Inside The Russian Arctic Base “Shamrock” & Their Growing Arctic Military Operations
Complete with sleigh dogs, reindeer and snow white uniforms, Russia gives a glimpse into one of two Russian arctic bases.
Around the world, people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with images of green shamrocks and leprechauns–but have you heard of the Russian shamrock or the Arctic Shamrock? No, it’s not a secret Irish cult in the North or South Pole. The Arctic Shamrock is a Russian arctic base–and it is definitely state-of-the-art.
Run by the Russian Defense Ministry, the Arctic Shamrock is a base at the northernmost point in Russia, and is a permanent installation for Russian armed forces. Last year, the Ministry provided a glimpse inside this amazing arctic stronghold in one of the toughest natural climates on Earth.
Life inside “Shamrock” the Russian arctic base
The base is 14,000 square miles, residing on the 80th parallel in temperatures that are below freezing year round—sometimes as low as -58 degrees Celsius. As such, the base was constructed so that soldiers never have to go outdoors to move around the base.
A soldier’s typical tour of duty there is a grueling 18 months in duration, but the base feels like home to most, complete with a gym, chapel, atrium, greenhouse, movie theatre, hospital, game room and library.
The Russian soldiers stationed there are dressed in arctic uniforms—white from head to toe—like modern-day Star Wars stormtroopers. They have arctic work dogs and work sleighs pulled by reindeer.
Russia built the Alexandra Land stronghold on the Franz Josef Land archipelago. Nearly 150 military personnel are stationed there at any one time in order to protect the Russian airspace and natural border. Putin has hinted that he may deploy military MiG-31 fighter jets at the base for further protection.
While Russia created an online virtual tour for public portions of the base to provide a glimpse of how the soldiers live, the base’s true military operations are naturally kept under wraps.
Russian military base protects oil and “other interests”
They also protect “other interests,” including oil. The Arctic Shamrock is the second base of its kind to be built by Vladimir Putin. Under Putin, Russia has made a huge push to lay claim to the region’s huge oil reserves, containing billions of barrels’ worth of oil, which the U.K. estimates to be worth $28.39 trillion.
The Arctic is so rich in oil that experts estimate it to hold more reserves than oil giants like Saudi Arabia. Russia is quickly depleting its oil reserves inside its non-arctic borders, and the ice melts in the arctic region may eventually make it easier for the country to tap those oil reserves.
Describing the region as “a sphere of our special interest,” Putin has been on his arctic adventure for more than a decade. As far back as 2007, famed Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov staked a claim to the entire region by planting a Russian flag in the North Pole’s Lomonosov Ridge. Russia views the region as its own, and the military presence is meant to deter other bids for the region.
What other countries lay claim to the Arctic Circle?
Four other countries have territory inside the Arctic Circle: Canada, Norway, Denmark (via Greenland) and the United States. Putin has actively increased Russia’s military presence in the Far North since 2014, with plans to install 10 radar stations and 13 airfields to deter what it describes as “unwelcome guests.”
Few countries are equipped to build an arctic base like Shamrock, and Russia has made sure that its presence is felt in the region. While the Shamrock represents a new base, Russia has been steadfastly re-opening abandoned military bases on many remote Arctic islands.
The Arctic Shamrock is just one of two Russian arctic bases
The Arctic Shamrock was built as a closed-cycle autonomous life-support system; the infrastructure has its own power grid, water supply and sewage system. The Shamrock joins its sister station, the Severny Klever (Northern Clover), located on the 75th parallel on the New Siberian island archipelago of Kotelny Island.
As a result of these efforts, Russia now claims more than a half million square miles of arctic territory. Some military experts say that Russia’s build-up in the arctic under Putin is even more extensive than what occurred in the Soviet Union.
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