Nowhere on Earth has climate change been so pronounced as in the polar regions. As the sea ice melts, opening up the Arctic to ships in the summer and exposing Russia to new security threats, Moscow is deploying ever more soldiers and equipment to the region.
Franz Josef Land, a jumble of glacier-covered islands in the Arctic Ocean named after an Austro-Hungarian emperor, was until a few years ago mostly uninhabited, home to polar bears, walruses, sea birds and little else. But thanks to a warming climate, all that is changing, and quickly. With words by Andrew Kramer.
Russia now has the largest military presence above the Arctic Circle. A barracks building, sealed off from the elements like a space station, accommodates 150 or so soldiers. A new runway can handle fighter jets, two of which recently buzzed the North Pole.
The Russian Ministry of Defence recently took reporters on a tour of sites that included Trefoil Base, its northernmost military installation, as its army becomes the world’s first to act on the strategic implications of climate change for the Arctic region.