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The Arctic’s strategic value for Russia


In this Aug. 24, 2009 picture provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice ahead of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent in the Arctic Ocean. The two ships are taking part in a multi-year, multi-agency Arctic survey that will help define the Arctic continental shelf. Photo: AP; Courtesy-thehindu.com.

In this Aug. 24, 2009 picture provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice ahead of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent in the Arctic Ocean. The two ships are taking part in a multi-year, multi-agency Arctic survey that will help define the Arctic continental shelf. Photo: AP; Courtesy-thehindu.com.

NATO, for the first time, officially claimed a role in the Arctic, when Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told member-states to sort out their differences within the alliance so that it could move on to set up “military activity in the region.”

“Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance,” he said at a NATO seminar in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January 2009.

Can the West see beyond oil in the next 50 years. Not unless, they are led by their nose. (Cartoonist-Matt Wuerker; Date-25-6-2008; Courtesy-cartonistgroup.com; Copyright-Matt Wuerker).

Can the West see beyond oil in the next 50 years. Not unless, they are led by their nose. (Cartoonist-Matt Wuerker; Date-25-6-2008; Courtesy-cartonistgroup.com; Copyright-Matt Wuerker). Click for larger image.

Since then, NATO has held several major war games focussing on the Arctic region. In March this year, 14,000 NATO troops took part in the “Cold Response 2010” military exercise held in Norway under a patently provocative legend: the alliance came to the defence of a fictitious small democratic state, Midland, whose oilfield is claimed by a big undemocratic state, Nordland. In August, Canada hosted its largest yet drill in the Arctic, Operation Nanook 2010, in which the U.S. and Denmark took part for the first time.

Russia registered its firm opposition to the NATO foray, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying the region would be best without NATO. “Russia is keeping a close eye on this activity,” he said in September. “The Arctic can manage fine without NATO.” The western media portrayed the NATO build-up in the region as a reaction to Russia’s “aggressive” assertiveness, citing the resumption of Arctic Ocean patrols by Russian warships and long-range bombers and the planting of a Russian flag in the North Pole seabed three years ago.

It is conveniently forgotten that the U.S. Navy and Air Force have not stopped Arctic patrolling for a single day since the end of the Cold War. Russia, on the other hand, drastically scaled back its presence in the region after the break-up of the Soviet Union. It cut most of its Northern Fleet warships, dismantled air defences along its Arctic coast and saw its other military infrastructure in the region fall into decay.

(Cartoonist-Chip Bok; Date-23-6-2008; Courtesy-cartonistgroup.com; Image subject to copyright). Click for larger image.

(Cartoonist-Chip Bok; Date-23-6-2008; Courtesy-cartonistgroup.com; Image subject to copyright). Click for larger image.

The Arctic has enormous strategic value for Russia. Its nuclear submarine fleet is based in the Kola Peninsula. Russia’s land territory beyond the Arctic Circle is almost the size of India — 3.1 million sq km. It accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s natural gas production, 60 per cent of oil, and the bulk of rare and precious metals. By 2030, Russia’s Arctic shelf, which measures 4 million sq km, is expected to yield 30 million tonnes of oil and 130 billion cubic metres of gas. If Russia’s claim for a 350-mile EEZ is granted, it will add another 1.2 million sq km to its possessions.

A strategy paper Mr. Medvedev signed in 2008 said the polar region would become Russia’s “main strategic resource base” by 2020. Russia has devised a multivector strategy to achieve this goal. First, it works to restore its military capability in the region to ward off potential threats. Russia is building a new class of nuclear submarines, Borei (Northern Wind) that will be armed with a new long-range missile, Bulava. Navy Chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said recently he had also drawn up a plan to deploy warships in Russia’s Arctic ports to protect polar sea routes. (via The Arctic’s strategic value for Russia By Vladimir Radyuhin.)

Thin ice …

Some sixteen months ago, 2ndlook speculated that West’s redemption may come from oil – from the Arctic. With receding Arctic ice-caps, the West may find itself sitting on large oil reserves. Production from these discoveries may take 10-25 years – climate permitting.

West on the drip - needs Arctic oil. (Cartoon title- Arctic Oil; Cartoon By - Monte Wolverton, Copyright-Monte Wolverton; Date - 3/20/2005 12.00.00 AM). Click for larger image.

West on the drip - needs Arctic oil. (Cartoon title- Arctic Oil; Cartoon By - Monte Wolverton, Copyright-Monte Wolverton; Date - 3/20/2005 12.00.00 AM). Click for larger image.

A big if.

Climate change, I don’t believe in. How long will these weather patterns persist? The West is skating on thin ice – but then what can they do. Slavery is not an option – not for another 50-100 years at least. Dig mother earth, is the second and only option they have believed in.

For the last 3000 years at least.

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  1. ramkumaran
    November 9, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    One thinking haunts the mind, what if the west revise their strategy and plan to recolonise other nations. are these colonised nations like india, which mainly imports arms really prepared to face the western military (combined forces)

  2. November 10, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Rich nations, with ageing populations and pretensions of civilization are bad candidates for the looter-conqueror model. It takes a young, barbaric, poor, desperate society (like the Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Europe etc.) to ‘achieve’ this.

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