MOSCOW – Russia has the right to increase its military activities in the Arctic because it is operating within its territory, said the Finnish ambassador to Russia, Mikko Hautala.
“As far as Russia’s military activities are concerned, we can see them. But Russia is acting within its own territory, and I believe that this should be discussed with discretion, but I think Russia has the right to do so. If the whole world is seeing the growing potential of this region, it is clear that Russia is increasing its presence there. I would not dramatize this beyond the account,” Hautala told reporters on Thursday.
Activities in the Arctic are governed by international law and are conducted by the Arctic States – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States – which make up the Arctic Council.
Russia has recently intensified its military, commercial and exploration activities in the Arctic, building transport and energy infrastructure and developing the North Sea Route as part of the Arctic North Passage, linking Europe and Asia.
However, the activities of Moscow have been criticized by some countries. In particular, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his concern on Saturday about increased military investment and investment by Russia and China in the region.
“The Pentagon warned just last week that China could use its civilian research presence in the Arctic to strengthen its military presence, including by deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks,” he told delegates at the conference in Rovaniemi, Finland.
“We need to examine these activities closely, and keep the experience of other nations in mind. China’s pattern of aggressive behavior elsewhere will inform how it treats the Arctic.”
Russia has also been boosting its presence, reopening military bases closed after the Cold War and modernizing its powerful Northern Fleet to safeguard its interests.
“In the Northern Sea Route, Moscow already illegally demands that other nations request permission to pass, requires Russian maritime pilots to be aboard foreign ships, and threatens to use military force to sink any that fail to comply,” Pompeo said.
“These provocative actions are part of a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented that Moscow has not threatened anyone with its activities in the region, noting that only the country has acted to ensure sufficient defense capacity .