Russia to boost Arctic troops to defend resources
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia plans to boost its military presence in the Arctic to ensure security in the vast mineral-rich region, the Kremlin said in a strategy document published this week.
Russia, whose economy depends on exports of oil, gas and metals, has previously staked its claim to part of the Arctic shelf which experts say has huge mineral reserves.
The document said Moscow would create new troop formations in the Arctic zone "capable of ensuring military security in different military and political situations."
It did not specify the number of troops to be deployed.
The paper, outlining Russian Arctic policy until 2020, was signed by President Dmitry Medvedev on September 18 last year but published only this week by the country's Security Council.
"Russia's state policy in the Arctic in the medium term perspective is to preserve her role as a leading Arctic power," said the document, posted on the Security Council's website www.scrf.gov.ru.
Russia, the world's biggest country, is in a race with NATO members Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States to control reserves of oil, gas and precious metals that could become more accessible if the Arctic ice cap shrinks because of climate change.
Russia says a swath of the Arctic seabed should belong to it because it is really an extension of the Siberian continental shelf. Moscow has filed a claim to the United Nation's body dealing with such issues.
The Security Council issued a separate statement on Friday saying Russia did not plan to militarise the Arctic and Moscow wanted simply to make its borders more secure.
The strategy paper said Russia planned to boost border guard numbers "to bring them in line with the character of threats and challenges to the Russian Federation in the Arctic" and increase control of shipping routes in the region.
It gave no details of the type of threat and Security Council officials could not be reached for comment.
Russia has said it is nervous about what it says is the militarisation of the Arctic.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer asked in January whether the Western military alliance should increase its focus on the region.
Russian officials say the Arctic seabed has between 9 and 10 billion tonnes of fuel equivalent, about the same as Russia's total known current oil reserves.
The policy document said Russia wanted in the period 2016 to 2020 to ensure "the transformation of the Arctic zone into the main strategic resource base of the Russian Federation."
(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)
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