‘Read up on Stalingrad’: Russia reacts to NATO buying winter kits for… ARCTIC WARFARE?

Soldiers of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence battle group take part in the winter survival exercise in Adazi, Latvia February 8, 2018. ©REUTERS/Ints Kalnins / Free

Russian diplomats have taken a swipe at NATO after the “purely defensive” alliance placed an order for 78,000 camouflage kits suitable for military operations in the freezing-cold Arctic.

NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency is poised to buy “snow camouflage for winter operations,” that includes 78,000 sets of trousers and jackets, along with the same number of backpack covers. The uniform, as outlined in the bid request, should withstand temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius, while shielding servicemen from “strong winds and snow drifts.”

The request was originally posted in June and has seen no lack of bidders. Between July 1 and September 30, NATO awarded the lucrative contracts to the tune of €70 million to three companies from the UK, Greece and Slovakia.

The agency did not specify where the operations in sub-zero temperatures that warranted such a bulk purchase of winter wear might be set to take place. The Russian mission at NATO, however, half-jokingly warned the alliance against venturing into the Russian territory, dreaded for its cold winters. The diplomats also taunted NATO strategists about their supposedly “purely defensive military planning.”

“Maybe worth procuring history on #WW2 (#Stalingrad),” the mission tweeted, referring to the famous battle that began in August 1942 and ended in February 1943. Stalingrad was the turning point of both the Soviet war against the Nazi invasion, and World War II in general. The Soviet counter-strike and encirclement of Axis forces in November 1942 was heavily aided by “General Frost.”

While it’s unlikely NATO is eyeing a blitzkrieg through central Russia, its avid interest in the resource-rich polar region has never been a secret. At the center of the dispute has been the Northeast Passage (NEP), a shipping route that is set to become increasingly accessible to commercial ships due to melting ice. With the NEP passing through Russia’s exclusive economic zone, Moscow sees it as part of its internal transport infrastructure, while the US and its allies want it to be turned into an international route.

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