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Arctic Security

DPA news agency (nda)September 17, 2008

President Dmitry Medvedev has called for Russia to secure its Arctic borders because the region may hold more than a quarter of the world's offshore oil and gas reserves.

President Dmitriy Medvedev
Medvedev is keen to secure Russia's access to Arctic resources should it need themImage: AP

"Our first and fundamental task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century," Medvedev said at a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday, Sept. 17. "Using these resources will entirely guarantee Russia's energy security."


Russia is involved in an international race with the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark to lay claim to suspected vast energy and mineral reserves that will open up in the wake of global warming.

"We must finalize and draft a law on setting the southern border of the Arctic region," Medvedev told the gathering. "This is our responsibility to future generations."

The secretary of Russia's Security Council, Nikolay Patruschev, estimated 18 percent of the Arctic was rightfully Russian territory.

Russia lays claim to undersea mountain range

A mini submarine places the Russian national flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole 03 August 2007.
Russia's undersea land grab angered many nationsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Moscow outraged the five polar border states last year with an expedition to plant the Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole. It has said Russian research since 2001 proves that a massive underwater mountain range is an extension of Russia's continental shelf.

Medvedev earlier this year signed a law providing for the Kremlin to have the sole say in assigning the rights to developing the Arctic's offshore finds.

Energy giant Gazprom, a large supplier of gas to Europe, followed up Medvedev's statements Wednesday with its own announcement of the creation of a subsidiary company to take charge of exploration of some of the world's most challenging deposits in the Arctic.

Gazprom estimates that Arctic and offshore reserves will count for more than half of the gas it produces by 2020.

Russia also relaunched Soviet-era military patrols of Arctic waters this year.

With the claim to resources heating up and no ban on weapons in the Arctic, the five states bordering the Arctic promised in May to settle overlapping claims under international law in a move to avert conflicts over the region's resources.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which has not yet been ratified by the United States, countries have until May 2009 to lodge their ownership claims.