8 August 2012by Lada Korotun, Moscow Times
MOSCOW--Russia is placing accents in the fight for the Arctic planning to set up naval bases and border guard services along the Northern Shipping Route. This was stated by secretary of Russia’s National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev at a conference in Krasnoyarsk.
Experts believe that this is a timely decision because the Arctic littoral states have been actively searching for not only economic but also political and military methods to secure footing at any cost in this region which is rich in natural resources.
Competition for Arctic influence, especially with the climate warming in these latitudes has lately escalated. At present, five Arctic littoral states, Russia, Denmark, Canada, Norway and the U.S. are competing to develop natural resources in the Arctic. The hydrocarbon deposits in the Arctic are estimated at one fourth of the world’s unexplored reserves. To hold the strategic position in the region, Russia needs adequate military strength to repulse any attempt to divide the Arctic resources militarily, vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Konstantin Sivkov said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
Now, a fight for oil and gas fields in the Arctic is actively unfolding. Another important aspect is the Arctic basin, especially the Northern Shipping Route which is the shortest marine communication that links Europe with the East. The significance of the route is growing at a time when the centre of economic development is shifting from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region. The route will become extremely important when the Arctic becomes ice-free owing to global warming. The country that will control the route can exert significant influence on cargo transport. In view of this, a tough fight is going on now,” Konstantin Sivkov said.
Notably, Russia is not the first country to announce the setting up of military bases in the Arctic. In the past years, all the littoral states have actively expanded their military presence in the Arctic, chairman of the Russian Defence Ministry’s public council Igor Korotchenko said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
“Practically, all countries that have access to the Arctic are strengthening their military potential. This concerns the U.S., Canada and several European countries. In short, an arms race in the Arctic has already started. In view of the fact that there are territorial disputes in the Arctic, military strength behind the Foreign Ministry will be the crucial factor that will help to achieve success in diplomatic negotiations. When we see such a tendency, we cannot refrain from strengthening our military potential, of course,” Igor Korotchenko said.
Early this year, Canada said it would build an Arctic base on the island of Cornwallis. Denmark is also preparing to strengthen its military presence in the Arctic. In 2009, it announced the formation of a special Arctic military command and a rapid reaction force. A year later, Norway shifted its military command staff to the Polar Circle, while the U.S. and Canada started conducting regular military drills in the Arctic. The reason here is that not only economic but also geopolitical interests of various countries are intercepted in this region. The Arctic is the shortest route between Russia and North America not only for naval vessels but also for strategic aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles, Konstantin Sivkov said.
“The possibility of deploying powerful anti-missile defence systems and nuclear-powered submarines with ballistic missiles will have a special significance for all global players. As far as I know, American submarines have been patrolling in the Arctic, especially in the Barents Sea since the 90s,” Konstantin Sivkov added.
Concerning the setting up of Russian military bases, they might be built on the island of Dikson in the Kara Sea and at the estuaries of the rivers of Yenisei and Lena. Meanwhile, the Russian army is forming Arctic brigades that can carry out combat activities in severe conditions.