In 2017, Russia’s TV Zvezda, which is owned by the defense ministry in Moscow, aired a report on a Russian navy program to train beluga whales, seals and dolphins for similar purposes.The Guardian said those recent efforts were carried out by a private research institute on behalf of the navy to see if beluga whales could, “guard entrances to naval bases” in the arctic and “assist deepwater divers and if necessary kill any strangers who enter their territory,” according to the Russian TV report.The newspaper says public Russian government records show the defense ministry spent about $25,000 purchasing five bottle-nosed dolphins in 2016 from a sea life center in Moscow.Just last year a group of Russian scientists was presented an award by the Russian Academy of Sciences for their work on “the use of marine mammals for official purposes.” A note congratulating the scientists on the Academy’s website notes that the use of combat seals might again become relevant for Russia given the increase in “the terrorist threat.”On Monday, Russia’s state-run Interfax news agency quoted a scientist who appeared to confirm that the country’s military was working with beluga whales. Interfax said Dmitry Glazov, of the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, worked with the same kind of animals. Glazov noted that belugas had been deployed by the security services around the Sochi Olympics.”There is an institute in St. Petersburg that cooperates with the military in studying animals for applied purposes, and its (specialists) work in the Cossack Bay on the Black Sea and in Murmansk,” he said, speculating that one of the animals based at the institute simply “ran away.”Russia and NATO in the ArcticOver the past three years, President Vladimir Putin has reopened three former Soviet military bases along its vast Arctic coastline as Russia and NATO accuse each other of increasingly bellicose actions along their shared border in the far northern reaches of Europe.

As CBS News chief national security correspondent David Martin reported for “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Russia has been conducting simulated attacks near Norwegian territory with nuclear-capable warplanes.That, Norwegian joint force commander Lt. Gen. Rune Jakobsen told Martin, is “not something you should do to your neighbor.”In response to Russia’s mounting belligerence in the region — and in the wake of Putin’s unilateral annexation the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine — NATO held its largest war games to date in Norway last fall.As Martin reported, Norway shares a 120-mile border with Russia, and its long Arctic coastline includes the closest points on European soil to the base of Russia’s northern fleet, with its naval bases, airfields and nuclear weapons storage sites. The fleet, based on the remote Kola Peninsula, represent Russia’s single greatest concentration of military power, especially submarines.Martin was given rare access to the Norwegian military planes and ships tasked with monitoring Russia’s actions in the Arctic, including their navy’s newest surveillance vessel which has been equipped with the latest U.S. technology to detect submarines.If what the Norwegian fishermen found is evidence of a current program by Russia’s military, the Norwegians and their NATO partners might need to start looking for much smaller weapons of war, too — weapons with flippers.

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