Russia’s military build-up has polar countries on edge. But don’t worry — bullets aren’t flying yet

On May 9, Muscovites gathered on Red Square for an annual tradition: the Victory Day military parade.

Formally, the parade marks the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II. Informally, it gives the Kremlin a chance to send its latest tanks and missiles rolling down the street and show off its resurgent military might.

This year, the Kremlin had a surprise up its sleeve: For the first time ever, it deployed to Red Square the Tor and Pantsir air defense systems, decked out in sharp white and gray Arctic camouflage.

The appearance of Arctic forces on Victory Day underscores one of the military’s most impressive and misunderstood rearmament efforts: Since at least 2011, the Defense Ministry has worked at a breakneck pace to reopen old defensive installations on the Arctic frontier and reassert its armed presence there.

But the size and scale of the Kremlin’s Arctic build-up has some of its regional neighbors worried.

“They are concerned that this series of steps by Russia may go beyond defense and portend offensive intentions,” says Kenneth Yalowitz, an Arctic analyst who was formerly U.S. Ambassador to Belarus and Georgia. …


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