At a moment both sides are firmly rejecting the other's position in ongoing Russia-NATO talks, and as the Kremlin could stage fresh naval drills in the Black Sea if the West continues to "provoke" Russia, there's also set to be a military building in the far north, within the Arctic Circle.
The maritime monitoring site Barents Observer reports that two NATO carrier groups are currently en route to waters off northern Norway, not far from Russia's border, for the "the largest NATO exercise inside the Arctic Circle since the 1980s."
According to the details, the large-scale exercises focusing on sea and air are expected to include a whopping 35,000 troops from a combined 28 countries. Planning for the exercises were long underway, and preceded the current standoff and tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine. It will kick off in March and continue through the beginning of April.
Leading the way for the exercises will be the HMS Prince of Wales carrier group as well as the Nimitz-class USS Harry Truman carrier group. The Barents Observer breaks down the troop numbers in the upcoming exercise as follows:
According to the latest update from the Norwegian Armed Forces, Exercise Cold Response will consist of 14,000 soldiers on land, 13,000 at sea and 8,000 serving aircraft and headquarters at different bases.
In times of growing distrust between Russia and Europe, Norway seeks to build its security in partnership with NATO allies and Nordic neighbors.
The main action during Cold Response 2022 will be by navy and air force capacities in the Ofoten area.
Previously Norway’s Defense Minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen described that Cold Response 2022 signals NATO's intend to expand a persistent presence in the Arctic. "The exercise will also test allied ability to protect NATO interests in the Arctic. This is deterrence in action," he said.
Below: "Launched from the Russian sector of the Barents Sea, the Tsirkon-missile can reach targets in the Norwegian Sea outside the coast of Nordland."
At the same time, Russia has been testing its advanced hypersonic missile systems primarily out of its Arctic bases:
On December 24, President Vladimir Putin said his military forces successfully fired a simultaneous salvo of the Tsirkon hypersonic missile. The weapon is now ready for deployment with the Northern Fleet on both frigates and the 4th generation multi-purpose submarines of the Yasen-class.
Launched from the Russian sector of the Barents Sea, the Tsirkon missiles could reach targets in the Norwegian Sea in about 10 to 15 minutes if Moscow in a war conflict chose to activate its Bastion defense concept aimed at denying NATO forces control of the Norwegian and Greenland seas.
This week Russia and NATO engaged in three rounds of talks, however, both sides have acknowledged the meetings were unsuccessful. Should Ukraine tensions persist further into the winter and spring, the large-scale NATO Arctic circle exercise could be cause for further tensions and threats.