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Russia is drafting program to develop Arctic regions, protect their borders

April 23, 2014, 19:19 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Geological Institute Press Service

MOSCOW, April 23. /ITAR-TASS/. Developing Russia’s Arctic zone and maintaining its security is becoming one of the highest priorities of the state policy for years to come. Russian President Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday to instruct the government to launch a program entitled Socio-Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of Russia during the Period Extending till 2020 and to set up a unified centre to coordinate Arctic policies.

“The Arctic has been and still a domain of Russia’s special interests. “Here one finds a practically all aspects of national security — military-political, economic, technological, ecological and natural resources-related,” Putin said.

In 2013, the Northern Sea Route transported over 1.5 million tonnes of cargoes. The Arctic port of Sabetta is under construction and an LNG plant is being created in the Yamal Peninsula. Russian companies are launching operations on the Arctic shelf. The first tanker- load of Arctic oil left the Prirazlomnaya platform several days ago.

Experts estimate the overall fuel and energy reserves of the Russian sector of the Arctic at more than 1.6 trillion tonnes, and the continental shelf contains about a third of all off-shore hydrocarbon reserves in the world.

From that standpoint Russia achieved an indisputable success to prove its right to a considerable area of the continental shelf in the Sea of Okhotsk measuring 52,000 square kilometers. Russian specialists managed to persuade the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf the country’s right to this area was beyond doubt.

Over the past years the attention of the world community to the Arctic region was growing by leaps and bounds. Canada has declared its rights. The United States, Sweden, Finland and also NATO have their own interests in the region, too. Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that Canada and the United States should present a common front to resist Russia in the Arctic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed to the need for enhancing the protection of Russia’s frontiers in the area. He urged reliable protection for oil and gas terminals, pipelines and extraction platforms, one of which, Prirazlomnaya, in September 2013 became the target for a protest campaign by activists from the environmental movement Greenpeace, who approached it on board the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker. For the purpose of protecting strategic facilities in the Arctic the military and rescue workers will be holding joint exercises.

Military infrastructures in the region will be reinforced. For this purpose an integral system of bases for surface ships and new generation submarines will be created. At the end of last March the commander of Russia’s Navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov said that Russia would build up the group of troops meant for operations in the Arctic.

“The world’s leading actors have come to realize that as the global climate gets warmer, oil and gas extraction in the Arctic is getting far easier and more profitable. Incredible reserves of hydrocarbons in this region have excited even those countries which have no bearing on the Arctic at all. Everybody is eager to have a share of the Arctic pie,” the chief researcher at the Centre for Military-Political Research at the Institute of the US and Canada Studies, Yuri Morozov, has told ITAR-TASS in an interview.

“Historically there are five Arctic states — Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark. Four countries are signatories to an international sea law treaty by which they share respective sectors of the Arctic. The United States has refused to join the treaty to this day. In the meantime, China and Finland have gained seats on the international Arctic Council. They argue that the Arctic is a common asset of humanity. Global rivalry is afoot the region. Countries are literally elbowing each other, because inland hydrocarbon reserves are being depleted, and shale oil and gas production is costly and harmful to the environment. Humanity’s future is in the Arctic,” Morozov said.

“For this reason Russia should retain control of the resources that have belonged to it from time immemorial, give thought to future generations,” the specialist said.

“From the economic standpoint some new opportunities have opened up along the Northern Sea Route — the shortest corridor between Europe and the Far East — a historically established national traffic artery in the Arctic. In the near future merchant ships from Northeast Asian countries — Japan, China, and Korea will be able to reach Europe with the assistance of Russia’s ice-breaker fleet. We have more ice-breakers than any other nation in the world. Escorting foreign ships along Russia’s coast is a potential source of large revenues,” Morozov speculated.

“As a result of short-sighted policies in the 1980s and 1990s the former USSR and then Russia left their Arctic frontiers defenseless from the military standpoint. In the meantime, the “Alaska bastion” kept getting stronger. Russia these days is forced to build up its military group in the region to protect its national interests. From the military point of view the Arctic is the shortest route for strategic ballistic missiles from Russia to North America and from North America to Russia,” the expert explained.

“To effectively ward off potential threats Russia will have to shield its north, because the traditional estimated trajectory of ballistic missiles lies across North Pole. Ten or twenty years ago the country had no resources to maintain the security of its Arctic frontiers. Now the necessary funds will be invested in the program for the Arctic’s development. A great deal is being done and the situation is getting better with every day,” a member of the presidium of the Air and Space Defense Council, Igor Ashurbeili, told ITAR-TASS.


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