Russia Will Protect Interests in Arctic: Official
Russia will defend its interests in the Arctic amid the race for the region’s energy riches, a Russian official said June 10, while dismissing the possibility of open conflict over the far north.
“We will protect our interests in the future, but I don’t see that it will lead to a conflict in the near future,” said Artur Chilingarov, the Kremlin’s representative for international cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic.
“We will build up our scientific, economic and research interest in the Arctic, but not our military,” he told reporters in Moscow.
Moscow raised the stakes this year in the diplomatic tug-of-war with the four other Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States – by declaring plans to station more troops in Russia’s northern regions by 2020.
Chilingarov, a celebrated polar explorer and lawmaker, himself spearheaded a highly-publicized expedition in 2007 to plant the Russian flag on the Arctic seabed in a not-too-subtle demonstration of Russia’s territorial ambitions.
Interest in the economic exploitation of the Arctic has increased in recent years as the melting of the polar icecap means easier access to oil reserves. The Arctic likely holds 30 percent of the world’s untapped gas and about 13 percent of its oil, a U.S. geological survey published last month in Science magazine said.
“Everyone has their own national interests. I’ll say again that Russia’s interests in the far north, in the Arctic Ocean, are tied to the region’s economic potential for Russia: gas, oil, gold, diamonds,” Chilingarov said.
“These are all in Russia’s economic interests and we will protect them.”
Moscow has lodged a claim with a United Nations commission on a huge swath of Arctic seabed, arguing that the underwater Lomonosov Ridge, a geological structure which stretches across much of the pole, is a continuation of its continental shelf.