RUSSIA has fired back at British fears that Vladimir Putin poses a national security threat over his ‘military build-up’ in the Arctic. But the Kremlin attack came as Moscow is staging a significant naval show of strength in polar waters after despatching warships on a summer patrol ostensibly to counter terrorism and other threats.
A panel of MPs this week claimed Russia posed a serious threat to Britain and urged Ministers to show “greater ambition and apply more resources” to countering Putin’s alleged menace in the Arctic.
It claimed Russia’s new military firepower in the region – including the reopening of old Soviet bases – went far beyond strictly defensive needs.
But Moscow claimed the report “On thin ice: UK defence in the Arctic” from the Commons’ Defence Sub-Committee was “sabre-rattling”.
“These speculations are yet another attempt to promote the idea of military build-up in the Arctic under imaginary pretexts,” said the Russian embassy in London.
“They run counter to the existing international legal framework and completely undermine huge efforts undertaken in the Arctic Council, where the UK is an observer state.”
Moscow considers the Arctic to be an area for constructive dialogue and equal, conflict-free cooperation in the interests, a diplomatic source said.
Britain should be aware of “impressive prospects for trade” and “economic and infrastructural cooperation in the Arctic”.
It was time to stop “sabre-rattling in this part of the globe”.
Coinciding with the MPs’ report Russia sent to sea in the Arctic a warships and supply vessels from the country’s Northern Fleet, sailing from naval base Severomorsk.
It is expected to patrol across nine time zones, taking advantage of climate change which has left the polar waters largelyfree of thick ice this summer.
Among the vessels in the task force are large anti-submarine warfare ship Vice-Admiral Kulakov, major amphibious assault ships Alexander Otrakovsky and Kondopoga, ocean minesweeper Vladimir Gumanenko, and Ilya Muromets.
The voyage ostensibly aims to ensure safe shipping and provide for Russia’s other maritime economic activity in the Arctic region – and to counter terrorist threats.
Moscow also dismissed British claims that RAF fighter jets intercepted six Sukhoi Su-24 bombers over the Black Sea on Wednesday.
“Four aircraft of the Black Sea Fleet’s maritime aviation, with not a single Su-24 bomber among them, performed scheduled training flights over the Black Sea on August 13,” said the Russian defence ministry.
Following the mission, Russian warplanes spotted a NATO aircraft more than 30 kilometres away, it said.
“This aircraft performed no manoeuvres, did not deviate from its route, and did not approach Russian aircraft on their way back to their airfiel