Putin orders military to boost Arctic presence
December 11, 2013 - 8:30:04 am
MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military yesterday to step up its presence in the Arctic after Canada signalled it planned to claim the North Pole and surrounding waters.
The tough and rapid response to Canada’s announcement reflected Russia’s desire to protect its oil and natural gas interests in the pristine but energy-rich region amid competing claims there by countries that also include Norway and Denmark.
Putin told an expanded defence ministry meeting that Russia’s national interests and security lay in a bolstered Arctic presence after a brief post-Soviet retreat.
“I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic,” the Kremlin chief said in televised remarks.
Canada last week filed a claim with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf concerning the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean.
Foreign Minister John Baird said the submission included Canada’s stake on the North Pole.
Russia has an overlapping claim to both the North Pole as well as large swathes of the Arctic that the US Geological Survey thinks could hold 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and up to 30 percent of its hidden natural gas reserves.
A government-sponsored diving team in 2007 planted a Russian flag under the North Pole, and the Kremlin has long mulled plans to deploy a large military presence in the region.
Putin told Tuesday’s defence ministry meeting that “next year, we have to complete the formation of new large units and military divisions” in the Arctic that remain on constant combat alert.
The Kremlin chief added that Russia must possess “all the levers necessary for protecting its security and national interests” in the area.