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'Britain Must Show Greater Ambition In Arctic Security'

The Defence Sub-Committee says "new efforts" need to be made for the UK to "regenerate" expertise in working in the Arctic and High North.

Royal Marines Viking all terrain vehicle

Two decades of hot weather operations may have left the United Kingdom exposed to a renewed threat from the Arctic, according to a new report.

In 'On Thin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic', Parliament’s Defence Sub-Committee says "new efforts" need to be made to "regenerate" expertise in working in the region.

The report calls upon the UK to "revive its leadership in defence of the region, and for the renewed focus within NATO on the security of the North Atlantic to be accompanied by a renewed focus on the source of the threat emanating from the High North".

Royal Marine from 539 Assault Squadron
A Royal Marine from 539 Assault Squadron performing a beach assault in Harstad, Norway.

The Sub-Committee warns of an increase in military activity in the Arctic and High North led by Russia.

It also draws attention to the growing number of nations from Southern and Eastern Asia that declare themselves to have interests in Arctic affairs.

Madeleine Moon MP, Chair of the Defence Sub-Committee, said: "The changing security environment in the Arctic and the High North is a matter of growing significance to the UK, given the strategic importance of the region and the increasing level of military activity we see.

"This has been led by Russia, which is continuing to expand its military presence and influence.

"The UK has previously played a leading role in defending NATO’s Northern Flank and in maintaining maritime security in the North Atlantic.

"The importance of this role is now returning to significance.

"The UK’s capabilities to perform these tasks still exist, but they are sustained at a low level and are in high demand elsewhere.

"A new level of ambition backed up by adequate resources is required to meet the developing threats we have identified.” 

In June this year, in response to observations about increased Russian military activity in the region, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg explained that NATO is increasing its ability to respond and reinforce by being strong without increasing tensions unnecessarily.

The long-term future of the Royal Marines was called into question earlier this year following speculation about the loss of 1,000 personnel and the threat to dispose of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, the Royal Navy’s Albion Class amphibious assault ships.

The Assault Ship HMS Bulwark and landing craft
Royal Navy Marines taking part in a simulated beach landing using Landing Platform Dock ships. The Assault Ship HMS Bulwark is visible in the distance.

In response to the report, an MoD spokesperson said: "There has been a tenfold resurgence in Russian activity in the Arctic and North Atlantic, with Russia investing heavily in its Northern Fleet and taking steps to remilitarise its Arctic territory.

"The UK is taking appropriate steps along with the US and other NATO allies to ensure stability is maintained, and are encouraging all members of the Arctic Council to continue engaging constructively on the issues affecting the region."