Russia is amassing unprecedented military might in the Arctic and testing its newest weapons in a region freshly ice-free due to the climate emergency, in a bid to secure its northern coast and open up a key shipping route from Asia to Europe.
Weapons experts and Western officials have expressed particular concern about one Russian 'super-weapon,' the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo. Development of the torpedo is moving fast with Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting an update on a "key stage" of the tests in February from his defense minister Sergei Shoigu, with further tests planned this year, according to multiple reports in state media.
Images show build up of Russia's military presence in the Arctic04:15
This unmanned stealth torpedo is powered by a nuclear reactor and intended by Russian designers to sneak past coastal defenses -- like those of the US -- on the sea floor.
The device is intended to deliver a warhead of multiple megatons, according to Russian officials, causing radioactive waves that would render swathes of the target coastline uninhabitable for decades.
In November, Christopher A Ford, then assistant secretary of state for International Security and Non-Proliferation, said the Poseidon is designed to "inundate U.S. coastal cities with radioactive tsunamis."
Experts agree that the weapon is "very real" and already coming to fruition. The head of Norwegian intelligence, Vice Admiral Nils Andreas Stensønes, told CNN that his agency has assessed the Poseidon as "part of the new type of nuclear deterrent weapons. And it is in a testing phase. But it's a strategic system and it's aimed at targets ... and has an influence far beyond the region in which they test it currently." Stensønes declined to give details on the torpedo's testing progress so far.
Satellite images provided to CNN by space technology company Maxar detail a stark and continuous build-up of Russian military bases and hardware on the country's Arctic coastline, together with underground storage facilities likely for the Poseidon and other new high-tech weapons. The Russian hardware in the High North area includes bombers and MiG31BM jets, and new radar systems close to the coast of Alaska.