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US does not think Russia is militarizing Arctic — US special representative for the Arctic

March 11, 2015, 15:38 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

Russia is doing reasonable things because of the increase of the maritime traffic that's going through the North Sea Route, US Special Representative for the Arctic told TASS in an exclusive interview

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A submarine of the Russian Northern Fleet (archive)

A submarine of the Russian Northern Fleet (archive)

© ITAR-TASS/Lev fedoseyev

WASHINGTON, March 11. /TASS/. Washington does not think that Russia is militarizing the Arctic, US Special Representative for the Arctic Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. told TASS in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

"I don't have enough detail on everything that's being done by Canada, by Russia [in the Arctic]," he said. "Russia is doing reasonable things because of the increase of the maritime traffic that's going through the North Sea Route," Papp added.

"If the Northwest Passage opened up and we had an increase of traffic, the United States would probably want to build a Coast Guard air station or a base or something like that," he said. "One person might look at that and say you are militarizing the Arctic, another person might say you are doing reasonable things to make sure you have safety and security," Papp stressed.

All interested countries "oppose military build-ups in the Arctic," he added. "When the rhetoric of countries starts talking about increasing military activities, increasing troop levels, increasing bases, that causes concern for the other Arctic countries and it's not helpful to the things that we want to do within the Arctic Council," Papp said.

"In spite of everything else that's going on in the world, tensions that had been created because of the crisis in Ukraine, we believe it's important to keep this line of communication open with Russia in order to make sure that the Arctic remains a place of stability, peace, cooperation and advancing many good projects," Papp noted.

Russia expands presence in the Arctic

Last March, President Vladimir Putin said that the armed forces’ training and development efforts should incorporate measures to increase the combat component of the Arctic group. The Defense Ministry has since made several steps along these lines.

The ministry was going to build 13 airdromes and 10 radars in the Arctic.

Russia announced it was recreating its military base on the Novosibirsk Islands in the Laptev Sea. An airfield was opened on Kotelny, the largest island of the archipelago. Another military airport, Rogachyovo, commissioned on the southern island of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, is capable of accommodating fighter jets.

The construction of the Tiksi airdrome in Yakutia’s northernmost locality, inside the Arctic circle, will be completed in 2015. Three airdromes - in the Alykel community (the Krasnoyarsk Territory), in Vorkuta (the Komi Republic), and in Anadyr, the administrative center of Chukotka, will be expanded.

The Russian Northern Fleet was detached from the Western Military District by December 1 to become the main striking force of the mooted Unified Strategic Command (USC) Sever (North).

Expanding Russia’s presence in the Arctic is one of the key tasks the country’s authorities. This 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 tons of equivalent fuel.

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