 419 to 171 (51 "Leopard-2", 120 "Leopard-1"), from 553 to 57, from 106 to 62 (the same F-16). In this country, the duration of military service has been reduced to 4 months, and there are only two brigades left in the kingdom's ground forces. The main thing is that all the Armed Forces are located mainly on the Jutland Peninsula (at the latitude of Moscow), while there are no significant military contingents in Greenland. Norwegian troops are also deployed mostly in the south of the country.

The naval forces of the three states named above are somewhat more serious, although they are also small. The Canadian Navy includes 4 diesel submarines, 3 destroyers, 12 frigates. The Norwegian Navy - 6 submarines, 3 frigates (2 more are being completed), 7 coast guard patrol ships, 5 missile boats. Danish Navy - 8 frigates, 2 combat support ships, 10 corvettes. By the way, several years ago the Danish leadership, despite the fierce protests of the officers, wrote off all submarines.

On the whole, all these three countries pose no military threat to Russia. Firstly, they have too weak armed forces, located, moreover, far from the Arctic and in general from our borders. Second, as the Afghan experience clearly shows, they are psychologically unprepared for a serious war.


But there is still the United States, which is entering the Arctic with its largest state - the former Russian Alaska. A fairly solid military grouping is concentrated in its southeastern part.

During the Cold War, the 6th Light Infantry Division was stationed in Alaska. In the 90s, it was disbanded, leaving one brigade from it, which was then sent through Iraq to Germany. Instead, two of the four brigades of the 25th Light Infantry Division stationed in Hawaii arrived in Alaska: 1st Stryker and 4th Airborne. Both of these teams are experimental. The 1st Brigade became the second in the US Armed Forces of the new type of unit ("Stryker"), the 4th also became the second Airborne Brigade in the US Armed Forces. These connections were created in accordance with the fashion for high strategic mobility: the 4th Airborne Brigade can be deployed anywhere in the world in 18 hours, the 1st Stryker - in 4 days.

True, high mobility inevitably has to pay with low combat resistance. Brigades are "sharpened" for counter-guerrilla warfare, but they are not very suitable for classical warfare. The 4th Airborne Brigade does not have any heavy military equipment at all (except for the battalion of towed howitzers), and the air defense systems are not very good either. The 1st Brigade looks little better in this respect. Almost all of its equipment is Stryker combat vehicles in various versions (armored personnel carriers, BRM, KShM, BMTV, etc.), in total - 308 units. Of these, 27 BMTVs with a 105-mm cannon, 9 self-propelled ATGM "Tou-2" and 36 self-propelled mortars, the rest of the vehicles are unarmed. The brigade also has 12 towed howitzers М198, there is no air defense. It should be noted here that the "Strikers" (in all variants) are ordinary armored personnel carriers with "cardboard" armor corresponding to this class of equipment.

For comparison: the motorized rifle brigade of the "new look" of the RF Armed Forces has 41 tanks, 36 self-propelled guns, 18 MLRS, 18 self-propelled anti-tank systems, 6 anti-tank systems, 18 air defense systems, 6 air defense systems. That is, with at least some acceptable level of combat training of personnel, it does not leave the "Stryker" in a one-on-one battle.

True, it is unclear where our MSBR will come from in the Arctic (except for the only one on the Kola Peninsula). And in general, it is difficult to imagine the battles of land units in the Arctic ice deserts, to put it mildly. It's easier to imagine battles in the sky.

The 11th Air Force is deployed in Alaska, subordinate to the United States Air Force Pacific Command. The base of the VA is the 3rd air wing at the Elmendorf VVB. It includes two squadrons of F-22 fighters, one squadron of F-15 fighters, E-3B AWACS aircraft and C-17 transport aircraft. Of course, special attention should be paid to the F-22, the world's only 5th generation fighters. Of the 187 vehicles of this type purchased for the US Air Force, 40 ended up in Alaska.

In addition, the Eilson Air Force Base hosts the 354th Air Wing, which includes two squadrons of F-16 fighters. It is interesting that one of them - the 18th (there are 22 aircraft in it) is the "Aggressor" squadron. It is staffed by the most qualified pilots who simulate enemy aircraft during the Air Force exercises, namely the MiG-29 (in terms of performance characteristics, it is closest to the F-16). Even more interesting, this squadron was formed in 2007. In fairness, it should be noted that in the entire Asian part of the Russian Federation, only one airbase is equipped with a MiG-29 and is located in the Trans-Baikal Territory, 5 thousand km from Alaska. But the DPRK has the MiG-29.

Thus, there are more than 100 US Air Force fighters in Alaska (for comparison, the US now has 200 combat aircraft in all of Europe). The closest combat unit of the RF Air Force is the 6990th AB in Elizovo, in Kamchatka with 36 MiG-31s. It would be interesting to simulate the battle between the F-22 and the MiG-31, the main question is: at what distance can the powerful MiG radar station be able to see the Raptor's invisibility? Although I must say that in practice such a battle is difficult already because there are almost 3,2 thousand km between Elmendorf and Elizovo, which exceeds the sum of the combat radii of these fighters.

In addition to all of the above, the 176th Air Wing of the US National Guard Air Force with C-130H transport aircraft is deployed in Alaska. There are several other airfields in this state that can be used for the transfer of additional combat aircraft, most notably the huge civilian airport Anchorage. However, Chukotka also has several airfields.

And in the European part of the Arctic, the Americans have neither the Air Force, nor the ground units. The base in Keflavik, Iceland, which has been operating since 1951, was closed in 2006.

However, the main "character" of the military confrontation in the Arctic, if any, will certainly become the US Navy. And then we will have hard times.

Let's say America sends only the forces of the Atlantic Fleet to the Arctic. It includes (excluding SSBNs) 25 nuclear submarines, 4 aircraft carriers, 10 cruisers, 26 destroyers, 13 frigates (and 5 more in emergency reserve), 14 landing ships. Compare with the above composition of the Northern Fleet of the Russian Federation. We must not forget that aircraft carriers influence the air situation and there are more combat aircraft on the four "floating airfields" than in the entire Leningrad Military District. And all American nuclear submarines, cruisers and destroyers are carriers of SLCM.

However, Alaska with its southern part goes not to the Atlantic, but to the Pacific Ocean. The US Pacific Fleet (again without SSBNs) includes 29 submarines, 6 aircraft carriers, 12 cruisers, 29 destroyers, 12 frigates, and 17 landing ships.

Today we have 7 submarines, 7 submarines, 1 cruiser, 1 destroyer, 4 BODs, 5 MPKs, 3 MRKs, 7 missile boats, 8 minesweepers, 4 landing ships in service in the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, all large surface ships are located in Vladivostok, from which the Arctic is more than 4 thousand km. True, the American Pacific Fleet is deployed even further south, only coast guard ships that do not have missile weapons are based in Alaska.


In conclusion, it can be noted that the unresolved issues related to the delimitation of the Arctic is a very dangerous thing. The stories about the massive NATO aggression against Russia, popular among some Russian propagandists, are outright nonsense that cannot be seriously discussed. Real problems arise precisely where there is no clarity with the legal status, but there are serious interests.

The sea route from Europe (where most of the world's consumers live) to East Asia (where the main producers are located) through the Arctic is several times shorter than even through the Suez Canal (especially around Africa), which gives significant savings in time and money. Imagine that the ice cover has decreased even more significantly and merchant ships moved through polar waters, which we consider to be our own, and almost all other countries - international. What will be our actions? Or even more interesting: what will we do if the Danes or Norwegians start drilling the shelf that we consider ours?

And, finally, what will happen if US Navy warships enter the waters, the status of which is unclear (for us they are ours, but for others - neutral)? By the way, it is from the Arctic waters that it is easiest to get with the help of SLCMs to most of the most important targets in Russia (first of all, of course, we are talking about strategic nuclear forces).

Even more fundamental is the issue of sea-based missile defense. The aforementioned propagandists have not yet been able to explain how, from a purely technical point of view, the US missile defense system, which may appear in Romania, could threaten us. In fact, it is incapable of interfering with our strategic nuclear forces under any scenarios. At the same time, for some reason, the already existing and, apparently, very effective missile defense system on cruisers and destroyers with the Aegis system is completely ignored. SAM "Standard-SM3", capable of shooting down satellites and ballistic missiles, are now installed on 2 destroyers of the Atlantic, 3 cruisers and 13 destroyers of the Pacific fleets. The plans of the US leadership are to install them (and accordingly modernize the radar) on all 22 cruisers and, in the future, 65 destroyers. It is from high latitudes that it is very convenient to intercept ICBMs and SLBMs, and by no means from Eastern Europe.

Conducting a demonstration of strength, one must have this strength. Otherwise, it turns out a bluff, which can lead to very sad consequences. Trying to solve the problem by unilateral actions that are not backed up by real possibilities, Moscow will only achieve the rallying of the other Arctic countries on the basis of NATO solidarity. Moreover, as shown above, one could very effectively play on the contradictions between them up to the creation of the configuration “all against the USA”. After all, the American approach to the delimitation of the Arctic actually does not suit anyone else.
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