Our friends in the North: UK strategy towards the Arctic Contents

Chapter 2: The Russia challenge and deterrence in the Arctic

30.Russia is the most acute threat to UK security and the Arctic plays a central role in Russian military doctrine. It is therefore critical that the UK and its allies have a clear understanding of Russia’s strategy and intentions in the Arctic.

The military challenge

31.Russia has invested heavily over the past 15 years in rebuilding its military presence in the Arctic. This has involved expanding and restoring Soviet-era bases, airfields and coastguard outposts that were abandoned after the end of the Cold War, installing coastal and air defence missile systems, upgrading sub-surface capabilities, and conducting an increased number of military exercises and operations.25

Figure 2: Russian Arctic military infrastructure

Map of the artcic showing locations and types of Russian Military bases and infrastructure

Source: Mathieu Boulègue, Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic: Managing Hard Power in a ‘Low Tension’ Environment, Chatham House: https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/2019–06-28-Russia-Military-Arctic_0.pdf [accessed 1 November 2023]

32.Russia has increased investment in infrastructure in the central and eastern parts of the Arctic, but the main point of focus for military investments has remained in the European part of the Arctic and the Kola Peninsula, the base for Russia’s Northern Fleet.26 The headquarters of Russia’s Northern Fleet is co-located in Archangelsk and Severomorsk.

33.The Northern Fleet fell into decline following the end of the Soviet Union and the number of operational assets declined from around 100 combat-ready surface vessels to fewer than 40 in the late 2010s.27 From the late 2000s, the fleet has benefitted from a major period of Russian naval recapitalisation through successive State Armament Programmes. Nevertheless, much of the surface fleet is ageing and the Northern Fleet suffers from a lack of ice-class vessels, making it dependent on civilian icebreakers for passage in the Arctic and limiting its operations. Following lengthy delays, Russia’s newest class of nuclear-powered submarines are entering service, replacing Soviet-era platforms.28 The submarine fleet is viewed as highly capable and difficult to detect.29

34.In 2015, the Arctic Brigade was formed from two motorized infantry brigades—the 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade and the 80th Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade.

35.Organisational changes have also underlined the growing salience of the Arctic. In 2013, Russia reorganised its regional military command structure, creating a dedicated Joint Strategic Command North—OSK Sever—for the Arctic region.30 In January 2021 Russia’s Northern Fleet was officially upgraded to the status of a Military District.

36.The Northern Fleet accounts for around two-thirds of the Russian navy’s nuclear strike capabilities.31 Its primary mission, inherited from the Soviet era, is the Bastion Defence to protect its second-strike nuclear capability. The Bastion Defence concept evolved in the 1970s, when the Soviet Union developed the capability to launch nuclear strikes on US targets from submarines at withdrawn positions.32 It comprises a multi-layered network of sensors, missile systems, coastal defence systems and electronic warfare capabilities intended to provide a protective dome around Russia’s Arctic zone.

37.The Arctic has long played an important role in Russia’s sense of identity. Since the Cold War, it has held a central position in Russian military strategic thinking and approach to strategic deterrence.33 Doctrinal documents identify the region as vital to Russian national interest.34 In particular, it is central to two pillars of Russian power: abundant energy resources and its strategic nuclear capability.

38.Russia’s economic and military interests in the Arctic are closely intertwined. Exploitation of the region’s extensive hydrocarbons is seen as key to Russia’s prosperity and its ability to sustain its security and military ambitions. The region accounts for 10% of Russian GDP and 20% of Russian exports.35 Development of the region’s oil and gas reserves is central to Russia’s plans to offset the decline in output from mature fields in Western Siberia. Russia has also developed an extensive system of infrastructure along its Arctic coast, with the aim that, as the Arctic Ocean opens up, it can position itself as the key Arctic state and gateway to the region along the so-called Northern Sea Route. Russia has a large fleet of 53 icebreakers (11 of which are nuclear-powered), compared to the United States’ two.36

39.Russia’s new Maritime Doctrine, published in 2022, sets out plans for the further development of Russia’s military presence and industrial base in its Arctic zone, including a new fleet of Arctic-capable surface vessels, port and coastal infrastructure, the deployment of autonomous sensor stations and unmanned underwater vehicles, and the construction of a trans-Arctic fibre-optic cable.37

40.Mathieu Boulègue, Consulting Fellow at Chatham House and Global Fellow at the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center, told us:

“In terms of infrastructure, Russia is equally using its infrastructure for civilian and military purposes interchangeably. It can use it for search and rescue operations and ensure sovereignty enforcement along the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, but also for military purposes—so a double use, fundamentally.”38

41.Significantly, Russia’s latest maritime doctrine raised the Arctic to the highest priority region for the Russian navy. The Pacific is designated second, with the Atlantic region relegated to third place.39 We heard that this change reflects, in part, Russian perceptions of a renewed threat of a nuclear exchange over the North Pole and the long-standing internal Russian narrative that Western powers are seeking to encircle Russia and take control of the country’s energy resources.40

The impact of the war in Ukraine

42.Witnesses explained that Russia has not deprioritised the Arctic since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and there has been no evidence of a reduction in funding for Russia’s Arctic forces. Professor Katarzyna Zysk from the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies noted:

“The political will to prioritise the Arctic seems to stand strong in Moscow. It has been corroborated in a number of ways at the doctrinal and policy-implementation level, including in the updated maritime doctrine in July last year, which has moved the Arctic to the top of the list of regional priorities.”41

43.Russia has deployed its Arctic land forces to fight in Ukraine, including the Arctic 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade and the 80th Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade, where they have suffered heavy losses. Over 1,000 servicemen from Arctic brigades have likely been killed in the war in Ukraine, losses that will take “years to rebuild”.42

44.However, Russia’s air and naval forces based in the Arctic have been largely untouched by the war. Prof Zysk noted that with the weakening of Russia’s conventional forces, nuclear as well as non-military and dual-use capabilities in the Arctic would gain in importance for Russia’s leadership.43 The RAND Corporation told us that: “A depleted Russian military may pose less of a conventional threat to NATO in the near term, but it would also be more reliant on tactical and strategic nuclear weapons or on sub-threshold activities to offset this deficiency while it rebuilds.”44

Russian threat perception in the Arctic

45.In contrast to other theatres, the Russian leadership perceives itself to be in a position of relative strength in the Arctic, based on its ability to control and deny access to the region.45

46.However, we heard that NATO enlargement to include Finland (and, in due course, Sweden), is likely to reinforce the Russian leadership’s perception of NATO “encirclement”, with implications for its force posture in the Arctic. Prof Zysk told us:

“With the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, the importance of the Arctic to Russia is likely to increase and strengthen the Russian sense of vulnerability. There is a reassessment in Russia going on regarding deployments, weapons, and organisational structures in the region.”46

47.The implications of Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession are discussed in further detail in paragraphs 93–102.

48.We also heard that the retreat of the Arctic ice cap might affect Russia’s threat perception, as it increases the extent of the maritime borders Russia may have to defend. The ice shelf is an important part of Russia’s Bastion Defence, providing a natural barrier to external shipping and providing cover for Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet.47

The potential for conflict with Russia in the Arctic

49.Major conflict is unlikely to arise from disputes over territorial or maritime claims in the Arctic.

50.The Arctic is not “no-man’s land”. The land borders of the Arctic are clearly defined and there are no terrestrial disputes between the Arctic states.48 The Arctic states have delimited all but one of the maritime boundaries determining their exclusive economic zone in the Arctic (EEZ).49 The only unresolved maritime boundary dispute is between two close allies, the USA and Canada, regarding the delimitation of the maritime boundary in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska and the Yukon.50

51.The coastal Arctic states have put forward overlapping claims to the continental shelf and extended continental shelf in the Arctic, which define their rights to explore and exploit resources on the Arctic seabed and subsoil. In the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, the five Arctic coastal states committed themselves to the orderly settlement of overlapping seabed claims in the Arctic. The Committee heard that to date, all the parties have remained committed to settling competing seabed claims through submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.51

52.However, witnesses saw a significant risk that the Arctic could become another front in a war originating elsewhere between Russia and NATO. Russian military thinking does not perceive the Arctic as a distinct theatre of operations that is insulated from points of tension in the Baltic, Atlantic or Black Sea.52 Dr Duncan Depledge, Lecturer in Geopolitics and Security at Loughborough University, and Lt Commander Dr John Ash, Associate Professor at the University of Tromsø, both noted that historically most major conflicts in Europe have included an Arctic element, and that any regional conflict between NATO and Russia would likely spill over into the Arctic.53

53.It is highly likely that Russia’s Northern Fleet and Arctic-based strategic capabilities would be involved in the event of a broader conflict between Russia and NATO. Russia’s Arctic-based forces would likely seek to interdict and disrupt sea lines of communication and US reinforcements in the North Atlantic. Dr Rowan Allport explained that “a lot of Russia’s capabilities in a general war are based in the Arctic in terms of disrupting NATO sea lines of communication and deploying precision strike capabilities.”54

54.Angus Lapsley, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning at NATO, told us that “there are relatively few obvious ways in which conflict would break out in the Arctic.”55 The focus of NATO planning is therefore more on the role that High North and the Arctic might play in a broader conflict and, in particular, the strategic importance of the Kola Peninsula to Russia, both as the base for many of its nuclear forces, its submarines and many of its bombers, but also as the base for its conventional but nuclear-powered submarines and its Northern Fleet.56

55.It is therefore essential that NATO retains an effective deterrent in the High North. This requires sufficient investment in Arctic-capable assets, and regular training to demonstrate capability and commitment. Mr Lapsley summarised NATO’s task as follows:

“What we most need to do in the Arctic and the High North—and there may be some other bits of geography where this holds too—is to demonstrate that we are capable of operating there. If we need to be there, we can be there, and we will not be intimidated out of regions.”57

56.Despite Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic, we heard that the risk of Russia initiating a conventional conflict in the region itself remained relatively low.

57.Some witnesses assessed that the Russian leadership’s current strategic focus remains on removing tension from the Arctic. Professor Dodds, Executive Dean and Professor of Geopolitics at Royal Holloway, told us that “it is not in the interests of the Russian Federation to have a conflictual Arctic”.58 Dr Rebecca Pincus of the Wilson Centre Polar Institute noted that Russia has developed some of its most advanced and strategic military capabilities in the Arctic territory, but stressed that the key question was not about Russian capabilities, but intent:

“I do not see motives for Russia to initiate conflict in the Arctic. The past year of fighting in Ukraine only reinforces my thinking. Russian lower-end capabilities have been significantly eroded in Ukraine. It is not clear why, or to what purpose, Russia would initiate or expand conflict in the Arctic, which would entail conflict with a NATO ally”.59

58.Gabriella Gricius, Research Fellow with the North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network (NAADSN), argued that Russia’s reliance on the Arctic for its economic development incentivises Russia to keep tensions low.60 Others noted that, while Arctic assets have been largely unaffected by the war in Ukraine, Russia would not wish to overstretch itself while the war is ongoing.61

59.Prof Zysk, however, cautioned that “we should be careful about getting too complacent” about the idea that conflict would not originate in the Arctic. She noted that “importantly, the changing international strategic environment, increases the potential for a possible intended and unintended regional escalation”.62

60.The consensus view from our witnesses was that the two principal threats emerging from within the Arctic are:

(1)escalation arising from accidents, miscalculation, or human error; and

(2)malign activity in the ‘grey zone’ below the threshold for armed conflict.

Accidental escalation

61.Growing maritime activity in the Arctic and the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West have increased the risk of accidental escalation in the Arctic.

62.Dr Pincus noted that unintentional escalation could arise from bad weather, an accident, or an unintended incident, adding that:

“The Arctic is a harsh place to operate in the best of circumstances. Russian operators have been known to conduct unsafe manoeuvres in proximity to US and allied military exercises, for example.”63

63.This risk is compounded by the secrecy surrounding Russian activities in the Arctic and the Russian military’s willingness to engage in risky behaviour. Mathieu Boulègue told us:

“If we look at the track record of Russian incidents in the past few years, whether it is the Norilsk spill or the Nyonoksa radiation incidents that were picked up by the Norwegian radiological agency, there is more secrecy around activities that could lead to further escalation if we do not know what is going on.”64

64.Reduced channels of communication make it harder to deconflict military activity and avoid misunderstanding or miscalculation. Increased tensions between Russia and the West and vehemently anti-Western attitudes among the Russian leadership may also complicate efforts to de-escalate following an incident. Mathieu Boulègue noted:

“It would not benefit Russia to escalate in case of accident in the region, once again because it wants to move tension away, but accidents happen and there is always the possibility and the opportunity for accidents to happen—hot-headed pilots who have been decimated in Ukraine taking a very strong and very brazen reaction, which therefore leads to brinkmanship activities that could increase the cost of deterrence and therefore lead to escalation, if not confrontation. There is less restraint and more pressure in this environment.”65

65.Professor Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, therefore saw the challenge for NATO as ensuring sufficient presence in the High North, while minimising the risk of accidents and unintentional escalation.66 Professor Lackenbauer, Canada Research Chair in the Study of the Canadian North at Trent University, emphasised that with increasing Russian activity in the region, maintaining good situational awareness and intelligence sharing among NATO allies is key.67

66.Despite tensions between Russia and the West, some forms of co-operation with Russia have been retained. For example, the Norwegian Joint Headquarters in Reitan has maintained a hotline with the Admiral of the Northern Fleet, which acts as an important deconfliction mechanism.68 Norway continues to co-operate with Russia on search and rescue.69 Russia continues to participate in Arctic Council negotiated treaties on oil spill response and search and rescue.70 It also remains part of the international Cospas-Sarsat programme, a satellite system that detects and locates emergency beacons that are activated by planes, vessels or people in distress in remote areas, including the Arctic.71

67.Prof Zysk told us that despite the tensions between Russia and the West it is critical to maintain communication channels to support deconfliction efforts in the Arctic:

“That is a very important instrument to reduce the risk of conflict and increase accountability for possible dangerous military practices and situations.”72

Sub-threshold activity in the Arctic and High North

68.Several witnesses emphasised that one of the most significant areas of concern in the Arctic related to sub-threshold activity—malign activity conducted by an adversary below the level required to trigger a military response. Dr Pincus told the Committee that these activities represented the most likely form of any intentional initiation or escalation in the Arctic region.73 The Rt Hon James Heappey MP, the Minister for the Armed Forces, also told us that sub-threshold activity, such as maritime sabotage, represented the biggest direct threat from Russia to NATO’s strategic interests.74

69.The UK’s Nordic allies are at the front line of Russian sub-threshold operations. Russia regularly engages in a range of disruptive actions to test the Nordic states’ responses and resilience. This includes GPS jamming, military exercises simulating attacks on its neighbours, maritime sabotage, cyber-attacks and information warfare.75 Professor Niklas Eklund, Chair of politics and public administration at Umeå University in Sweden, characterised Russia’s approach as a “constant full spectrum testing of our systems”.76

70.The Norwegian Aviation Authority reported in mid-2022 that Russian GPS jamming had intensified following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.77 Russian military jets also compromise air traffic safety by frequently flying with their transponders switched off.78 In October 2022, Norwegian authorities detained a Russian national after drones were sighted flying over critical energy infrastructure.79

71.Minna Ålander of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs told us that Russian jamming of GPS signals in the Gulf of Finland presents a serious issue for civilian air traffic in the region.80 Lieutenant Commander John Ash noted that the risks posed by GPS jamming in the Arctic are particularly acute because navigation in the Arctic environment is difficult in all circumstances, and GPS signals are often weaker because they rely on satellites at a low altitude that are more regularly restricted by terrain.81

72.Russian sub-threshold activity around the Svalbard archipelago, located halfway between Norway and the North Pole, represents a particular set of challenges for Norway and its allies. Norway has full sovereignty over Svalbard, but the 1920 Svalbard Treaty82 gives all 46 states Parties equal rights of access and commercial exploitation on land and in Svalbard’s territorial waters. Article 9 of the treaty prohibits naval bases on the archipelago and any other fortifications for “warlike purposes”.

73.Russia has maintained a strategic foothold on the archipelago, operating a consulate and a coal mine in the settlement of Barentsburg. We heard that Norwegian policymakers believe they have established and well-resourced mechanisms to manage incidents on Svalbard.83 Prof Dodds told the House of Commons Defence Committee in 2017 that “Some obvious flashpoints would be anything to do with Svalbard … you would not have to be terribly clever to think of scenarios where the delicate relationship that exists between Russia and Norway could be upended.”84 The RAND Corporation also identified Svalbard as a potential flashpoint for sub-threshold and ‘grey zone’ threats.85

74.Dr Pincus told us that alongside conventional deterrence, NATO also has a role in developing a strategy for responding to sub-threshold threats:

“We should have consultations and draw up contingency plans for hybrid or grey-zone activities in the Arctic, how those activities would be responded to and what those escalation dynamics would look like, and prepare for unintentional accidents that, without adequate preparation, could rapidly escalate.”

75.Mathieu Boulègue told the Committee that the track record of recent sub-threshold incidents pointed to the fact that Russia is willing to take more risks and accept higher costs to put pressure on its neighbours, including in the European Arctic.86 In their written evidence, the RAND Corporation noted that sub-threshold and subversive activities directed at the UK’s partners in the High North may increase as a result of NATO’s enlargement to include Finland or Sweden.87 We heard that both Finland and Sweden have prepared for an increase in sub-threshold activity, although—for now at least—there has been no evidence of a pick-up in activity.88

Maritime sabotage and threats to critical infrastructure

76.Russia has developed a range of capabilities to sabotage and disrupt critical infrastructure, including undersea data cables in the Arctic and further afield. The specialised capabilities for deep-sea maritime sabotage are based on the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic.89

77.In 2017, then-Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart (now Lord) Peach stated that Russia’s unconventional warfare capabilities were creating “a new risk to our prosperity and way of life” through the potential exploitation of “the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabed”.90 In May 2023, David Cattler, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security, said that “there are heightened concerns that Russia may target undersea cables and other critical infrastructure in an effort to disrupt Western life, to gain leverage against those nations that are providing support to Ukraine”.91

78.There have been several unattributed incidences of damage to subsea infrastructure in the Arctic. In November 2021, the Lofoten-Vesterålen Ocean observatory, an underwater facility in northern Norway, was put out of service after more than 4.3km of its specially designed fibre optic and electric cables were cut.92 In January 2022, one of two subsea data cables connecting Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and the Norwegian mainland at Harstad was damaged. In both cases, the cause of the damage has not been explained.93

79.We were told by Dr Sidharth Kaushal, Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, that within the Russian system, capabilities to conduct maritime sabotage sit within two organisational frameworks: the specialised Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research (GUGI), and Russian naval intelligence.94

80.GUGI operates deep-diving mini submarines equipped with manipulators that can work at extreme depths. Larger mothership vessels such as the Belgorod, a stretched Oscar-class submarine, act as a host both for these deep-diving mini subs and, potentially, a range of unmanned underwater vehicles.95

81.Russian naval intelligence operates surface vessels that can be used for maritime sabotage, such as the Admiral Vladimirsky, which is officially classed as an oceanographic research vessel. Russian naval intelligence also uses Russian civilian ships, including fishing trawlers, to survey and potentially attack infrastructure in shallower waters, such as in areas of the North Sea.96

82.Assets of Russian naval intelligence have operated in UK waters. In November 2022, the Admiral Vladimirsky entered the Moray firth and loitered near the RAF’s maritime patrol base at Lossiemouth.97

83.Dr Kaushal set out the logic of Russian activities to target critical infrastructure:

“In terms of Russia’s intent, it has been clear that Russia sees the ability to inflict what it describes as dose damage as a means of what it would call war containment on its periphery—ensuring that a local war with a neighbouring country does not involve a larger regional coalition—and one of their primary means of doing so is signalling the ability to target critical national infrastructure.”98

84.Maritime sabotage is difficult to deter. The rules of engagement in peacetime constrain the response to ships suspected of engaging in maritime sabotage.99 Moreover, states may be unable or unwilling to publicly attribute attacks to adversaries because the maritime assets or intelligence that could be used for attribution may be highly classified. This may in turn constrain the punitive responses that Western states can employ.

85.In addition, Dr Lee Willett noted that it can be difficult for states to respond rapidly to sub-threshold threats to critical infrastructure because cables and pipelines are typically privately owned and pass through many different legal jurisdictions.100

86.The UK has an important role to play in deterring maritime subversion. The Royal Navy operates Astute-class submarines, capable of detecting underwater activity, and mine countermeasure vessels, which operate sub-surface systems. RAF maritime patrol aircraft can track surface and sub-surface vessels.101

87.The UK has invested in new capabilities to manage the threat to seabed infrastructure, including two new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) vessels operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. These act as ‘motherships’ for a range of remotely operated and autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles for underwater surveillance and seabed warfare.102 The first MROS, RFA Proteus, entered service in October 2023, following an acceleration of the acquisition announced by the Defence Secretary in late 2022.103

88.On 18 May 2023, the UK and Norway agreed to develop a strategic partnership “to counter shared threats in the undersea domain” including threats to undersea infrastructure. Norway has already stepped up surveillance in the North Sea in response to undersea threats.104 We heard that the UK has co-operated with Norway on the inspection of all its undersea infrastructure following the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline.105 In January 2023, NATO and the EU established a joint taskforce on resilience and critical infrastructure protection.106 In February this year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a Critical Undersea Infrastructure Coordination Cell at NATO Headquarters. The centre “will facilitate engagement with industry and bring key military and civilian stakeholders together”.107

89.A range of measures can be taken to deter threats to critical infrastructure, depending on the type of asset used. Dr Kaushal highlighted that GUGI possessed a limited number of specialised assets able to operate at extreme depths. GUGI also performs a range of other tasks, including laying undersea sensors for the Harmony networks, which protect its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and provide surveillance around Russian waters. Dr Kaushal told us that the range of tasks assigned to GUGI has put organisational strain on a highly elite body. The UK and its allies can therefore potentially support deterrence through submarine activity that forces GUGI to devote greater resources to the surveillance and protection of its own infrastructure.108

90.Dr Willett told us that international collaboration was “critical” to respond to the threat of maritime sabotage and the “one thing that potential adversaries of the West do not have”.109 Dr Willett also emphasised the importance of effective collaboration between governments and industry, noting that private companies have extensive underwater surveillance capabilities. The Norwegian oil and gas sector, for example, has 600 remotely operated underwater surveillance vehicles.110 The RAND Corporation told us that the UK could facilitate civilian-military collaboration on the protection of subsea infrastructure by creating a cross-government office that brought together the Ministry of Defence with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.111

91.Dr Kaushal suggested that military partnerships with private companies could also aid deterrence, as targeting infrastructure designated for both civilian and military use could mean adversaries would regard the risk of escalation from an act of sabotage as unacceptably high.

92.The Tony Blair Institute told us that state collaboration with major tech companies would be key for internet resilience in the Arctic and beyond. They recommended that the UK should support investment in alternative Arctic infrastructure. The UK could also take the lead in developing agreement on norms and regulations governing subsea infrastructure in the Arctic.112

Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession

93.Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO has fundamentally changed the geopolitics of the Nordic region. Enlargement has increased NATO’s footprint in the Arctic and created new demands on the Alliance.

94.Mr Heappey emphasised that the accession of Sweden and Finland would strengthen NATO’s security and their decision to join the Alliance was arguably Russia’s biggest strategic failure of the war:

“It is undoubtedly an enhancement to the Alliance to have countries such as Sweden and Finland, with such expertise in the environment in which they operate and with fantastic industrial bases.”113

95.Likewise, Mr Lapsley told us that the accession of Sweden and Finland gave NATO “strategic depth”, since it has always been assumed that in the event of any conflict with Russia, NATO would need to fight very closely with Finland and Sweden, and now that geography has become integral to NATO.114

96.Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO provides an opportunity for the UK to deepen its already extensive defence co-operation with the Nordic states. The RAND Corporation suggested this could include deepening co-operation around common platforms, such as the F-35 combat aircraft or the P-8A maritime patrol aircraft. Increased intelligence sharing could also strengthen situational awareness in the region.115

97.The RAND Corporation also noted that there was an opportunity to learn from Norway, Sweden and Finland’s Total Defence concepts, which emphasise “bolstering national preparedness and societal and psychological resilience in the face of sub-threshold threats”.116 Finland’s accession to NATO is also an opportunity for the UK to increase its relationship with the Hybrid Centre of Excellence, based in Helsinki, which focuses on responding to sub-threshold threats in the Arctic, among other regions. The RAND Corporation told us that the Nordic States have significant experience and expertise in countering hybrid threats “and the UK Government, National Preparedness Commission and others could benefit from further international engagement to share lessons learned and best practice”.117

98.Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession also presents strategic and organisational challenges. NATO deterrence in the High North has traditionally focused on the maritime domain. Finland’s accession to NATO has doubled the length of the Alliance’s land border with Russia. There is therefore a need to increase the training of land forces in cold weather conditions.118 Norwegian defence planners are now investing in East-West infrastructure to facilitate the reinforcement of Sweden and Finland from the Atlantic across Norway in the event of a conflict with Russia.

99.Following NATO accession, Finland and Sweden wish to be part of the same Joint Force Command (JFC) as Norway to consolidate Nordic defence co-operation and inter-operability.119 At present, however, Norway is under JFC Norfolk, while Finland sits under JFC Brunssum. This is because Norfolk lacks sufficient operational capacity at present to cover Finland (and Sweden). JFC Norfolk currently has a staff of around 200, and we heard that this would have to rise to around 600 to meet new demands.120

100.Contrary to the expectations of officials in the Nordic states, and the public messaging of Russian officials, NATO has so far not detected a change in Russia’s military posture in response to Finland’s accession to the Alliance.121 Indeed, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen noted in August this year that “our border is pretty empty during the war that Russia is illegally waging in Ukraine”.122 This may reflect temporary resource constraints and a desire on the part of the Russian leadership to keep tensions in the Arctic at a low level while a large proportion of Russia’s land forces are engaged in Ukraine.123 We were told that Russia’s response to a major NATO exercise planned in Finland next year would be monitored carefully.124

101.We heard that in the medium term, there is a strong likelihood that Russia will respond to NATO enlargement with increased military build-up in the Arctic. Prof Zysk told us that NATO enlargement will unavoidably increase Russia’s sense of vulnerability:

“In general, the many unintended consequences of the Russian assault on Ukraine have profoundly reshaped Arctic security and co-operation and governance regimes in the region—also for Russia. It has heightened the role of the Arctic as an arena of confrontation between Russia and the West, again stimulating the Russian threat perception”.125

102.The UK, along with other members, must adapt their strategic doctrines to apply the security guarantees under Article 5 to the two Arctic states. Mr Lapsley told us that the consequence of Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO is that the Arctic is now becoming more like any other part of NATO’s area of operations, and an area in which the Alliance might be tested militarily:

“The assumption that it would be a backwater, that it would not be part of an overall conflict, is one that we and the Arctic nations now feel much less confident about now.”126

UK capabilities and defence contribution in the High North

103.The UK is one of the few non-Arctic states that invests in the military capability to operate in the High North. Prof Lackenbauer told us that the UK is “key to North Atlantic security across all domains” and plays an important role in anti-submarine and air policing.127

104.Witnesses emphasised the highly specialised set of skills required to operate in the Arctic, which is one of the “worst battlespaces in the world to fight in”.128 Lieutenant Commander Dr John Ash noted that: “You can take a competent pilot and that person would not be fit for duty in the Arctic.”129 Regular training in Arctic conditions is essential to develop and maintain the ability to operate in the region effectively with allies. Dr Duncan Depledge observed that the cold-weather skills can be quickly lost owing to turnover of personnel, and thus a “very high tempo” of training is required.130

105.The Royal Marines deploy annually to Northern Norway for winter training and we were pleased to learn that the UK has increased the scale and frequency of cold-weather training and exercises in the High North. In March 2023, the UK established a new Arctic operations base in Camp Viking in Northern Norway to serve as a hub for Royal Marines Commandos.131 The Minister told us that the number of UK personnel with recent experience of operating in Arctic conditions “will be higher now than at any point since the early 1990s”. Mr Heappey told us that training in Arctic conditions was increasing across all domains:

“The number of frigates that have painted their bows blue because they have been up into the Arctic Circle is the highest it has been since the end of the Cold War. The Air Force is pulsing up into the High North ever more frequently in order to rehearse the operation of complex fast jets in very austere cold environments.”132

106.On 13 October 2023, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would increase its presence in Northern Europe and the High North, and would deepen co-operation on countering hybrid threats. This would include sending more than 20,000 personnel for regional exercises, alongside eight Royal Navy ships, 25 fast jets and an aviation task force of helicopters.133

107.Alongside its membership of NATO, the UK co-operates closely with Nordic allies on defence through the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, the European Defence Policy Forum, and the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable.

Box 2: UK participation in Arctic security groupings

The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) is a UK-led coalition of ten northern European countries. It provides a collective military capability, deterrent, and expeditionary force focused on security in the High North, North Atlantic, and Baltic Sea region. The Foundation Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2015, and full operational capability was declared in 2018.

The JEF is designed to complement NATO and other existing alliances. The UK acts as the principal decision-maker, with other member states deciding whether to contribute forces or otherwise participate in the activity or operation.

The JEF member states are the UK, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The European Defence Policy Forum, or Northern Group, comprises the JEF members plus Germany and Poland. It is a UK-led forum aimed at strengthening mutual understanding and co-operation among members on defence and security issues. The forum first convened in 2010 and meets every six months at Defence ministerial level.

The Arctic Security Forces Roundtable (ASFR) is a regular meeting of defence representatives to discuss defence and security co-operation in the High North and Arctic. The members of the ASFR are Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Russia has not participated in the ASFR since its invasion of Crimea in 2014.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Looking North: the UK and the Arctic: The United Kingdom’s Arctic Policy Framework (February 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/looking-north-the-uk-and-the-arctic [accessed 16 November 2023]

108.The UK has historically played an important role within NATO in anti-submarine warfare and air policing in the High North and the Arctic. Among NATO allies, only Britain and the US have the capability to conduct nuclear submarine patrols under the ice cap. The demands on these capabilities in the High North are growing as Russia has invested in its Northern Fleet. The Government’s policy paper on the UK’s defence contribution in the High North notes that Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic has reached “Cold War levels”,134 and there is the added challenge of monitoring the new generation of Russian submarines, which are significantly quieter and so harder to detect.135

109.There remain long-standing concerns that the UK lacks the resources and platforms to maintain a meaningful presence in the High North and the Arctic.

110.In the maritime domain, the House of Commons Defence Committee’s 2018 report on defence in the Arctic raised concerns regarding the operational availability of the UK’s very limited number of submarines.136 The UK has few dedicated capabilities for Arctic operations and just one dedicated ice patrol ship, HMS Protector, which must cover both polar regions and spends a large part of each year in the Antarctic.

111.The RAND Corporation told us that the acquisition of dedicated new vessels or uncrewed assets assigned to each pole “would help to protect the UK’s critical infrastructure in austere northern oceanic environments all year-round, and to reassure allies and partners”.137

112.Mr Heappey told us that the emphasis of UK Defence was to ensure that its platforms could operate across a range of environments and that there was “a balance to strike between the different theatres” the UK may need to operate in:

“It is important not to specify ships to be extraordinarily capable in one environment to the exclusion of their capability in another. If we specify them to be extraordinarily capable in both environments, we will only be able to afford one, not six. There is always a balance to strike.”138

113.In the air domain, the 2015 House of Lords Select Committee on the Arctic identified a serious capability gap in maritime patrol aircraft following the withdrawal of the Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft in 2011.139 This was partially addressed in 2020, when the UK received the first of a new fleet of nine P-8A Poseidon jets, whose function includes anti-submarine warfare operations patrolling the GIUK gap. In addition, a new fleet of three E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning aircraft, which are designed to provide aerial and maritime surveillance, is expected to enter service in 2024.

114.We question, however, whether such a small number of platforms would be sufficient to provide adequate defensive cover for the UK, let alone allow for a contribution to operations in the High North.

115.Likewise, the Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into Scotland’s defence contribution in the High North heard evidence that the UK’s current fleet of P-8As would be insufficient to maintain a persistent presence in the High North and Arctic alongside a long-term deployment to the Indo-Pacific and protection of the nuclear deterrent. The Minister told that Committee:

“I think we have enough P-8 for the job that we designed the P-8 force to do, which is submarine surveillance in the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap and contributing to the NATO north Atlantic mission. Very obviously, if our ambition grows beyond that, either we need to say to the US and other P-8 operating nations, ‘Can you step up your contribution to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, because we want to go off and do some stuff over the Sea of Japan?’ or we have to get more P-8.”140

Impact of geopolitical tensions on indigenous communities

116.Representatives of Arctic indigenous peoples expressed concerns to us that further militarisation of the region as a result of geopolitical tensions could have a significant impact on their way of life and security. In the past, the militarisation of the Arctic has been associated, in some cases, with the forced displacement of indigenous peoples and the pollution of their homeland with military waste. During a recent visit to Denmark and Greenland, Francisco Cali Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, drew attention to the history of adverse environmental and social effects of military activity.141

117.Geopolitical tensions between Russia and the Arctic Seven have also led to a sharp reduction in cross-border contacts between indigenous peoples in Russia and the other Arctic states. In April 2022, the transnational Saami Council suspended formal relations with Russia’s two internationally recognised Sami organisations, the Kola Sami Association and the Association of Sami in Murmansk Oblast, after their members publicly endorsed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

118.The Arctic will remain central to Russia’s military and strategic thinking. The military setbacks it has suffered in Ukraine, and Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession, will only increase the importance of the region for Russia’s leadership. Russia has a legitimate interest in the Arctic, but the UK approach and that of its allies must be robust in deterring malign activity.

119.While it is not in Russia’s interest to start a conventional conflict in the Arctic, sub-threshold activity and accidental escalation represent significant risks to the region’s security.

120.Russian sub-threshold activity in the High North is a significant and growing threat. The UK and its allies should prepare contingency plans to detect, deter and respond to hybrid and ‘grey-zone activities’, and consult on how to best do this in situations when public attribution is not possible.

121.Close co-operation between the state and the private sector, which operates most subsea cables and pipelines, is key to deterring threats to critical infrastructure. The UK Government should establish partnerships for working with businesses to combat threats to critical infrastructure.

122.The risk of unintentional escalation in the Arctic following an accident has risen as a result of increasing maritime activity in the region, and the sharp deterioration in relations between Russia and the West. The UK must continue to work closely with its allies to maintain good situational awareness. It should co-operate closely with Arctic allies on intelligence gathering and sharing on Russian activities in the High North.

123.The UK’s Arctic allies have continued to work with Russia in areas such as search and rescue and military-to-military communication for the purpose of deconfliction, emergency response, and reassurance. It is in the UK’s interest that these channels of communication and co-operation are maintained.

124.We welcome the UK Government’s increased defence commitments to the region, including the recently announced plans for deeper collaboration with Nordic partners to combat hybrid threats. The UK Government remains committed to holding cold weather training and military exercises in the High North.

125.We are concerned, however, that the UK has insufficient key military assets, such as submarines, maritime patrol or airborne early warning aircraft, to support this increased focus on the Arctic alongside the UK’s growing interest in other regions such as the Indo-Pacific.

126.It is essential that the UK continues to train sufficiently with its NATO and Nordic allies to maintain capabilities and signal commitment to defending the region. The UK Government should continue to enhance capabilities through support for the Joint Expeditionary Force, the Northern Group and the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable. To avoid unintentional escalation, the UK and its allies should ensure their actions are predictable and there are clear contingency plans in place in the event of an incident.

127.The UK has well-established defence links with the Nordic countries and is a valued partner in the region. We welcome the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, which will strengthen the military effectiveness of the Alliance, including in the Arctic.

128.We are concerned that placing Finland (and Sweden) under the Brunssum Joint Force Command runs at cross-purposes to the efforts of the Nordic states to strengthen inter-operability and joint defence in the Nordic region. We call on the UK Government to assist in capacity building at JFC Norfolk so that Finland and Sweden can be placed under its command as soon as possible. In the interim, it is particularly important that NATO tests the flexibility and inter-operability between the two joint commands.

25 20 (Dr Rowan Allport)

26 Q 43 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

27 Mathieu Boulègue, Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic: Managing Hard Power in a ‘Low Tension’ Environment, Chatham House (June 2019) p 10: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2019/06/russias-military-posture-arctic/4-arctic-force-structure [accessed 1 November 2023]

28 Defence Committee, On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic (Twelfth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 388)

29 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

30 Defence Committee, On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic (Twelfth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 388)

31 Mathieu Boulègue, Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic: Managing Hard Power in a ‘low tension’ environment, Chatham House (June 2019): https://www.chathamhouse.org/2019/06/russias-military-posture-arctic/4-arctic-force-structure [accessed 1 November 2023]

32 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

33 Q 43 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

34 The 2022 Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation identifies the Arctic waters around Russia’s northern coast and the waters of the Northern Sea Route as a zone of “vital national interest”, see: Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, Ukaz Prezidenta Rossiiskoi Federatsii ot 31.07.2022 No 512 Ob utverzhdenii Morskoi doktrini Rossiiskoi Federatsii (July 2022) p 1: http://www.kremlin.ru/acts/bank/48215/page/1 [accessed 1 November 2023] [Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 31.07.2022 No 512 On the Approval of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation]. For an unofficial translation of the Doctrine, see: U.S. Naval War College, Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation (July 2022) pp 1–94: https://dnnlgwick.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/NWCDepartments/Russia%20Maritime%20Studies%20Institute/20220731_ENG_RUS_Maritime_Doctrine_FINALtxt.pdf?sv=2017–04-17&sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=2zUFSaTUSPcOpQDBk%2FuCtVnb%2FDoy06Cbh0EI5tGpl2Y%3D [accessed 1 November 2023].

35 Written evidence from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (ARC0013)

36 Written evidence by Professor Caroline Kennedy-Pipe to the Scottish Affairs Committee, Inquiry on Scotland and the High North (DIS0047)

37 Mathieu Boulègue, ‘The Arctic Component of Russia’s New Maritime Doctrine’ (November 2022): https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/no-17-arctic-component-russias-new-maritime-doctrine [accessed 13 October 2023]

38 Q 44 (Mathieu Boulègue)

39 Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, Ukaz Prezidenta Rossiiskoi Federatsii ot 31.07.2022 No 512 Ob utverzhdenii Morskoi doktrini Rossiiskoi Federatsii (July 2022), p 1: http://www.kremlin.ru/acts/bank/48215/page/1 [accessed 1 November 2023] [Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 31.07.2022 No 512 On the Approval of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation]

40 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

41 Q 44 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

42 Q 45 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

43 Q 44 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

44 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

45 Q 44 (Mathieu Boulègue)

46 Q 44 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

47 Written evidence from Prof Gisele Arruda and Dr Marko Filijović (ARC0009); International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4-8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

48 Written evidence from Cornell Overfield and Dr Joshua Tallis (ARC0011) and Q 24 (Dr Duncan Depledge)

49 Most notably, in 2010, Russia and Norway resolved the most potentially problematic maritime boundary in the Arctic region by signing a treaty delimiting their EEZs in the Barents Sea. The EEZ is a maritime zone extending up to 200 nautical miles beyond a state’s territorial sea and ‘contiguous zone’ (each 12 nautical miles in width respectively). The state has exclusive rights over natural resources within the EEZ.

50 Q 143 (Prof Michael Byers)

51 Q 144 (Prof Michael Byers) and Q 137 (Prof P Whitney Lackenbauer)

52 Q 46 (Mathieu Boulègue)

53 Q 19 (Lieutenant Commander Dr John Ash) and Q 25 (Dr Duncan Depledge)

54 Q 25 (Dr Rowan Allport)

55 Q 150 (Angus Lapsley)

56 Ibid.

57 Q 153 (Angus Lapsley)

58 Q 14 (Prof Klaus Dodds) and Q 46 (Mathieu Boulègue)

59 Q 135 (Dr Rebecca Pincus)

60 Written evidence from Gabriella Gricius (ARC0001)

61 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

62 Written evidence from Prof Katarzyna Zysk (ARC0016)

63 Q 127 (Dr Rebecca Pincus)

64 Q 46 (Mathieu Boulègue). In May 2020, a major oil leak from a collapsed fuel tank 12km north of Norilsk in the Russian Arctic polluted a 350 sq km area in Lake Pysasina, which flows into the Kara Sea. See BBC, ‘Norilsk Nickel: Mining firm pays record $2bn fine over Arctic oil spill’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-56350953 [accessed 1 November 2023]. In August 2019, an explosion at the Nyonoksa military test range in Russia’s European Arctic led to rise in radiation to 16 times normal levels. President Vladimir Putin said a new weapon system had been tested. It is believed the test involved the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, see: BBC, Russian nuclear accident: Medics fear ‘radioactive patients’ (August 2019): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-49432681 [accessed 13 October 2023].

65 Q 46 (Mathieu Boulègue)

66 Q 132 (Prof Michael Byers)

67 Q 136 (Prof P Whitney Lackenbauer)

68 Q 50 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

69 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

70 Written evidence from Cornell Overfield and Josh Tallis (ARC0011)

71 Q 132 (Prof Michael Byers)

72 Q 50 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

73 Q 127 (Dr Rebecca Pincus)

74 Q 114 (James Heappey MP)

75 Q 58 (Minna Ålander)

76 Q 57 (Prof Niklas Eklund)

77 ‘More Russian GPS jamming than ever before across border to Norway’, The Barents Observer (9 July 2022): https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2022/07/more-russian-gps-jamming-ever-across-border-norway [accessed 1 November 2023]

78 Q 58 (Prof Niklas Eklund)

79 Q 46 (Mathieu Boulègue); Deutsche Welle, Norway detains Russian man over drone flights (October 2022): https://www.dw.com/en/norway-russian-man-detained-with-2-drones-near-arctic/a-63441134 [accessed 1 November 2023]

80 Q 58 (Minna Ålander)

81 Q 27 (Lieutenant Commander Dr John Ash)

82 Treaty regulating the Status of Spitsbergen and conferring the Sovereignty on Norway, done at Paris, 9 February 1920: https://treaties.fcdo.gov.uk/data/Library2/pdf/1924-TS0018.pdf [accessed 18 October 2023]. Depositary status lists for the treaty: http://basedoc.diplomatie.gouv.fr/exl-php/vue-consult/mae_internet___traites/TRA19200018 [accessed 9 November 2023]

83 Q 67 (Dr Elana Wilson Rowe)

84 Oral evidence taken before the Defence sub-Committee, 1 March 2017 (Session 2016–17) QQ 27–29

85 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

86 Q 46 (Mathieu Boulègue)

87 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

88 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

89 Royal United Services Institute,’Stalking the Seabed: How Russia Targets Critical Infrastructure’: https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/stalking-seabed-how-russia-targets-critical-undersea-infrastructure [accessed 1 November 2023]

90 Ewen MacAskill, ‘Russia could cut off internet to Nato countries, British military chief warns’, The Guardian (14 December 2017): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/14/russia-could-cut-off-internet-to-nato-countries-british-military-chief-warns [accessed 16 November 2023]

91 Reuters, ‘NATO says Moscow may sabotage undersea cables as part of war on Ukraine’: https://www.reuters.com/world/moscow-may-sabotage-undersea-cables-part-its-war-ukraine-nato-2023–05-03/ [accessed 1 November 2023]

92 Q 114 (Dr Lee Willett) and ‘4.3 Kilometers of Subsea Cable Vanished Off North Norwegian Coast’ High North News. (10 November 2021): https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/43-kilometers-subsea-cable-vanished-north-norwegian-coast [accessed 1 November 2023]

93 Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Institutt, The subsea cable cut at Svalbard January 2022: What happened, what were the consequences, and how were they managed? (18 January 2023): https://www.nupi.no/en/publications/cristin-pub/the-subsea-cable-cut-at-svalbard-january-2022-what-happened-what-were-the-consequences-and-how-were-they-managed [accessed 1 November 2023]

94 Q 114 (Dr Sidharth Kaushal)

95 Q 106 (Dr Sidharth Kaushal)

96 Ibid.

97 UK Defence Journal, ‘Russian spy ship off Scottish coast’: https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/russian-spy-ship-off-scottish-coast [accessed 1 November 2023]

98 Q 115 (Dr Sidharth Kaushal)

99 Ibid.

100 Q 117 (Dr Lee Willett)

101 House of Commons Library, Insight, Seabed warfare: Protecting the UK’s undersea infrastructure (24 May 2023): https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/seabed-warfare-protecting-the-uks-undersea-infrastructure/ [accessed 1 November 2023]

102 Naval News, First of Two MROS Ships Arrives in the UK (19 January 2023): https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2023/01/first-of-two-mros-ships-arrives-in-the-uk/ [accessed 1 November 2023]

103 Ministry of Defence, Press Release: DE&S purchase specialist ship to protect our undersea cables (19 January 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/des-purchase-specialist-ship-to-protect-our-underwater-cables [accessed 1 November 2023]

104 Ministry of Defence, Press Release: UK and Norway to increase cooperation on undersea capabilities (18 May 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-norway-to-increase-cooperation-on-undersea-capabilities [accessed 1 November 2023]

105 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/; In September 2022, the EU said damage to the Nord Stream pipelines, which carried gas from Russia to Germany on the Baltic seabed, was the result of sabotage see: BBC, Nord Stream leaks: Sabotage to blame, says EU (28 September 2022): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-63057966 [accessed 1 November 2023].

106 NATO, ‘NATO and the EU set up taskforce on resilience and critical infrastructure’: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_210611.htm [accessed 1 November 2023]

107 NATO, ‘NATO stands up undersea coordination cell’: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_211919.htm [accessed 1 November 2023]

108 Q 106 (Dr Sidharth Kaushal)

109 Q 108 (Dr Lee Willett)

110 Ibid.

111 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

112 Written evidence from the Tony Blair Institute (ARC0013)

113 Q 126 (James Heappey MP)

114 Q 151 (Angus Lapsley)

115 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

116 Ibid.

117 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

118 Written evidence from Cornell Overfield and Dr Joshua Tallis (ARC0011)

119 NATO Joint Force Commands are operational-level commands under Allied Command Operations. There are three Joint Force Commands: JFC Brunssum (Netherlands), JFC Naples (Italy) and JFC Norfolk (United States). Established in 2018, JFC Norfolk focuses on the High North and protecting strategic lines of communication across the North Atlantic.

120 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

121 Q 152 (Angus Lapsley)

122 ‘Finnish border “pretty empty” of Russian troops’, The Financial Times (14 August 2023): https://www.ft.com/content/f7587dc3-3518–4084-b68a-1dd00ab83e2e [accessed 1 November 2023]

123 International Relations and Defence Committee, ‘Arctic Inquiry: Norway and Finland visit 4–8 September’, September 2023: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41558/documents/204655/default/

124 Ibid.

125 Q 44 (Prof Katarzyna Zysk)

126 Q 150 (Angus Lapsley)

127 Q 139 (Prof P Whitney Lackenbauer)

128 Q 32 (Lieutenant Commander Dr John Ash)

129 Ibid.

130 Q 39 (Dr Duncan Depledge)

131 Royal Navy, ‘New Arctic operations base for UK commandos’: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2023/march/08/230308-campvikingnorway [accessed 1 November 2023]

132 Q 124 (James Heappey MP)

133 Prime Minister’s Office, Press Release: PM accelerates military support to Northern Europe following visit to Sweden (13 October 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-accelerates-military-support-to-northern-europe-following-visit-to-sweden/ [accessed 1 November 2023]

134 Ministry of Defence, The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North (March 2022), p 5: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-uks-defence-contribution-in-the-high-north [accessed 1 November 2023]

135 Q 140 (Prof Michael Byers)

136 Defence Committee, On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic (Twelfth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 388)

137 Written evidence from the RAND Corporation (ARC0008)

138 Q 123 (James Heappey MP)

139 Select Committee on the Arctic, Responding to a changing Arctic (Report of Session 2014–15, HL Paper 118)

140 Oral evidence taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry on Defence in Scotland, 5 June 2023 (Session 2022–23), Q 211 (James Heappey MP)

141 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, A/HRC/54/31/Add.1: Visit to Denmark and Greenland: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples (September 2023): https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/country-reports/ahrc5431add1-visit-denmark-and-greenland-report-special-rapporteur-rights [accessed 15 November 2023]

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