Thursday, December 12, 2013

Russia Looks to the Arctic

Speigel Online reports:

Russia is planning an increased military presence in the Arctic, as several countries increasingly eye the region as a potential boon for natural resources.

Earlier this year, Russia completed renovation of an abandoned airfield on the New Siberian Islands, and sent 10 warships and four icebreakers to beef up security there. Putin also said Russia would revamp a number of other Arctic military bases that had fallen into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that he would create a special military force dedicated to protecting Russian interests in the Arctic. Putin said earlier this week that Russia needs a greater military presence in the region to counter potential threats from the United States.

... The comments came just one day after Canada announced plans to claim sovereignty over the North Pole. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the government has asked scientists to prepare a submission to the United Nations that would extend Canada's territory to the outer reaches of the country's continental shelf.
 The United States' ability to project naval power in the Arctic is limited, however, by the fact that the Navy has a dearth of icebreakers--up until last year the U.S. had only one functioning icebreaker, although the refurbishment of an older vessel--the Polar Star--was completed in December 2012. (See also this 2010 article from the New York Times on the issue). The Polar Star completed its sea trials this past summer.

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