Russia warns of risk of unintended clashes with NATO in Arctic - report

In March, NATO forces held their biannual "Cold Response" exercise in Norway, though this was one of the largest NATO war games since the 1980s and took very close to the Russian border. 

 Swedish army members drive a an infantry fighting vehicle as part of military exercise called "Cold Response 2022", gathering around 30,000 troops from NATO member countries plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Setermoen in the Artic Circle, Norway, March 25 2022. (photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)
Swedish army members drive a an infantry fighting vehicle as part of military exercise called "Cold Response 2022", gathering around 30,000 troops from NATO member countries plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Setermoen in the Artic Circle, Norway, March 25 2022.
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

Russia expressed concern about non-Arctic NATO member states being involved in military activities in the Arctic, saying that it risks causing unintentional clashes with NATO forces in the region, Russian Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic cooperation and senior Arctic official to the Arctic Council Nikolay Korchunov told TASS Sunday.

The Arctic Council is an important intergovernmental forum where nations that hold sovereign territory in the Arctic discuss regional issues. 

The council has just eight members: Russia, the US, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, though other nations have observer status and some indigenous communities have participation status.

Russia currently has chairmanship over the council, which caused the other seven members to say they wouldn't attend meetings due to the invasion of Ukraine.

At issue here for Russia right now, however, is the growing presence of NATO in the region.

 SWEDISH SOLDIERS take part in a military exercise called Cold Response 2022 in Evenes, Norway this week, gathering some 30,000 troops from NATO countries, plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS) SWEDISH SOLDIERS take part in a military exercise called Cold Response 2022 in Evenes, Norway this week, gathering some 30,000 troops from NATO countries, plus Finland and Sweden, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

Currently, five of the eight-member states (the US, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Canada) are members of NATO (though Iceland technically lacks an official army), and NATO countries have held military exercises in the Arctic

In March, NATO forces held their biannual "Cold Response" exercise in Norway, though this was one of the largest NATO war games since the 1980s and took very close to the Russian border. 

This is compounded by interest in joining NATO expressed by both Sweden and Finland, the only Arctic Council members aside from Russia that are not part of NATO.

Russia has vocally expressed opposition to the expansion of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe.

The entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO would have a negative impact on security and trust in the Arctic, Korchunov told TASS. "The expansion of NATO at the expense of traditionally non-bloc countries will not contribute to security and mutual trust in the Arctic."