Russia is increasingly interested in the resource-rich Arctic region, and it is ready to protect its economic investments with military might if necessary, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday. “The constant military presence in the Arctic and a possibility to protect the state’s interests by the military means are regarded as an integral part of the general policy to guarantee national security,” Shoigu said during a Ministry of Defense meeting, according to news site RT.
The Arctic is rich with oil and gas and offers lucrative trade routes. “It’s not a secret that the Arctic is turning into one of the world centers for producing hydrocarbons and is an important junction for transport communications,” Shoigu said, adding that countries with access to the region have been expanding their presence. “Some developed countries that don’t have direct access to the polar regions obstinately strive for the Arctic, taking certain political and military steps in that direction,” Shoigu said, although he did not name specific countries.
Russia revised its military doctrine in December 2014 to include the Arctic as one of the national interests to protect, mostly prompted by NATO’s expansion into Russia’s territories, according to Defense News. “To secure the safety of navigation on the Northern Sea Route and of the response to possible threats in the Arctic region, a force grouping has been increased at the Chukotski Peninsula,” Shoigu said. Russian bombers have been practicing maneuvers just outside of Norway’s Arctic air space, according to Newsweek. RT reported that submarines have also been practicing drills in the region.
According to existing international law, Arctic nations have the right to develop up to 200 nautical miles from their continental shelf. These nations include Russia, the United States, Denmark, Greenland, Norway and Canada. Norway had already indicated its interest in the region for oil and gas last November, according to German news Deutsche Welle, and Denmark had filed a claim with the United Nations for 895,000 square kilometers of Arctic seabed in January, according to RT, much to the displeasure of Canada, which considers that area its own.