Staunton, May 22 – An American military exercise in Alaska, Northern Edge 2021, conducted earlier this month has raised concerns in Moscow that the United States is preparing its forces to be capable of attacking Chukotka and other parts of the northeastern Russian Federation.
On the Topcor.ru, military analyst Andrey Voskresensky says that “many military experts in our country very often cast doubt on the ability of the American armed forces to operate under conditions of low and extremely low temperatures.” But the new exercise should dispel such doubts (topcor.ru/19691-amerikancy-gotovjatsja-k-boevym-dejstvijam-na-chukotke.html).
He notes that while Washington talks a great deal about developing forces to counter Chinese activity in the South China Sea, it said little about this exercise in Alaska and the Aleutian islands which took place May 3-14, an exercise that could only be about preparing for possible action not against China but against the Russian Federation.
To be sure, Voskresensky says, the climate in Alaska is not as severe as that in Russia’s Chukotka. That has allowed the Americans to maintain a sizeable military force in the northern state for years. But that force was primarily strategic in nature rather than structured for an attack across the Bering Straits.
The new exercise which centered on marines and landing exercises suggests that the Americans are changing their focus and want to be in a position to launch an attack on Chukotka and other parts of the Russian Far East. Voskresensky for his part even notes the involvement in the exercise of an American unit called “the Arctic Wolves.”
This US operation, he continues, sparks some “dark thoughts.” Despite the active efforts of the defense ministry to improve Russia’s posture around all its borders, the situation in the northeast is anything but good as far as repelling the kind of an attack Northern Edge 2021 appears to be preparation for.
With this exercise, Voskresenksy argues, “Washington is actively demonstrating the presence in its possession of forces which can act even in the most difficult to access parts of our defensive perimeter: Kamchatka, the Kuriles, and Anadyr.” Were such an attack to come, he suggests, Moscow would have little choice but to go nuclear.
For the past several years, Moscow commentators have talked about the possibility that the US wants to “tear off” Chukotka from Russia and feels it might be able to do so because the Chukchi have a long history of resisting Russian and more recently Soviet power (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/07/does-us-want-to-tear-off-chukchi-land.html).
What is worrisome is that the theme of Chukchi resistance to Russian power is attracting more attention in the Moscow media. This week for example, an article in one Russian media outlet provided details on just how difficult it had been for the center to bring the Chukchi to heel (lenta.ru/articles/2021/05/22/chukchi/).