Friday, May 20, 2016

Migration Flows—and Not Just Russian Flight—a Problem for Kazakhstan

By Paul Goble

Almost all discussions about migration to and from Kazakhstan focus on the departure of ethnic Russians and other Russian speakers since 1991. This emigration wave has increased the dominance of the titular nationality there. But while the Russian exodus has cost Kazakhstan some of its more highly educated specialists, it has generally not created the difficulties, including outright violence, sometimes associated with other kinds of migration. Indeed, the return of ethnic Kazakhs from abroad, illegal immigration by various groups the state has been unable to control, and increasingly large migration flows within the country have left some regions without the necessary workforce and imposed untenable burdens on others.

In a new article for the CentrAsia.ru portal, Fazilya Yunsaliyeva says it is important not only to look at these various kinds of migration but also to recognize that what matters in most cases is “not so much their size as their structure and their territorial distribution.” Even small shifts in numbers caused by in- or outmigration can have serious consequences for a place’s ethnic, age and gender distribution (Centrasia.ru, May 6).

Since 1993, the Kazakhstani government has sought to regulate patterns of ethnic migration by means of quotas governing not only how many people may enter the country but also affecting, if not determining, the number leaving or moving from one region to another. And since 2007, Astana has expanded this program to regulate not only ethnic patterns but also the age, gender and skill sets of people on the move. Generally, it has been successful, but not always. And as a result, migration has left some regions without the people they need, and others with new burdens. That reality has sparked tensions and even conflicts that in, several cases, have involved deaths.

Among the most serious migration problems have arisen as a result of the government’s campaign to attract Kazakhs living abroad—a group known in the Kazakh language as “oralmans.” More than 800,000 of them have returned from other countries in Central Asia, China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation, but they have insisted on settling almost exclusively in Kazakhstan’s urban centers, where their skill sets are less in demand. Oralman immigrants have generally refused to move to more rural areas, where they could be put to better use.

This imbalance, Yunsaliyeva says, has sparked conflicts between the oralmans and employers as well as between these newcomers and native-born Kazakhs. On occasion, such situations have “ended in bloodletting,” a euphemism for deaths and serious casualties. But these conflicts have had yet another consequence, prompting many of the oralmans who had come back to Kazakhstan to try to leave, this time often for Russia, Germany and Ukraine. They have also prompted many more ethnic Russians to think about leaving Kazakhstan, further worsening the country’s overall stock of human capital.


Indeed, the journalist says, looking forward one can see that while outmigration to Russia has declined since the highs of the early 1990s, more departures by members of this community are likely, making Kazakhstan more Kazakh but leaving it, for a time at least, without the skilled personnel it needs for modernization.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Centenary of 1916 Central Asian Revolt Likely to Worsen Region’s Relations With Russia

By Paul Goble

One hundred years ago next month, the tsarist administration—which had heretofore excluded Central Asians from the military draft because of its contempt for their abilities as soldiers—was forced by the exigencies of war to announce a draft in the most recently occupied portion of the empire for positions in the Russian military’s rear. That policy reversal sparked a four-month-long popular uprising in which tens of thousands of Central Asians died. But as a result, their sense of national and regional identity grew at the expense of any remaining loyalty to the Russian state. As such, the June 1916 revolt set the stage not only for the Basmachi resistance movement in the 1920s and 1930s but also for the independence of the countries in the region.

Not surprisingly given the centrality of that long-ago event for contemporary Central Asians and the Muslims of the former Soviet space more generally, scholars, commentators and political activists are beginning to put out stories about it. Such stories will inevitably have the effect of reminding Central Asians of the attitudes of Russians toward them and hence exacerbate feelings between the two civilizations. One of the most important of these to have appeared thus far is a study by Tajik historian Kamol Abdullayev, which focuses less on the conflict than on its meaning for today (Fergananews.com, May 12).

While Russia succeeded in crushing the 1916 revolt, he says, it did so only at the cost of enormous political losses. The suppression of the revolt did not strengthen the tsarist officials. Instead, it undermined the authority of those like the jadids (modernist Muslims), who had hoped to work with the Russians and be integrated into Russia on par with European minorities. Furthermore, Petrograd’s crackdown strengthened the influence of those who argued that the only possible Central Asian reaction to Russian rule was militant opposition.

The destruction of a role for the jadids was, in Abdullayev’s opinion, among the most serious consequences of the revolt and its suppression. It meant not only the intensification of national identities and separateness from a broader society but also undermined the prospects for a more peaceful and democratic development of the region’s societies. And that, along with the violence of Russia’s reactions to the revolt, highlighted not the strength of the Russian empire but rather its weakness and its fears.

But the very most important meaning of 1916—one that Central Asians will be focusing on now—he suggests, is that those century-old events represented the moment when the region began to escape its “subordinate colonial position” and become an actor with its own desires and goals that others had to take into account. Unfortunately, Abdullayev says, the divisions that existed among Central Asians in 1916 limited its development in that direction, just as the continued existence of such splits does today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Words Versus Deeds: Russian Attitudes Toward NATO’s Defensive Preparations in the Baltic

By Alden Wahlstrom

In March 2016, Estonia received its second shipment of FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile systems. The initial shipment was delivered last September (ERR, September 3, 2015). Estonia received the “Block 1” version of the system, the newest model on the market. The updated systems have improved guidance, faster flight times, and can operate at a range up to 2,500 meters. The exact number of systems delivered and the total cost of the purchase was not made public, but the purchase itself was financed out of the $3.4 billion in European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) funding that the United States promised in 2014 (Kommersant, March 22).

According to Estonian Defense Minister Hannes Hanso, building up Estonia’s defense capabilities against tanks and other armored fighting vehicles is a cornerstone of the country’s military strategy. Estonia’s defense budget reflects just how seriously the government takes building up its military capabilities. In February, the Estonian Ministry of Defense announced that it is allocating $818 million for procurement over the next four years (ERR, February 25). This is a significant commitment for a country whose entire 2015 defense budget was just over $450 million.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine have enflamed regional domestic anxiety about territorial integrity, pushing Estonia and its neighbors to boost their defensive capabilities, and it has prompted the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to refocus their attention on securing the Alliance’s eastern flanks. Of the Baltic countries, Estonia is taking the most serious steps toward developing the capabilities necessary to defend itself from invasion. Ruslan Pukhov, the Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), a Moscow think tank, thinks that Estonia’s actions need to be taken seriously. In an interview with Kommersant, he said, “unlike other countries in the region, Estonia is seriously preparing for war… and Russia, as the country that these measures are aimed at, needs to respond adequately” (Kommersant, March 22).

Estonia’s push to further develop its military capability poses little real threat to Russia. Russia’s Armed Forces are orders of magnitude larger than the Estonian military in terms of active personnel. With a force of around 750,000 men, the Russian military is larger than one half of Estonia’s entire population. This is not to mention how entirely overwhelming Russia’s military capabilities are in comparison to those of Estonia. Thus, it is unlikely that Estonia itself is the real concern for Russia. Moscow is more focused on NATO’s increased activities in the region—which is itself reacting to Russia’s growing aggression.

In response to Estonia’s Javelin procurement and increased NATO activities in the Baltic, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov recently said, “We need to put an end to spreading horror stories about Russia planning to send tanks into the Baltic States, Sofia, or Budapest. No one is planning to do that. Plans of that sort do not exist” (Lenta.ru, March 24). According to him, Baltic countries are only stoking these fears in order to secure financial support from NATO. However, in reality, Antonov’s remarks reflect the perpetual disconnect between what Russian officials say and what the Russian government does.

Moscow recently announced a major restructuring of its tank forces, which will greatly increase Russia’s force presence in its “Western strategic direction,” along the country’s western border. This restructuring involves changes to the 20th Combined Arms Army and the re-formation of the 1st Tank Army (see EDM, April 5). Disbanded in 1999, the 1st Tank Army played an important role in Russian/Soviet military history. After participating in the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle to date and a turning-point victory in the Soviet military campaign in World War II, the 1st Tank Army continued on to help take Berlin in 1945 (Bmpd.livejournal.com, June 1, 2015; Lenta.ru, February 1, 2016). The Soviet Union’s role in helping to defeat Adolf Hitler is a central element of the Russian political myth heavily promoted by Vladimir Putin’s government. Thus, the revival of the 1st Tank Army as part of a broader restructuring—purportedly in response to US and NATO presence along Russia’s border—was certainly not lost on Russian officials or many of their constituents.

But such attempts to portray Russia as a country facing an encroaching threat from the rapid militarization of countries along its border fall flat when contextualized in a timeline of events in the region over the past two years. In fact, the North Atlantic Alliance had significantly drawn down its forces in Europe prior to 2014. But Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea, its direct support for separatism in eastern Ukraine, as well as invasion of Donbas—amid claims of defending the “Russian World”—prompted NATO’s expedited return to the region. Under these conditions, Estonia and its neighbors rushed to build up the capacity to defend their territorial integrity.

Estonia’s actions and the actions of NATO as a whole directly counter the narrative that Russia would like to promote about itself at home and abroad. Putin and other high-ranking Russian officials have worked hard to try to portray Russia as a guarantor of global security. Meanwhile, countries across Europe are coming out to name Russia as a top security threat. In early March, Estonia’s defense minister released a report that explicitly named Russia as the singular external force threatening Estonia’s security. Shortly thereafter, Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili named Russia the top threat to security in the Caucasus. Likewise, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently included Russia in a shortlist of top threats to US security (Lenta.ru, March 24). Moreover, these countries are backing their words with action, proving willing to allocate their finite resources, monetary and otherwise, to insure themselves against the danger posed by Russian aggression and revanchism.

Russia’s reaction to the Estonian procurement of Javelins perfectly illustrates the Kremlin’s irritation at having its image challenged in this way. Initially, an undisclosed source from the Russian Ministry of Defense said that talking about Russia invading Estonia is “nonsense” and not worth discussing (Kommersant, March 22). But two days later, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Anatoly Antonov gave a statement disputing the idea that Russia has plans to invade the Baltic. He continued on to say that Russia’s top priority is preventing the spread of terrorism in Russia and surrounding countries (Rg.ru, March 24). The chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, Aleksei Pushkov, weighed in shortly thereafter, saying that the West is not prepared to partner with Russia in a united anti-terrorism coalition, but instead the West “makes a lot of noise about the necessity to defend the Baltics, which is under no threat, from Moscow” (Rg.ru, March 25). Pushkov’s sentiments reflected the Kremlin line, voiced later by officials in the presidential administration.

Conspicuously, officials in Moscow opted for a strategy of linking the discussion of developments in the Baltic States to the subject of international terrorism. Essentially, this is a continuation of the Kremlin’s informational strategy showcased in Syria. Among Russia’s goals for entering Syria was the desire to promote Russia’s status as an indispensable guarantor of global security and to discredit western claims that Russia is a threat. Thus, by presenting the spread of global terrorism as an alternative danger, Russia is currently trying delegitimize NATO activity in Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, Moscow is painting NATO’s defensive preparations on the Alliance’s eastern flank as a misallocation of resources caused by the West’s misreading of the global threat environment and a broader unwillingness to work with Russia in order to address the “real” risks to international security.

The NATO-Russia Council met on April 20, for the first time since this body was suspended by the Alliance in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in 2014. Few had any illusions as to any breakthroughs emerging from this meeting; and indeed, the two sides departed by highlighting their serious disagreements on issues of European security (see EDM, April 25). Meanwhile, Russian jets have repeatedly aggressively buzzed NATO vessels and aircraft in the Baltic and prompted the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission to scramble its planes five times in the span of a week in response to close Russian flybys near Lithuanian airspace (see EDM, April 21; UNIAN, May 2). Clearly, Russia’s actions in the Baltic speak louder the words.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

$330 Million—The Cost of Replacing a Political Rival in Russia?

By Alden Wahlstrom

How much does it cost to replace a political rival in Russia? Can such a thing be bought? Journalist Yulia Latynina of Echo Moskvi seems to think so. On her weekly radio program “Kod Dostupa” (“Access Code”), Latynina uncovered information supporting this idea while delving into the financial information of Sergei Roldugin, details of which were released with the so-called “Panama Papers.”  Perhaps the most interesting Russia-related story to come out of this massive leak involves Roldugin, a Russian cellist and long-time friend of Putin who apparently has $2 billion stashed away in an offshore account. Excluding a select few elite musicians—Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul McCartney and the like—whose extreme wealth can be directly linked to the success of their careers, a musician possessing such sizeable assets raises legitimate questions about the origin of their riches.

While investigating the transactions tied to Roldugin’s offshore account, Latynina found one transfer of funds that is of particular interest. The transfer was from Dagestani billionaire Suleiman Kerimov and his associated businesses to Roldugin. Twice in 2010, Roldugin’s offshore account received money from Kerimov—once for a sum of 4 billion rubles (about $132 million at the 2010 exchange rate), and a second time for $200 million. As Latynina asked rhetorically on her show, why would Kerimov, a businessman, be willing to just hand over upwards of $300 million to Roldugin at the expense of his personal wealth and his business? One possible explanation for all of this is that it was a business deal. However, when Latynina contextualized these transfers with the events of Kerimov’s life at the time, this seems less likely (Echo Moskvi, April 9).

Apparently, in 2010, Suleiman Kerimov was engaged in infighting with Mukhu Aliyev, the then-president of Dagestan. Aliyev, who initiated the dispute, sought to subjugate or destroy Kerimov, putting Kerimov in an incredibly vulnerable position. However, the tables turned rather quickly. Kerimov began saying publicly that he would replace the president of Dagestan, and he lobbied for Magomedsalam Magomedov to accede to the post. Shortly thereafter, Magomedov was made head of the republic. Both these events and the transfers of money from Kerimov to Roldugin all took place within a period of a few months (Echo Moskvi, April 9).

But why Roldugin? Roldugin has been a long-time friend of Putin. And Kerimov only transferred money to Roldugin during the period when he was politically in need. Not before. Not after. So how does a transfer of money to Roldugin buy Kerimov a favor in a time of need? Latynina notes that the relationship between power and money in Russia is at once inseparable and indirect. Therefore, she speculates, no one should believe that the $2 billion that Roldugin is in control of is entirely at his disposal. Of course, being close to Putin has financial benefits. But this money, naturally, is a supply of funds that would be available to Putin should he wish to access it.

Many Kremlin watchers have been waiting for information to come from these “Panama Papers” that directly ties Putin to cash stashed offshore. This sort of revelation is unlikely to come from the information released last week. But the information released therein has shed light on how corruption works in Russia. As Dr. Karen Dawisha, author of Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?, said in a recent interview on RFE/RL, the Panama Papers have helped show exactly how the Putin regime moves state funds and other money into offshore accounts for private use (Rferl.org, April 8). The story pertaining to Kerimov’s political rivalry in Dagestan takes this one step further, possibly providing further insight into the confused, intertwined relationship of power and money in today’s Russia. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ethnic Tensions Break out in North Caucasian Federal District Capital of Pyatigorsk

By Valery Dzutsati

A massive fist fight between Ingush students and ethnic Armenians in Stavropol region reignited the discussion about North Caucasian migrants in Russian regions. The incident took place in the city of Pyatigorsk, on February 15, but became widely known only in March. An estimated group of 70 Ingush and an unknown number of Armenian young men decided to use violence to settle their differences (Kmv.gorodskoitelegraf.ru, March 3). Interestingly, a local newspaper described the incident as a fight between “the newcomers [the Ingush] and the representatives of the local Armenian diaspora,” as if the Ingush students were not Russian citizens. After the police became involved, 22 Ingush students from the colleges in Pyatigorsk were removed from their programs and sent back home to Ingushetia (Bloknot-stavropol.ru, March 3).

While the Ingush authorities reprimanded the parents of the Ingush students for the lack of control over their children (Kmv.gorodskoitelegraf.ru, March 3), some Ingush academics defended them. Anzhela Matieva said that the Ingush young men were right to protect their dignity after the Armenians allegedly disparaged the flag of Ingushetia (Haqqin.az, March 9). Moreover, it appears that mass street fights between the Ingush and the Armenians in Stavropol region have become a regular occurrence in the past several years.


The Russian government’s strategy of trying to promote a “melting pot” solution for the North Caucasians by sending more students to the predominantly ethnic-Russian regions has been marked by scandals. In Stavropol region, especially in its southern part known as Kavminvody (acronym of Kavkazskie Mineralnye Vody), it appears that various ethnic groups clash particularly often. The latest violent episode in the region and its aftermath indicate that the various ingredients of the Russian “melting pot” may not be incorporating harmoniously; and the government clearly chooses to employ collective punishment to deal with these resulting inter-ethnic conflicts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

After Ukraine: Russian Nationalists Return

By Richard Arnold

Russia’s Neo-Nazi racist threat has not been in the news recently, but an attack on January 17 showed that the movement is far from toothless. According to reports, a group of young people burst onto a Moscow metro train at the station Biblioteka Imeni Lenina and beat a group of migrants in their 30s and 40s from Central Asia. One man fell to the ground and was kicked and punched repeatedly. Most of the attackers fled the train at the next station, although police did manage to arrest one of the youth. The unfortunate victim of the attack was taken to the hospital (Sova-center.ru, February 5). The incident is notable not so much for its occurrence—such attacks have been common in the past—but for its occurrence now, especially in light of the Russian state’s effort to fight domestic neo-Nazi ideology.

First, although Neo-Nazi attacks had been declining slowly since 2009 (due mostly to better police enforcement), their fall became precipitous following the Kremlin’s annexation of Ukraine and championing of the rights of ethnic Russians outside the country. According to the SOVA center, there were 525 violent attacks on ethnic minorities in 2009—a number which fell to just 168 in 2015 (Sova-center.ru, February 2016). Such a decline can be attributed to the exodus of ethnic Russian neo-Nazis to fight for their brethren in the “Near Abroad” (see EDM, June 11, 2014). With the fighting in Ukraine declining from its highest levels, it is a plausible hypothesis that many neo-Nazis are returning to Russia and renewing the fight against domestic “enemies” once more. It is worth noting that this exactly parallels the official putative Russian justification for intervention in Syria—fighting Islamic State terrorists in Syria would stop them returning to Russia to continue the fight for Islamic radicalism in the North Caucasus. Of course, in the above-mentioned case on the train, the attackers were teenagers and young people rather than hardened combat veterans, although sociological studies of skinhead groups have shown that gangs of youth tend to be organized around an “old” skinhead in his mid- to late-twenties (Sergei Belikov, “Britogolvye: Vse o Skinheadakhi” [4th Ed.] Moscow, Ultrakultura, 2011). Should 2016 indeed witness an increased level of skinhead violence, there would be support for the “return” hypothesis.

Second, the January 17 attack was particularly notable for its brazenness despite the considerable efforts of the Russian state to combat racist attitudes. The metro station where the attack occurred—Biblioteka Imeni Lenina—is right in the heart of Moscow and close to the Kremlin. Such an attack is thus a symbolic refutation of the state’s campaign against neo-Nazism. Indeed, the Russian state has launched a number of legal and administrative cases against the display of racist symbols on the Internet and in public. For instance, a court opened a case under article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code (incitement of hatred on grounds of nationality) against a 19-year-old inhabitant of Kursk for posting racist videos to VKontakte (Sova-center.ru, February 12). And a bookstore in Moscow was fined 30,000 rubles ($387) for displaying bags with the official stamp of the chief of the Wehrmacht on them, in contravention of laws prohibiting the open display of Nazi symbols (Sova-center.ru, February 11). Many more such cases exist of the Russian state clamping down on the open display of racist symbols and attitudes. While the January 17 attack does not mark the outright failure of this policy to create a more tolerant society, it does indicate that, by itself, the approach will not be sufficient. This is an even more urgent task as Russia gears up to invite thousands of non-white foreigners to the country to celebrate the 2018 World Cup.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Russia’s Arctic Militarization: Words Versus Actions

By Alden Wahlstrom

Russia has no plans to militarize the Arctic. At least, that is a according to Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister charged with overseeing Russia’s defense industry. Speaking in St. Petersburg, on December 7, at the opening of the forum “Arctic: Today and the Future,” Rogozin emphasized that Russia’s rebuilding of military infrastructure in the Arctic is focused on creating the conditions necessary for Russians to live and work peacefully in the region (Kommersant, December 8, 2015). Just two days after this, however, Russia announced the opening of a major new military installation on the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya.

The Novaya Zemlya facility is home to the first full regiment of Russia’s Northern Fleet located on Russia’s Arctic islands. Previously, deployments had been limited to smaller individual units. Its primary role is to secure Russian airspace on the country’s northern borders. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, modernized S-300 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems have been deployed to Novaya Zemlya to achieve this. These systems, which have been modified to be able to work in Arctic conditions, are capable of intercepting aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) within a 400-kilometer perimeter around the site (Mil.ru, December 9, 10, 2015; TVRain.ru, December 9, 2015). This marks a return of anti-aircraft/anti-ballistic missile capabilities to Novaya Zemlya, last present on the island in the early 1990s (Interfax, December 12, 2015).

In addition to the S-300s, the installation on Novaya Zemlya is reportedly outfitted with weapons systems to defend from both air and sea attack. The Pantsir-S1 (NATO name: SA-22 “Greyhound”) is a combination weapons system that includes short- to medium-range surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery. This system is capable of engaging aircraft and missiles flying at lower altitudes and has a 20 km range, providing air defense for the area immediately surrounding the installation. Likewise, the Bastion-P Costal Defense System (NATO name: SSC-5) is capable of defending the area from surface-level ships. This system uses Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles (NATO name: SS-N-26 “Strobile”; also known as the “Yakhont” in export markets). Traveling at a speed of Mach 2.5, these missiles have a range of 120–300 km and are capable of engaging various surfaces ships, carrier battle groups, convoys and landing crafts. Beyond providing for the general defense of the installation on Novaya Zemlya, the range of the Oniks missiles allows the Russians to create a choke point, preventing the passage of ships from the Barents Sea to the Pechora Sea and onward along the Northern Sea Route.

Further evidence of Russia’s push to establish its presence in the Arctic can be seen in both the organization of the Russian military and in official doctrine. In late December 2014, Russia’s Northern Fleet left the Western Military District to form the foundation of the newly created Arctic Joint Strategic Command. Although it does not have the title of a military district, the Arctic Joint Strategic Command is functionally a fifth military district responsible for securing Russia’s entire northern border and the Arctic. This structural reorganization, which is representative of the priority that the Kremlin is placing on the Arctic, was intended to centralize responsibility for the administration of this zone within the Russian military. Prior to this, these responsibilities were spread across the Western, Central, and Eastern military districts and the Northern and Pacific Fleets (TopWar.ru, September 15, 2014). The hope is that this restructuring will allow for the more efficient and effective administration of Russia’s growing military resources in the Arctic.

This structural reorganization came in the lead-up to the Russian government’s release of its new maritime doctrine this past August (see EDM, August 11, 2015). The Kremlin’s Arctic ambitions are reflected in the document, which dedicates a whole section to the region. At a glance, establishing firm control over its northern borders and the nearby Arctic zone is important to Russia for two reasons: 1) ensuring the passage of its Northern Fleet to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and 2) safeguarding Russia’s access to the abundant oil and gas resources in the area. Russia’s new Maritime Doctrine clearly articulates both of these points. However, the doctrine also dedicates significant attention to the increase of Russian military activity in the Arctic and specifies that one of Moscow’s goals is to restrict foreign military activity in the area (Kremlin.ru, July 26, 2015). Russia’s opening of the military installation on Novaya Zemlya is a major step toward establishing the regional capabilities that will make these goals a reality.

The opening of the new Russian military installation on Novaya Zemlya is all the more notable when contextualized with Russia’s other activities in the Arctic. In conjunction with Rogozin’s aforementioned proclamation, the opening of a new S-400 site in Tiksi, Sakha Republic, was also announced (Kommersant, December 8, 2015). Furthermore, Russia has built five other military bases on its Arctic islands (New Siberian Islands, Alexandra Land, Severnaya Zemlya, Cape Schmidt, and Wrangle Island) and began construction of over 440 military infrastructure projects that were due to be completed by the end of 2015. Future projects include the construction of a major airbase that is due to be completed by 2017 (Kommersant, December 8, 2015).

As a part of a larger network of new and reopened Russian military installations in the Arctic, the base on Novaya Zemlya is the Russian military’s largest unveiling in the region thus far. The weapons systems deployed there give it firm control over the Western end of the Northern Sea Route, as it exists along Russia’s borders. Continued development in the region promises to increase Russia’s capabilities and extend this level of control across Russia’s entire expansive northern border. Russian officials, like Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin, continuously emphasize that their goal is only to maintain stability and security in the region so that life in Russia’s northernmost regions can develop peacefully and its people can prosper from the resource wealth of the area. Nevertheless, the reality remains that Russia is rapidly changing the facts on the ground in the Arctic. While Moscow claims it is not trying to militarize the High North, Russia’s rapidly expanding military presence in the Arctic increases the possibility for conflict as other countries begin to assert their interests in the region.