russian convoy Arctic ocean

U.K. to Step Up Arctic Patrols to Counter Russian Polar Threat

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September 30, 2018

A Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker escorts ships on the Northern Sea Route, July 14 2016. Photo credit: knyazev vasily / Shutterstock

By Kitty Donaldson (Bloomberg) — The U.K. will send Royal Marines to Norway’s Arctic training program because of the growing threat of Russian aggression in the area as the polar cap melts.

Some 800 marines will be deployed to Norway and four Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter planes will patrol Icelandic Skies, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson told his ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference on Sunday. He also said he’ll boost training to tackle the threat of Kremlin-sanctioned cyber attacks.

The defense secretary is responding to British analysis which shows Russian submarine activity in the north Atlantic Ocean has almost reached Cold War levels. From 2020 the new P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting aircraft will also be deployed.

“As the ice melts and new shipping routes emerge, the significance of the high north and Arctic region increases,’’ Williamson told delegates in Birmingham, England. “Russia, with more submarines operating under the ice and ambitions to build over 100 facilities in the Arctic, are staking a claim and militarizing the region. We must be ready to deal with all threats as they emerge.’’

Diplomatic relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia are at the lowest level since the height of Cold War in the 1970s, following the use of a weapons-grade nerve agent on British soil and Russia’s subsequent denials of involvement. At the United Nations Genera Assembly last week, Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of “flagrantly” breaching international norms.

Williamson said the government’s listening post at GCHQ will train 2,000 defense cadets in protecting small Internet networks from cyber attack.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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