Three American destroyers and a British frigate, accompanied by a supply ship, ventured into the Russian Arctic body of water last week.
The US Navy is purposely conducting confrontational freedom of navigation operations in the Arctic that threaten Russian economic and national security interests.
The recent resumption by the US Navy of a Barents Sea Patrol represents muscle-flexing on the part of Washington and its NATO allies unseen since the end of the Cold War.
The reestablishment of the patrol is part of a larger refocusing of attention by the USA and NATO on the Arctic, where warming waters and melting ice have created the possibility of faster sea transits between Europe and Asia.
But more importantly having and creating access to natural resources which were previously viewed as cost-prohibitive due to heavy ice conditions.
Since 1983, the US Navy has conducted more than 400 Freedom of Navigation Operations designed to challenge what it views as excessive maritime claims.
The US regime has regularly asserted its right to navigate international waters consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), despite not having signed the agreement?
Russia, which views most of the Barents Sea as part of its territorial waters, has made it clear to the US and the international community that it will protect its core national economic and security interests using all means available.
As things currently stand, Russia views the Northeast Passage (called the Northern Sea Route in Russia) as being exclusively within Russian territorial waters, and as such traditional freedom of navigation rights do not apply.
It should be noted that Russian laws mirror in many respects those of Canada, which – like Russia – uses Article 234 as the basis of its restrictive domestic legislation governing the transit of ships in its territorial Arctic waters.
Russian and Canadian interpretation of the rights afforded them under Article 234 are coming under legal challenge by nations such as the USA, which want access to the economic potential of the Arctic which are emerging as the ice sheet is pushed back by the effects of global warming.
Protecting Russian vested interests in the economic benefits that can be accrued (President Vladimir Putin has assessed the value of the mineral deposits in Russia’s Arctic.
These investments in the region are approximately $30 trillion. By exploiting the reduced ice exposure of the Arctic region is a major reason behind Russia’s forward-leaning posture in the region.
NATO and US Navy vessels that would conduct future Freedom of Navigation in the Arctic Sea are armed with Aegis surface-to-air missiles and sea-launched cruise missiles that would threaten Russian strategic rocket forces stationed in Siberia.
Russia currently has six military bases in the north, along with 10 airfields, numerous anti-aircraft missile system positions and military ports operating under the umbrella of the Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command, better known simply as the Arctic forces.
The anti-aircraft defenses include the Tor-M2DT, a modernized variant of the Soviet-era SA-15 system, and the newer Pantsir-SA system, both of which have been adapted to operating in the harsh environment of the Arctic north.
These systems are designed to defend against cruise missile attacks, and are on 24-hour alert, 365 days per year.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2020.