Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies

Russia has released plans to create a dedicated military force to patrol the Arctic, where it is laying claim to billions of tonnes of hydrocarbons.

Countries in the northern hemisphere are vying for control of the polar region, which is thought to contain up to a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. The presidential security council issued a strategy document which outlined Russia's plans for defending its vast swath of polar territory up until 2020.

A major component of the strategy was the creation of a group of general-purpose units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and other military units and agencies, primarily border guard agencies to ensure security.

The Kremlin has engaged in sporadic tub-thumping over its right to the Arctic's resources ever since two mini subs planted a titanium Russian tricolour on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007. President Dmitry Medvedev said in September that the region must become Russia's strategic resource base for the 21st century.

Moscow's bold assertion that it will militarise the region comes as Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) lobby UN bodies to decide jurisdiction over the region.


The five countries with an Arctic coastline have exploitation rights over a 200 mile zone extending north of their borders, but the Kremlin is claiming a much bigger territory on grounds that an underwater ridge running towards the North Pole is connected to Russia's continental shelf.

The "cold rush" for the Arctic's resources has intensified as global warming opens up new shipping routes and eases the difficulty of offshore exploitation and drilling.

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