Map of Russian Federation with the Kola Peninsula highlighted, a strategically important space for Russian defense in the Arctic.
“While Sweden and Finland were conditionally neutral countries, there was no need to keep any large forces in the region. However, now that Finland has joined NATO, and Sweden is on this path, it is necessary to strengthen the northwestern direction.”
Russia will form a new Combined Arms Army (CAA) in the Arctic North as a response to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, according to a recently published article from the pro-government daily Izvestia. The Russian military expert featured in the article claims the Northern Fleet’s 14th Army Corps will likely be the nucleus of this new CAA, while the Arctic 200th and/or 80th brigades will likely be upsized to divisions. The new divisions will likely see the incorporation of a new Iskander missile brigade and air defense brigade to somewhat standardize the structure with other CAAs. Russian ground forces in the Baltic region facing Sweden and Finland, recently renamed the Leningrad Military District, will probably also expand to meet the new threat. The Northern Fleet Strategic Command covers the bulk of the Northern Sea route, but the Eastern Strategic Command controls the Chukotka Peninsula. There is currently a motorized rifle regiment stationed there, and plans exist to expand this to a division. Due to the distance involved, it is unlikely that the new CAA will expand to incorporate this other Russian Arctic ground force. The focus of the new CAA will be the defense of the Kola Peninsula.
Roman Kretcul and Aleksei Ramm, “Полярный округ: в составе Северного флота создадут общевойсковую армию (Arctic circle: A new combined arms army will form as part of the Northern Fleet),” Izvestia (large pro-government Russian daily), 1 July 2023. https://iz.ru/1538203/roman-kretcul-aleksei-ramm/poliarnyi-okrug-v-sostave-severnogo-flota-sozdadut-obshchevoiskovuiu-armiiu.
A new combined-arms army will be formed as part of the Northern Fleet.
This decision was made by the Russian Defense Ministry. It will cover the Russian border in the north, including the border with Finland and Norway. The defense of the Kola Peninsula is a vital task for Russia since strategic missile submarines are based there. The creation of a new army is especially important due to the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO. The new formation will be based on the current army corps. The army will include motorized rifle brigades, regiments and divisions. Their personnel will be trained in Arctic combat.
“While Sweden and Finland were conditionally neutral countries, there was no need to keep any large forces in the region,” military historian Dmitry Boltenkov explained to Izvestia. “However, now that Finland has joined NATO, and Sweden is on this path, it is necessary to strengthen the northwestern direction.” The expert noted that the 200th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade, the 80th Arctic Brigade, and the 61st Separate Marine Brigade are now stationed there. He did not rule out that the 200th and 80th brigades would be reorganized into divisions, and the 14th Army Corps, of which they are now a member, into an army. The most important thing is that with the creation of this army, powerful separate formations will also appear – a missile brigade, an air defense brigade and others. This will significantly increase the group’s capabilities in the region. According to Dmitry Boltenkov, the protection of the Kola Peninsula is vital, if only because strategic missile submarines are based there.
In recent years, Allies have shown an increased interest in the Arctic region. Norway hosts large-scale exercises of the Cold Response Alliance every two years. In the spring of 2022, over 30 thousand military personnel, more than 200 aircraft and 50 ships took part in them. The Russian Armed Forces regularly conduct exercises in polar latitudes. In particular, the annual maneuvers “Umka”, during which both personnel training and polar research are performed. On July 1, the press service of the Northern Fleet reported that the Arctic grouping, which includes warships of the Kola flotilla, will conduct a traditional Arctic campaign with a set of tactical exercises on the continental coast, islands and in the waters of the seas of the Arctic Ocean.
Image: Map of Russian Federation with the Kola Peninsula highlighted, a strategically important space for Russian defense in the Arctic.
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