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The next NATO military exercise in northern Norway could cause World War III in the Arctic between Russia and the US. UU when using its nuclear triads.
In early March, some 7500 US combat troops will travel to Norway to join thousands of soldiers from other countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a large simulated battle with “invading and imaginary forces of Russia.”
In this confrontation, simulated and futuristic, which is known as “Exercise Cold Response 2020”, and has been repeated year after year, the allied forces will perform multinational joint exercises with a combat scenario of high intensity in demanding winter conditions, according to Norwegian Army sources.
At first glance, this maneuver may resemble any other training exercise that NATO has done, but if one stops to look in detail, he realizes that “Cold Response 2020” has nothing ordinary. To begin with, it is organizing above the Arctic Circle, far from any traditional battlefield of the Atlantic Alliance, and elevates to a new level the possibility of a large-scale conflict between the two major nuclear superpowers at the level worldwide, that is, between the US UU. and Russia, that directs the world to witness the dreaded Third World War, as suggested by an article recently published in The Nation.
For the personnel participating in the aforementioned exercise, the potentially thermonuclear dimensions of “Cold Response 2020” may not be obvious. At first, the Marines of the United States and the United Kingdom will be disembarking large numbers of amphibians and other weapons along the coast of Norway, as they do in similar maneuvers in other parts of the world, and then deployed to the Finnmark’s northernmost region of the country to join the Norwegian forces and initiate maneuvers that supposedly revolve around preventing Russian imaginary forces from crossing the border and “invading” the European country.
Thereafter, the two parties will be involved, to use the current terminology of the US Department of Defense. UU. (the Pentagon), in high-intensity combat operations in arctic conditions, being a type of warfare that has not been seen on such a scale since World War II.
And that is only the beginning, since the Finnmark region of Norway and the adjacent Russian territory have become one of the most likely battlegrounds for the first use of nuclear weapons in any future conflict between NATO and Russia.
Since Moscow has concentrated a significant part of its nuclear retaliation capacity on the Kola Peninsula, a remote stretch of Russian territory bordering northern Norway, any provocation from NATO forces under the “Cold Response 2020 ”, However minimal, could be interpreted by Russia as an imminent danger to a significant part of its nuclear arsenal, and could thus trigger the early use of such weapons.
This scenario of the “Cold Response 2020” maneuvers will undoubtedly put Russia’s nuclear controllers to the limit, the article goes on to then point out that to appreciate how risky any confrontation would be between NATO and Russia in the extreme north of Norway, the geography of the region and the strategic factors that have led Moscow to concentrate so much military power there must be considered.
This Kremlin policy is developed in the context of another existential danger: climate change. The melting of the Arctic ice sheet and the accelerated exploitation of resources in this area are giving this area a growing strategic importance, not only for Russia, but also for other regional countries and not so many others.
The exploitation of natural resources on the Kola Peninsula, a region shared between Norway and Russia and bordering the Barents Sea, which converges in the Arctic Ocean, has become, in recent years, a vortex of economic and military activity of These two countries.
This remote region, located in the far north of Europe, is appreciated as a source of vital minerals, especially nickel, iron ore and phosphates, as well as an extensive source of oil and natural gas extraction. With temperatures rising in the Arctic twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet and sea ice that is retreating more and more north each year, the exploration of fossil fuels on the high seas has become increasingly viable . As a result, large reserves of crude oil and natural gas have been discovered, the same fuels whose combustion is responsible for these high temperatures, under the Barents Sea and both countries are trying to exploit those deposits.
Norway has taken the lead, establishing the world’s first plant on the Arctic Circle in Hammerfest in Finnmark to export liquefied natural gas. For Russia, the even more significant prospects for oil and gas exploitation are further east of the Kola Peninsula, specifically, in the Kara and Pechora seas and on the Yamal Peninsula, a thin expanse of Siberia. In fact, its energy companies have already started to extract crude oil and liquefied gas from these fields that are very promising for Moscow. But there is a big problem: the only practical way to transport that energy production to the international market is through the use of specially designed icebreakers and shipped through the Barents Sea.
Thus, the supervision of the strategic waterway that connects the waters of the Kara and Pechora seas through the Barents Sea to the Atlantic Ocean has become an economic priority for Russia, as it allows it to develop the exploitation of the resources of Arctic oil and gas and its transfer to European and Asian markets as its hydrocarbon reserves below the Arctic Circle begin to run out.
Hence, the Navy of the Russian Federation to ensure the navigation of its commercial ships without being intercepted by the opposing forces while heading towards waters of the Atlantic Ocean has established in the port of Murmansk, on the Kola Peninsula, the headquarters of the North Russian Fleet with its consequent numerous air bases, infantry, missiles and radars, along with naval shipyards and nuclear reactors.
In a nutshell, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been substantially rebuilding the aforementioned Fleet, which was left in poor condition after the collapse of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), equipping it with some of the most advanced combat ships of the country. In fact, according to a 2018 Military Balance publication, the Northern Fleet has the most modern destroyers (10) of any Russian fleet, along with 22 attack submarines and numerous support ships.
Russian media, citing military sources, argue that dozens of advanced MiG fighters and a wide variety of anti-aircraft defense systems such as S-400 and S-500 are deployed in the Murmansk area. In addition, they assure the same sources that Moscow at the end of 2019 deployed in this area the launch pad of the Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missile.
Given that Russia has been strengthening its nuclear forces in the region, as has the United States, by having a triad of nuclear launch systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), long-range strategic bombers and ballistic missiles launched from submarines (SLBM), it is not surprising that a part of this arsenal is installed near the port of Murmansk.
Under the terms of the New Strategic Weapons Reduction Agreement, better known as the New START, signed by both countries in 2010 and which will expire in February 2021, the Russians cannot deploy more than 700 launch systems capable of carrying more than 1550 nuclear warheads, 66 strategic bombers, 286 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 16 SLBM submarines.
Faced with such a deployment of arsenals in Murmansk, although it is merely hypothetical, many may worry that a small slip by NATO forces during the “Cold Response 2020” maneuvers may have unpredictable consequences, and more when the United States has been accumulating troops and weapons at military bases near the western and Nordic borders of Russia in recent years.
During the Cold War era, Washington saw the Arctic as an important strategic arena and built a series of military bases throughout the region. Its main objective: to intercept Soviet bombers and missiles that cross the North Pole on its way to targets in North America. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Washington abandoned many of those bases.
Now, with the Pentagon once again identifying Russia and China as the “big threats” to the US geostrategic interests. In the area, like many others, many of these bases are recovering their military activities of yesteryear and many others that have been established in the Arctic area to house, even more if possible, a larger arsenal of weapons to counter their rivals
Once again, the Arctic is being seen by the Americans as a possible site of conflict with Russia and, as a result, the US forces. UU. They are being prepared for a possible fight there.
From the Russian perspective, even more threatening is the construction of an American radar station on the Norwegian island of Vardø, about 65 kilometers from the Kola Peninsula. To be operated in conjunction with the Norwegian intelligence service, the purpose of the installation will obviously be to spy on those Russian submarines that carry missiles, supposedly to target them and eliminate them in the early stages of any conflict.
Against this backdrop, Moscow conducted a mock preventive attack on Vardø facilities in 2018, sending 11 Su-24 supersonic bombers for this occasion and using a surface-to-surface missile battery with projectile launches on an island near Vardø.
For its part, the US Navy. In August 2018, the U.S. decided to reactivate its Second Fleet previously dismantled in the North Atlantic to increase its strategic effectiveness in the event of an attack on Russian facilities in the Barents Sea region.
In summary, what might otherwise seem like a routine training exercise in a distant part of the world is actually part of an emerging US strategy to dominate Russia in a critical defensive zone, an approach that could easily trigger a nuclear war
The Russians are, of course, very aware of this and, no doubt, they see the “Cold Response 2020” with genuine concern. Their fears are understandable, but all actors should be concerned about a strategy that apparently represents such a high risk of future escalation.
Since the Soviets acquired their own nuclear weapons in 1949, strategists have wondered how and where a total nuclear war would erupt, World War III. There was a time when it was believed that this incendiary scenario involved a confrontation over the divided city of Berlin or along the east-west border in Germany.
After the Cold War, however, fears of such a lethal encounter dissipated. However, today, the prospect of a catastrophic Third World War is once again imaginable and this time, it seems, an incident in the Arctic could ignite the spark of the dreaded nuclear Armageddon.