BBC News – 2011-07-02 00:51:18
Russia Plans Arctic Army Brigades
BBC World News
MOSCOW (July 1, 2011) — Russia’s defence minister has said he plans to create two specialist army brigades to be based in the Arctic. The announcement comes days after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia would strongly defend its interests in the region. The brigades could be based in Murmansk, Arkhangelsk or other areas, Russian news agencies reported.
Anatoly Serdyukov said Russia had studied the specialist Arctic troops in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The BBC’s Daniel Sandford, in Moscow, said Russia’s plans to increase the number of troops stationed in the Arctic still seem to be at an early stage though earlier announcements had mentioned only one brigade.
“The General Staff is currently working on plans to create two such units,” Mr Serdyukov was quoted as telling media by state news agency Itar-Tass. He said his ministry was still in the process of working out specifics, such as troops numbers, weapons and bases, but a brigade includes a few thousand soldiers.
Just this week, Mr Putin said that Russia would “expand its presence in the Arctic” and “strongly and persistently” defend its interests. At the same time, he promised to look after the region’s vulnerable ecology. It is believed that there are substantial unexploited reserves of gas and oil under the Arctic Ocean.
Russia Outlines Arctic Force Plan
Russia has announced plans to set up a military force to protect its interests in the Arctic.
MOSCOW (March 27, 2009) — In a document published on its national security council’s website, Moscow says it expects the Arctic to become its main resource base by 2020. While the strategy is thought to have been approved in September, it has only now been made public. Moscow’s ambitions are likely to cause concern among other countries with claims to the Arctic.
The document foresees the Arctic becoming Russia’s main source of oil and gas within the next decade. In order to protect its assets, Moscow says one of its main goals will be the establishment of troops “capable of ensuring military security” in the region.
With climate change opening up the possibility of making drilling viable in previously inaccessible areas, the Arctic has gained in strategic importance for Russia, says the BBC’s James Rodgers in Moscow. However, Russia’s arctic ambitions have already put those with competing claims on the defensive.
In 2007, a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole. Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, all of whom have an Arctic coastline, dispute the sovereignty over parts of the region.
With an estimated 90 billion untapped barrels of oil, Russia’s strategy is likely to be scrutinised carefully by its neighbours in the far north.
Moscow Diary: The Icy Frontier
James Rodgers / BBC News
LONDON (April 21, 2008) — Russia rattled its rivals. Moscow stole a march on its competitors in staking a claim to the mineral riches of the Arctic.
Russia rarely takes the easy way. They did not just say, “We think we might have a reasonable claim”. Their expedition last August, led by explorer Artur Chilingarov, planted a Russian tri-colour flag on the seabed at the North Pole. The feat led other nations whose territory approaches the ice cap to remind Russia that it wasn’t as simple as all that.
Ever since then, there have been rumblings that this could be the issue that will lead Russia and its former foes back into full-on confrontation. The fact that it is focused on the Arctic has led to endless speculative headlines punning on the phrase “Cold War”.
Some of the members of the expedition that dived to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean were keener to talk about the technical and scientific achievement it represented. Pretty much everyone else, in Russia and elsewhere, either celebrated or condemned what they saw as the acts of pioneers or pirates, depending on their point of view.
Russia’s claim to the North Pole cannot be decided on the basis of the flag-planting alone, but the adventurous act was totally in keeping with the way the country has always been ready to challenge the Arctic.
According to Sergei Pryamikov, an expert at Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, “Canada and Denmark are just as active as us in pursuing their Arctic claims — they just don’t do it with as much fanfare”.
Speaking to the BBC this week, he said all five countries bordering on the Arctic were seeking to stake out territory there — legally. “They are all worried about securing energy resources — but there are no conflicting claims to specific seabed resources, so I doubt very much that a war could break out,” he said.
Russia was one of the first to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, he noted, and as there is a 10-year time limit for making a claim, “we have to present our case ahead of the others”. Russia is preparing a fresh submission of Arctic data to the UN, in support of its claim.
On a recent visit to St Petersburg, with my head full of headlines about a new space race/Cold War/land grab, I decided to go to the Russian State Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic. The museum’s facade was being restored — in itself perhaps a reflection of the fact that the oil wealth which has funded a new era of exploration is also helping to fill the coffers of cultural institutions.
The building itself, like so many in St Petersburg, tells the history of the city as well as any lecture. It was built in the 19th Century and used as a church until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Along with many of St Petersburg’s artistic treasures, the museum was moved to Siberia as Hitler’s forces prepared to besiege the city.
Perhaps because it was a Soviet-era creation, the museum celebrates that epoch most of all. The forging of a new way of life, combined with the constant improvement of 20th-Century technology, seemed to inspire explorers as never before.
There are exhibits celebrating bold trans-Arctic flights. There’s the tale of the Chelyushkin, a ship crushed in the polar ice. Those on board survived for 60 days on drift ice, during the Arctic winter. The pilots who finally rescued them were awarded communist Russia’s greatest honor, “Hero of the Soviet Union”.
Then there was the story of a certain L. Rogozov. Struck by appendicitis a hopeless distance from anything like a hospital, he operated on himself. There was a picture of him sitting up in bed, carrying out the surgery by looking in a mirror placed somewhere around the top of his thighs. The phrases “hard man” or “tough guy” simply seem inadequate.
I got chatting to one of the museum staff, who was keen to practice his English. He gave me a brochure that had been produced in the mid-1990s. It told a familiar story: an impoverished ex-Soviet institution offering its expertise to foreign partners in return for funds.
The man I was talking to apologized that the brochure was out of date. It certainly was. Russia today doesn’t want, or need, any help to go exploring.
Look at the globe from above the geographical North Pole, and you will understand how the Arctic Ocean remains crucial in the eyes of the Russians to their security. Not for nothing were their SSBNs based on the shores adjoining these waters. The Northern Fleet still remains the most important Naval Force for their protection. Remember that Alaska used to be part of Russia, and you will understand the Russian mindset in this important area.
Alasdair Campbell, Bath, UK
If Russia decides the pole is theirs, and moves in forces to protect the claim, is Denmark or Canada or even the USA really going to stop them? It’s a bit like the Iraq war, the Russians, French and the Chinese were opposed but not willing to take the argument to the battlefield.
Christian Oster, Sydney, Australia
All that we have now is our big oil resources. What unexpected news! Do people not become bored of this permanent mention of Russia’s high oil prices? Even with the price at USD 25 for a barrel we’d have the same national budget due to consumer market growth.
Tolissimus, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
I think the North Pole should become a protected natural resource and no nation should be able to take land as their own, when the only purpose is to make money and destroy the pole from the inside.
Jesse, Fernie, Canada
So-called claims made on parts of geographic poles are but an extension of the senseless destruction of environmental resources continuing further inland in most countries of the world. The sooner humans encroach upon the little-damaged poles, the faster will they make the rate of debilitation, which won’t be restricted to ‘environmental contents’.
Paritosh Kimothi, Dehradun, India
A good, concise homage to Russian explorers and to the Russians in general. What they have achieved is very much to their credit. Lucky they chose to be explorers and not merely capitalists. It is very strange to me that we should feel threatened by the undersea Russian flag. It seems to me that we do not want the Russians to do what we would be eager to do ourselves. We are such a shameful lot.
Raymond Sammut, Canberra, Australia
The stupendous greed of all nations is very harmful for life on earth. There are enough resources to go around, but some people hang onto them because that makes them more valuable. And then there is the distribution problem. I tell you, in 1000 years, our times will be described as the Dark Ages.
Talleyrand, Basel, Switzerland
(c) BBC 2011
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