The Daily Telegraph reports today on both the submarine flag-planting activities of Russian forces at The North Pole but also upon their desire to establish a permanent base in the Meditteranean:

Russia stirred memories of the Cold War yesterday when the country’s senior admiral called for the establishment of a permanent naval base in the Mediterranean for the first time since the Soviet era.

Russia planted its national flag under the North Pole claiming sovereignty over the Artic territory

Coming a day after an audacious mission to the North Pole to bolster Russia’s territorial claims in the Arctic, Moscow’s renewed naval ambitions are likely to spread further unease in Nato capitals. “The Mediterranean Sea is very important strategically,” Admiral Vladimir Masorin said on a tour of the Russian navy’s Black Sea base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. “I propose that, with the involvement of the Northern and Baltic Fleets, the Russian navy should restore its permanent presence there.”

His remarks raise doubts about the Kremlin’s denial last year of a newspaper claim that new moorings were being built in the Syrian port of Tartus.

The North Pole diving mission was designed to rally support among the Russian public. According to Ivan Safronov, the journalist who died after mysteriously falling from a building in Moscow this year, Russia had also begun to expand the port at Latakia, also in Syria. President Vladimir Putin has been anxious to restore Moscow’s influence in the Middle East, signing controversial arms deals with both Syria and Iran that have upset the United States and Israel.

If the port plan were to go ahead, Russian vessels and warships from the US Sixth Fleet, based in Italy, would face one another in the Mediterranean for the first time since the Cold War when the Soviet navy was based in Tartus. Russia maintains a symbolic and largely empty logistical facility at Tartus – its only military base outside the former Soviet Union.

Washington will be watching both developments with concern.Yesterday it bluntly warned Moscow that any attempt to claim sovereignty over the Arctic would not be tolerated after Russia planted its national flag under the North Pole on Thursday.

“I’m not sure whether they’ve put a metal flag, a rubber flag or a bed sheet on the ocean floor,” said Tom Casey, a spokesman for the State Department. “Either way it doesn’t have any legal standing.”

In a record-breaking expedition led by Artur Chilingarov, a veteran polar explorer, two deep-sea submersibles descended 14,000 feet. More used to submarine disasters than unprecedented maritime feats, the successful operation was greeted with jubilation in Russia where it stirred up memories of derring do from the golden era of Soviet naval exploration.

Like other countries with Arctic coastlines, Russia has laid claims for greater territory in the oil-rich area and will present its case to a UN commission in 2010.

This and other recent exercises of the Bear’s muscles must put us on notice that the threats which do or may face us as this century do not all lie in the hearts of Islamo-Fascists holed up with a load of goats in Afghan caves but remain closer to home, a week’s tank drive from the North Sea. Our politicians should pay attention and plan for a return of problems with Russia.