Monday, March 30, 2009

Russia plans elite army unit in race for Arctic resources

Daily Mail (UK): The race to militarise the Arctic began in earnest yesterday as Russia announced that it will deploy a dedicated military force to protect its interests in the oil and gas-rich polar region. The operation to gain control of vast mineral resources under the ice cap is being put in the direct control of Moscow's intelligence services - the former KGB.

Its Arctic strategy document said the creation of a group of forces there must 'ensure military security under various military-political circumstances'. Russia is vying with the U.S, Canada, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland), which also have territory touching Arctic waters, for the area's oil and gas reserves.

It is building six new nuclear submarines, which will be armed with improved nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported yesterday. They will be 'capable of ensuring military security,' in the region, according to the report.

The dispute between the five countries has got increasingly heated as it became apparent that as global warming melted the polar icecaps, natural resources buried beneath the surface would be much easier to access. Under current international law the five countries are allowed a 200 mile economic zone north of their shores.

...Moscow [lodged] a claim in 2001 to 463,000 square miles of the Arctic ocean – an area the size of western Europe - with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It spent nearly £20billion in a bid to prove the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater shelf that runs through the Arctic, is really an extension of its territory....

Depth profile through the Arctic Ocean. Gakkel Ridge is an active spreading zone with a central valley in the middle; Russia claims that the Lomonosov Ridge is supposed is a remnant of the Siberian Shelf. Image by Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License

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