June 13, 2012:
With the growing oil and natural gas discoveries along Russia's northern border, the government has ordered the formation of a special brigade of arctic troops to patrol the vast region and be ready to deal with any problems that might require military force. To assist this new brigade the Russian Air Force is reopening three arctic air bases that were closed after the Cold War ended in 1991. Novaya Zemlya, Naryan-Mar, and Franz-Josef Land are all off the northwest arctic coast of Russia (just east of Norway). Naryan-Mar is on the mainland, the other two are on islands off the coast. Work on the Franz-Josef Land base (the northernmost Russian military base) will begin next year, while the other two are being refurbished now.
Last year the Russian Army began selecting 8,000 troops for the new Arctic Brigade, which will be stationed in the Kola Peninsula, near the borders with Finland and Norway. The Kola Peninsula has long contained key air, naval, and army bases. The new brigade will be ready for duty by the end of the year.
Russia has gone to other arctic military powers for ideas and the best equipment available. This is part of a trend in Russia, to seek new military equipment wherever it can be found and not depend on the, often second-rate, stuff produced by Russian defense firms. The brigade will be air mobile and will possess vehicles that can move over snow and ice. Many of the communications will be satellite based, and everything will be able to handle the extreme cold found along Russia's northern coast.
All Arctic nations have specialized units like this, which often contain a large proportion of tribal peoples long native to the Arctic. The United States, for example, has a Winter Warfare School in Alaska and a reserve brigade there organized and trained to deal with situations in the vast Alaskan backcountry. Canada also has an Arctic Warfare School and troops recruited from native (Inuit/Eskimo/First Nations, Etc) populations. Finland has a similar system and now Russia is apparently seeking to implement something similar.
Climate change may open a sea route along the north coast of Eurasia and North America, and that would also make it cheaper to move oil discovered in those arctic waters off the coast. With all this new wealth potential up there, nations bordering the arctic are getting ready to defend their appreciating frozen assets.