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Russia focuses efforts on expanding presence in Arctic

October 30, 2014, 18:08 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, October 30. /TASS/. Expanding Russia’s presence in the Arctic is one of the key tasks the country’s authorities keep high on the current agenda. Next spring the Russian government plans to file a request at the United Nations for expanding the borders of its continental shelf. If sustained, the request will increase Russia’s reserves of explored hydrocarbons by five billion tonnes of equivalent fuel. In the meantime, Russia’s Defence Ministry is going to build 13 airdromes and 10 radars in the Arctic. The issue was discussed in detail at a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin held with the government ministers on Wednesday.

According to experts, the overall fuel and energy reserves in Russia’s Arctic exceed 1.6 trillion tonnes, while the continental shelf contains about a quarter of all of the world’s offshore reserves.

“Approval of the yet-to-be filed request will enshrine Russia’s sovereign right to an extra territory of 1.2 million square kilometres in the Arctic Ocean and also build up the explored reserves by five billion tonnes of equivalent fuel,” Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergey Donskoi said.

With its enormous hydrocarbon reserves the Arctic is becoming a zone of active rivalry by the countries contesting its shelf. Last December Canada applied to the United Nations for expanding its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean by 1.2 million square kilometres. Even Beijing hopes to get its share of the Arctic pie. The Arctic Council last May agreed to recognize China and India as observers in the Arctic Region.

“Moscow has been quite successful in its efforts in the Arctic Commission to prove Russia’s rights to disputed Arctic territories, including the Mendeleyev Ridge. The high latitude expedition on board the research ship The Akademic Fyodorov, which ended late October, had coped with the whole set of geodesic studies in the Arctic and, using deep exploration methods, gathered extra data to back up Russia’s Arctic bid,” the leading research fellow at the Institute of US and Canada Studies, Arctic Specialist Yuri Morozov, has told TASS.

“The western sanctions restricting the supply of ‘smart’ technologies for tapping hardly recoverable reserves are not forever,” he said. Besides, the sanctions have pushed Russia towards developing its own deep-sea exploration, which we have so far been purchasing from Norway. The there is a good outlook for import substitution here,” the analyst believes.

“As for the security of Russia’s Arctic shelf is concerned, the region has been largely unprotected in military terms: there were no tracking systems, radars, ground troops or naval forces. In the meantime, pretty close to it is the US bastion in Alaska, with its intelligence means, missile defence systems and naval forces,” Morozov said.

“Apart from that the Scandinavian countries have created their own military bloc inside NATO to protect their interests in the near-Arctic zone. Anti-Russian military exercises have been held regularly there. Therefore the measures being taken to enhance the security of Russia’s Arctic shelf are Russia’s proportionate response to Western challenges,” Morozov believes.

“In the Arctic Russia controls a larger territory than any other country contesting the shelf. With the melting of the Arctic ice cap, as the conditions for extracting hydrocarbons improve, Russia will be getting ever greater returns from its deposits in the region. Also, major benefits may be derived from funnelling fuel export not to the West but to the East. China, Japan and South Korea are far nearer and potential economic benefits may prove far greater,” the analyst said.

Lastly, the Northern Sea Route will be of tremendous importance to the Russian economy. Russia boasts the world’s most powerful icebreaker fleet. Escorting shipping convoys through the Arctic may spell tangible dividends, too. It is not accidental that the United States and Canada, and also China have been trying to prove that the Northern Sea Route is an international line. Russia should take legal and military measures to safeguard its right to using the Northern Sea Route,” the analyst concluded.

“The hustle and bustle over the disputed territories of the Arctic shelf began after in August 2007 I placed Russia’s state flag, made of titanium, at the North Pole on the seabed under the Arctic ice,” the world’s leading Arctic and Antarctic exploration specialist, holder of the Hero of the USSR and Hero of Russia titles, Artur Chilingarov, told TASS.

The facades of many regions of Russia overlook the Arctic Ocean and the well-being of these regions will depend on the successful development of the Arctic shelf. The Russian leadership is well aware the country’s future relies heavily on Arctic resources. This is well-seen in the oil major Rosneft’s October 1 decision to set up a subcommittee for Arctic development. I lead its board of directors,” Chilingarov said.


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