If it wasn’t clear before that Russia intends to be prepared to “fight the Arctic,” it should be now. A report from last week indicates that the Russians plan to put “Bastion” anti-ship missile systems at their Arctic bases in 2015, to go along with airfield improvements, aircraft deployments, and installation of mobile anti-air missile systems and early warning radars for a network of bases that extends from one end of Russia’s Arctic coast to the other, and well into the Arctic Ocean.
There is certainly a question as to what “threat” Russia imagines herself to be countering with the deployment of the cruise missile systems.
But that’s really asking the wrong question. Given the dearth of non-Russian surface ship traffic through the area in question (maps 1 and 2), and the certainty that other nations with Arctic claims have no motive to put ships in that area against Russia’s will, a more accurate interpretation of this move is that Russia seeks to hold a geomilitary veto over the sea-lanes, in a manner similar to the veto sought by China over the South China Sea.
I’ve written a number of times before about the pattern of regional hegemony and exclusivism we will see with increased domination by Russia and China. When there’s no global “sheriff” to set an overarching standard, for either openness or security, the Asian giants’ first move is to enforce dominance over the areas adjacent to them, both to deepen their security boundaries and to ensure that they hold a veto over the use of resources — by everyone.