On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced concern over the uptick in US and NATO military activity in the Arctic. The comments were made in a speech at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, Iceland.
"We are concerned about what is going on close to our border with Norway," Lavrov said. The US has been putting more focus on military cooperation with Norway as part of its strategy to confront Russia in the Arctic. Earlier this year, the US deployed long-range bombers to Norway for the first time.
Next year, Norway will host US and NATO forces for military exercises that will involve about 40,000 troops, which the head of Norway’s military said will be "the largest military exercise inside the Arctic Circle in Norway since the 1980s."
The Arctic Council currently does not deal with military issues, something Lavrov said should change. "It is important to extend the positive relations that we have within the Arctic Council to encompass the military sphere as well," he said.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of making "unlawful" claims in the Arctic, something he said the US will "respond to." Blinken also warned against increased military activity in the region, but it’s clear that the US and NATO are set on militarizing the Arctic.
On Wednesday, Blinken met with Lavrov on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting, marking the first high-level in-person meeting between US and Russian officials of the Biden administration.
While tensions are high between the two countries due to Biden’s hostile policies, Lavrov was cautiously optimistic and described the talk with Blinken as "constructive."