DEFIANT Russia has warned the West against staking a claim in the Arctic, after Vladimir Putin set up a remote subzero military base in a show of strength.

The Nagurskoye military airbase is heaving with missiles and radar while its extended runway is ready to fly nuclear-capable strategic bombers.





NATO is increasingly worried about the growing Russian military footprint in the Arctic, and Washington sent B-1 bombers to Norway this year.

“We hear whining about Russia expanding its military activities in the Arctic,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“But everyone knows that it’s our territory, our land.

"We bear responsibility for the Arctic coast to be safe, and everything our country does there is fully legitimate," he added.

Russia is fiercely asserting its influence over wide areas of the Arctic in competition with the US, Canada, Denmark and Norway.

It's taking advantage of the shrinking polar ice from the warming planet – which is offering a wealth of new opportunities for resources and shipping routes.

China also has shown an increasing interest in the region, believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.




Russian President Vladimir Putin has put the value of Arctic mineral riches at a mammoth $30trillion.

And he's perfectly poised to do so, as Russia’s northernmost military base was once just a runway, a weather station and a communications outpost in the Franz Josef Land archipelago.

During the Cold War, it was also a remote and desolate home mostly for polar bears.

Temperatures plunge in winter to -42C and the snow only disappears from August to mid-September.

By expanding the base to include missiles, radar and an extended runway, Moscow is projecting its vast power and influence across the Arctic amid intensifying international competition for the region’s vast resources.

Tensions between Russia and the West already loom large over Thursday’s meeting of the Arctic nations’ foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Moscow is set to take a rotating chairmanship in the Arctic Council.

The base sits about 1,000km (600 miles) south of the geographic North Pole.

It was built by the Kremlin to boost its military amid spiralling tensions with the West following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.





But, in 2015, Russia submitted a revised bid for vast territories in the Arctic to the United Nations.

The Kremlin claimed 1.2 million sq km (over 463,000 sq miles) of Arctic sea shelf, extending more than 350 nautical miles (650km) from shore.

Russia said it regards the Northern Sea Route as its “historically developed national transport corridor,”.

Officials in Moscow are demanding authorisation for foreign vessels to navigate along it.

However the US has dismissed Russia’s claims of jurisdiction on parts of the route as illegitimate.

Yet that hasn't stopped Moscow from declaring its intention to introduce procedures for foreign ships, and assign Russian pilots for guidance along the route, which runs from Norway to Alaska.

Which is why, as part of that effort, Russia has rebuilt and expanded facilities across the polar region, deploying surveillance and defensive assets.



Adm. Alexander Moiseyev, chief of Russia’s Northern Fleet, said last week that Moscow has the right to set navigation rules along the shipping lane.

“Practically the entire Northern Sea Route goes through Russia’s territorial waters or the country’s economic zone,” Moiseyev told reporters aboard the Peter the Great missile cruiser.

“The complex ice conditions make it necessary to organise safe shipping, so Russia insists on a special regime of its use.”

But, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “Increased Russian presence [and] more Russian bases in the High North, has also triggered the need for more NATO presence.

"We have increased our presence there with more naval capabilities, presence in the air, and not least, the importance of protecting transatlantic undersea cables transmitting a lot of data."

Moiseyev has criticised America's military assets in Norway, saying it has led to an “increase of the conflict potential in the Arctic".

The Russian Foreign Ministry last week fumed when a US nuclear submarine stopped at a Norwegian port, saying it reflected what it described as “Oslo’s course for the militarisation of the Arctic".

What is Russia’s Nagurskoye airbase?

Russia’s Nagurskoye airbase is its northernmost military base.

The base sits about 1,000km (600 miles) south of the geographic North Pole.

During the Cold War, Nagurskoye was little more than a runway, a weather station and a communications outpost in the Franz Josef Land archipelago.

But it has since been vastly extended, to offer Russia somewhere to hold missiles, radar and an extended runway which can handle all types of aircraft, including nuclear-capable strategic bombers.

It was built using new construction technologies as part of Kremlin efforts to bolster the military amid spiralling tensions with the West following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The shamrock-shaped facility features three large pods extending from a central atrium, called the “Arctic Trefoil”.

It's painted in the white-red-and-blue of the national flag.

The base sits on the 5,600-km (3,470-mile) Northern Sea Route along Russia’s Arctic coast.

Other buildings on the island, which is called Alexandra Land, are used for radar and communications, a weather station, oil storage, hangars and construction facilities.

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