The Russian Airborne Forces are likely to carry out military exercises in the Arctic region in the first six months of 2016, airborne forces spokesman Lt. Col. Yevgeny Meshkov told Interfax on Monday. The drills will be jointly conducted with the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Russian Geographical Society.
"Combat training under extreme conditions to include landing and multi-day field practice on the Arctic ice is planned to be conducted together with specialists of the Expedition Center of the Russian Geographical Society and Military Transport Aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces," Meshkov told the Russian news agency.
Russia has stepped up its presence in the far north, which is believed to have large oil and natural gas deposits. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December 2014 that his country did not plan to militarize the Arctic but will work to strengthen its defense capabilities in the region.
In October, NATO accused Russia of building a new “arc of steel” from the Mediterranean to the Arctic as a challenge to the U.S.-led coalition in the region.
“This remilitarization of Russian security policy is evident by the construction of an ‘arc of steel’ from the Arctic to the Mediterranean,” Mark Ferguson, Navy admiral and NATO’s Allied Joint Force commander in Italy, said. “Russia has introduced advanced air defense, cruise missiles systems and new platforms.”
In September, Russia sent a group of Northern Fleet warships and marines to the Arctic for military drills at the Russian Arctic coast. Russia has also enhanced its military presence in the region in recent months with surface-to-air missiles for use in temperatures below -58 degrees Fahrenheit and resupply ships that move through floating ice.