MOSCOW, Russia- President Vladimir Putin Tuesday vowed to expand Russian military presence in the Arctic region, a day after Canada expressed its intent to claim the North Pole as its own.
Putin was speaking at a meeting with the top military brass and said beefing up the Arctic forces is among the top priorities for the Russian military.
“I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic,” he said in televised remarks.
He said that Russia was “intensifying the development of that promising region” and needs to have “every lever for the protection of its security and national interests there”.
Wire news service AFP said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that his directives would be strictly followed and implemented on time.
“In 2014, we intend to create military units and forces for ensuring the military security and protecting the national interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic,” Shoigu said.
Russian Defence Minister said the armed forces would also work to expand their presence elsewhere.
He said that the Russian navy will continue to maintain its permanent presence in the Mediterranean, which was restored this year for the first time since Cold War times.
Until recently, the Russian navy only made sporadic visits to the area, but it now has a rotating squadron of ships in the Mediterranean.
The Russian aggressive posturing over the resource-rich Arctic comes after Canada said it was planning to make a claim to the North Pole.
Foreign Minister John Baird Monday said the government had asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations arguing that the outer limits of the country’s continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.
Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.
“We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada’s far north.”
Besides Russia and Canada, the US, Denmark and Norway have also been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic that is home to about a quarter of Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.
The US Geological Survey says the region contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil. If Canada’s claim is accepted by the UN commission it would dramatically grow its share.
In 2007, Russia staked a symbolic claim to the Arctic seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a small submarine at the North Pole.