As the US and Russia spar over the Arctic, Putin creates new facts on the ground


The Russian military plane touched down in heavy wind and light snow, then slid across the icy tarmac.
That the large, four-engine Ilyushin Il-76 airlifter could land at all on the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, is a testament to Moscow’s growing military might in this remote part of the world.
Russia recently expanded the runway at its Nagurskoye air base on the archipelago to 3,500 meters long, meaning it can land and refuel most of its military aircraft here, including jet fighters to patrol the polar skies.
Asked whether this also meant Russia’s heavy strategic bombers, like the TU-95 “Bear,” were able to operate from here, Maj. Gen. Igor Churkin proudly confirmed they could.
“Of course they can,” he boasted, pointing to a briefing chart of the base. “Have a look. We can land all types of aircraft on this base.”
Russia’s armed forces granted media organizations, including CNN, rare access to the military’s northernmost outpost on the island of Alexandra Land, earlier this week, perhaps a show of force ahead of a meeting of the Arctic Council, a high-level group of eight nations bordering the northern polar region where this year Russia took up the chairmanship of the Council. It’s one of a growing number of Arctic bases that Russia has built or upgraded in recent years. Construction on the base, known as the Arctic Trefoil, was completed in 2017.