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The Arctic would become Russia's main strategic resource base

"(...) A strategy paper Mr. Medvedev signed in 2008 said the polar region would become Russia's “main strategic resource base” by 2020. Russia has devised a multivector strategy to achieve this goal. First, it works to restore its military capability in the region to ward off potential threats. Russia is building a new class of nuclear submarines, Borei (Northern Wind) that will be armed with a new long-range missile, Bulava. Navy Chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said recently he had also drawn up a plan to deploy warships in Russia's Arctic ports to protect polar sea routes.

A second strategy is to try and resolve bilateral disputes with other Arctic nations. In September, Russia and Norway signed a border pact settling their 40-year feud over 175,000 sq.km in the Barents Sea and agreeing to jointly develop seabed oil and gas in the region. Even as Russia continues to gather geological proof of its territorial claims in the Arctic, it is ready for compromises. Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon did not rule out, after his recent talks in Moscow, that Canada and Russia could submit a joint application to the U.N. for the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain stretching from Siberia to Canada, which both countries claim as an extension of their continental shelves.

A third direction of Russia's policy is to promote broad international cooperation in the region. Addressing Russia's first international Arctic conference in Moscow in September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for joint efforts to protect the fragile ecosystem, attract foreign investment in the region's economy and promote clean environment-friendly technologies. He admitted that the interests of the Arctic countries “indeed clash,” but said all disputes could be resolved through international law.

Interestingly, Russia has recently sought to alert its neighbours to China's Arctic ambitions. The rising Asian giant is building large ice-breakers, sending warships in the Arctic Ocean and wants to play “an indispensable role” in the region, according to Chinese Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo. Commenting on China's growing presence in the Arctic, Admiral Vysotsky said last month that notwithstanding differences among countries in the region, “most problematic relations may emerge with nations that are not members of the Arctic Council. (...)"

Vladimir Radyuhin