MOSCOW, RUSSIA – The Russian Navy conducted large-scale military exercises near Alaska, involving dozens of ships and aircraft, a military high command said on Friday of what were the largest exercises in that area since the time of the Soviet Union.
The head of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, said that more than 50 warships and some 40 aircraft were taking part in the exercise in the Bering Sea, which included several missile practice shots.
“We are doing these massive exercises in that area for the first time,” Yevmenov said in a statement released by the Russian Defense Ministry.
It was not immediately clear when the exercises started or if they had already finished.
Yevmenov emphasized that the exercises or “war games” are part of Russia’s efforts to increase its presence in the Arctic region to protect its resources.
“We are developing our forces to ensure the economic development of the region,” he said. “We are acclimating ourselves to the Arctic spaces.
The Russian military has rebuilt and expanded several facilities in the polar region in recent years, repairing runways and deploying additional air defense equipment.
Russia has prioritized increasing its military presence in the Arctic region, which is believed to contain up to a quarter of the yet undiscovered deposits of oil and natural gas. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited estimates that put the value of Arctic minerals at about $ 30 trillion.
Russia’s Pacific Fleet, whose forces were taking part in the maneuvers, said the submarine Omsk and the Varyag missile launcher launched missiles at a practice target in the Bering Sea as part of the exercise.
The maneuvers also included Onyx cruise missiles, which were fired at a practice target in the Gulf of Anadyr, off the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula, it added.
While the exercises were in progress, the US military observed a Russian nuclear submarine surfacing near Alaska on Thursday. US Northern Command spokesman Bill Lewis pointed out that the Russian military exercise is being carried out in international waters, remote from US territory.
Lewis said the US Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command were closely monitoring the submarine. He added that they have not received requests for assistance from the Russian navy, but are ready to assist any ships in distress.
The Russian state news agency, RIA Novosti, quoted sources in the Russian Pacific Fleet as saying that the Omsk nuclear submarine surfaced is routine.
He quoted a former head of the Russian Navy, retired Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, as saying that by bringing the submarine to the surface, perhaps the navy intended to send a message.
“It is a sign that we are not asleep and that we are where we want to be,” Kravchenko told RIA Novosti.
The presence of Russian military forces in the area caused a stir among American fishing boats in the Bering Sea on Wednesday.
“We were notified by multiple fishing vessels operating in the Bering Sea that they had come across these vessels and they were concerned,” Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow said Thursday.
The Coast Guard contacted Alaska Command at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, who confirmed that the vessels were part of a pre-scheduled Russian military exercise and were known to US military officials.
The Russian military has increased the number and scope of its “war games” in recent years as relations between the West and Russia have sunk to their lowest level since the Cold War, following the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula. , and other crises.