The world’s best-trained soldiers struggle to complete exercises knee-deep in the snow of the Arctic Circle, moving painstakingly slowly in -22 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.
“The environment is as much your enemy as anybody else,” said commanding officer of Charlie Company, 40 Commando Maj. Jim Lawson. “If you just stand here and do nothing, it will kill you.”
Lawson, who is planning to lead the group of Britain’s Royal Marines, is one of several soldiers from Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the United States in the Arctic preparing to fight against any aggression from Russia, The Daily Beast reports.
Last month, the Pentagon announced that officials are working on a plan for the Arctic region, and Britain is already implementing a 10-year strategy to deploy record numbers to the melting icy plains.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned that Russian and Chinese aggression in the region would be met with resistance at the biennial Arctic Council meeting: “Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness,” he said. Referencing Russian military mobilization, he continued, “These provocative actions are part of a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic.”
But some fear that the West’s attention to Russia’s presence in the arctic could be too late.
Ever since the War on Terror drew public and state attention to the Middle East, Russia has slowly increased its stake in the Arctic. And in recent years, observers have noted a dramatic jump in “Russia’s submarine activity, naval-base construction, and overtly hostile acts ranging from electronic warfare to mock attacks on ships in international waters and a radar installation on Norwegian soil,” The Daily Beast reports.
A former official from the Norwegian Foreign Service told the Beast that tensions in the Arctic have been rising quickly.
“We used to say that Russia’s military behavior in this region was more predictable,” Kristian Åtland said. “But obviously actions such as this mock attack flight on Norwegian installations are not something that we particularly like. It’s not a friendly act.”