Russia to up military presence in Arctic, wants EU to stay out
Sep 20, 2011, 8:56 GMT
Moscow - Russia will increase its military presence in the Arctic - a region NATO should stay out of, a senior Kremlin official said Tuesday.
'Our northern border used to be closed because of ice and a severe climate,' said Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
'But the ice is going away we cannot leave 20,000 kilometres unwatched. We can't leave ourselves in a position where we are undefended,' Vasilev said, in an interview with the Interfax news agency.
Global warming and demand for new energy sources make necessary new and clearer international agreements on the division of Arctic region's resources and usage he said.
Only Arctic Council nations - and not outside agencies like NATO or the European Union - should set the groundwork, he said.
'The Arctic should be for the use of all ... but should be up to those of us who live there to establish the rules of the game,' he said.
The Arctic Council is a inter-governmental forum including Canada, Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US.
The Kremlin in 2007 asserted a claim to Arctic Ocean mineral exploitation limits extending almost to the North Pole. If approved by the United Nations, Russia would gain exclusive undersea drilling rights to an area roughly the size of the United Kingdom.
The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is studying the Russian claim, and counter-claims by non-Arctic nations saying national borders should only extend 200 miles into the Arctic Sea, and that sea bottom northwards should be international waters.
'We are hoping for an early resolution of this,' Vasiliev said. 'We (the world) need these issues settled.'
Russia's government led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called developement of the Arctic, particularly its off-shore oil and gas fields, a top national priority. The region is thought to contain more energy resources than Saudi Arabia.
Putin on August 30 presided over the signing of a deal between the Russian state-owned company Rosneft and the international energy giant Exxon on a half-trillion dollar Arctic Ocean oil and gas project.
The Russian Prime Minister was scheduled on Tuesday afternoon to speak at an international forum on Arctic territorial issues in Arkhangelsk, a Russian Arctic Sea port.
Russian army officials in July announced plans to field two brigades of marine infantry to the Arctic, which would become the largest ground force deployed to the region by any nation.
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