Russian Strategy in the Arctic


August 20, 2015

Marat Ramazanov

Translated for Fort Russ by the Soviet Bear

[PolitRussia is the first Russian analytical resource which accompanies its articles with short youtube version for a wider reach in social media]

Our country has consistently increased its influence in the Arctic int he recent times. The importance of this region is due to several factors. There are rich reserves of oil and gas on the continental shelf of the Arctic. It is important to control the region so our shores are safe from the navy of some country, very intrusive in terms of ‘democratic values’. Not to forget our other strategic project related to the Arctic region — the Northern Sea route.

Russia has a right to a significant portion of the Arctic. And this right is based on the results of scientific research expeditions. For example, in 2007, our scientists studying the soil near the North pole, proved that the Lomonosov ridge is a continuation of the Siberian continental platform.

In addition to coastal areas, islands and waters, which are most relevant to Russia, there are places in the far North where our country also plays a role, such as Svalbard [Spitsbergen archipelago]. 

Geographically, the islands belong to Norway, but, according to the “Treaty of 1920”, Russia has the right to carry out scientific research and commercial activities on the islands and in the adjacent territorial waters on equal terms with Norway. By the way, the second largest settlement on Svalbard — Barentsburg, is located in the Russian jurisdiction. There are the “Arktikugol” [meaning “Arctic Coal”] company, the Orthodox Church and, possibly, the northernmost statue of Lenin.

This year Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin visited Barentsburg, which caused great dissatisfaction on the part of the leadership of Norway. The Scandinavians have even decided to restrict access to the archipelago for persons who are on the sanctions list of the European Union. What does Norway has to do with the EU is unclear, but the unanimity of the Western States in their negative attitude towards Russia is not surprising. By the way, the Norwegian decision contradicts the above Spitsbergen treaty. Our foreign ministry expressed protest. If the Norwegians decide to send military units to the territory of Spitsbergen, which is part of our country, it would be the de facto breach of the treaty and, probably, Russia will react differently.


Military presence as a reliable argument

In order to be able to respond not only in vocal protest, we need to have some serious basis. For example, we should strengthen military capabilities in the Arctic, which is what Russia has recently been doing. The landing of paratroopers on ice has become a matter of habit. In 2015 paratroopers from Belarus and Tajikistan joined in the exercises in the harsh Northern conditions.

But we should not stop there. It is necessary to build new military ports. Yes, we need to upgrade the ones we already have. On the shores of the Arctic ocean we have ports (military and civilian) — Dixon, Pevek, Tiksi. They should be developed first of all.

It is important to constantly ensure that our country has the most advanced military equipment and weapons for use at extremely low temperatures. Fortunately, in recent times we have been doing fine in this regard. It would be nice for civil vehicles to be suitable for Arctic conditions too. Here, for example, UAZ “Patriot” was made suitable for use in the Arctic.

The importance of International law

Once our military superiority in the Arctic is ensured, we can proceed to the development of the region as a whole. The Federation Council has already prepared the concept of the law on development of the Arctic. To make other countries refrain from encroaching on the Russian Arctic, it is necessary to secure our right to it with international documents. In August this year, Russia has re-filed an application to the UN for the extension of the domain in the Arctic by the addition of the Lomonosov ridge and other areas of the shelf, which is a continuation of the mainland. Our first attempt to secure the Arctic areas for ourselves in international law was more than a dozen years ago. Then the bid also included the sea of Okhotsk. After the failure of our diplomats we decided to obtain the rights to these territories one by one. Let me remind you that the sea of Okhotsk was recognized exclusively Russian in 2014, Now is the turn of the Arctic.

Integrated control system of the Arctic

Speaking about the Arctic, it is worth mentioning the emerging integrated system of control of the region, which should appear before 2025. The system will include civil and military segments. Thanks to its operation, Russian military and civilian agencies will be always aware of developments in the Arctic region, and will be able to instantly react to any changes of interest or danger to our country.

Why is the control system being created so quickly? We have already answered this question: the Arctic is a region rich in hydrocarbons and of interest to many influential powers. Russia has to gain a foothold on the territory in the near future, because after 10 years the need for hydrocarbons in the world will grow. And only powerful military capabilities can discourage the “luminaries of democracy” to dictate terms in the Russian Arctic.

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