USS Hartford surfaces near Ice Camp Sargo during Ice Exercise 2016: US Navy photo

As ice melts in the Arctic, new options for transiting the Arctic open up — and also remove natural barriers that Russia once relied on to protect its own interests there.

“Without getting into specific intelligence assessments, obviously we’re monitoring it very closely,” said Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby during a briefing Tuesday at the Pentagon adding that the U.S. has its own interests in the Arctic as well.

Russia is seeking to bolster its security through the refurbishing of Soviet-era airfields, the expansion of its network of air and coastal defense missile systems and the strengthening of its anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the Pentagon press secretary said Tuesday.

Russian Defense Ministry’s military construction complex built about 800 building and structures in the Arctic since 2013, the Russian Defence Ministry disclosed Monday.

U.S. Closely Monitoring Russian Military Activities in Arctic amidst Melting Ice

Camp Sargo housed participants of Ice Exercise 2016: US Navy photo

“[We] obviously recognize that the region is key terrain that’s vital to our own homeland defense and as a potential strategic corridor between the Indo-Pacific, Europe and the homeland — which would make it vulnerable to expanded competition,” Kirby said.

“We’re committed to protecting our U.S. national security interests in the Arctic by upholding a rules-based order in the region, particularly through our network of Arctic allies and partners who share the same deep mutual interests that we do.”

In the 2019 DOD Arctic Strategy, the Defense Department told Congress that the DOD must be prepared to protect U.S. national security interests by taking appropriate actions in the Arctic as part of maintaining favorable balances of power in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.”

U.S. Closely Monitoring Russian Military Activities in Arctic amidst Melting Ice

Russian nuclear submarine surfaces over ice: Russian navy photo

Three Russian Nuclear-powered Subs Surface in Arctic

Three Russian nuclear-powered submarines simultaneously surfaced from under the ice at a distance of up to 300 meters from each other for the first time in history during Arctic drills, Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 2.

“As part of the Arctic expedition, three nuclear-powered submarines surfaced from under the ice in a limited space with a radius of 300 meters for the first time in the history of the Russian Navy,” he said.