On the heels of Sweden's military deployment (following the discovery of a damaged Russian sub), it appears Russia is taking no chances with its access to Arctic resources.As Reuters reports, the Russian defense minister announced today that Russian military units will be deployed along the entire Arctic border from Murmansk to Chukotka in 2014.
Interfax adds that combat robots are also being deployed to protect Russian oil and gas infrastructure in the harsh environment of the Arctic. This should be no surprise as The Guardian notes, the Arctic’s hydrocarbon resources nevertheless exert a powerful pull. It has been compared to "a second Middle East", with oil and gas reserves thought to represent 17% and 30%, respectively, of the global total.
This of course, is nothing new...
On 11 October, in an attempt to forestall such criticism, the Russian defence ministry announced plans to build “a regional environmental centre [...] to prevent pollution in areas where Russian forces are deployed”. Russian troops systematically receive “training and briefings on environmental safety and compliance with legislation”, deputy minister Dmitry Bulgakov added. But it will take more than this to reassure the western powers.
But is a major escalation along such a massive border...
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And finally, Interfax reports, Combat robots to protect Russian oil and gas infrastructure in Arctic
Undersea combat robots will be protecting Russian oilrigs and transportation networks in the Arctic region at some point, Deputy General Director of the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, Chairman of the Foundation's Scientific and Technological Board Vitaly Davydov told Interfax-AVN.
"The Foundation is not designing robotic sharks but it is working on undersea robots and autonomous gadgets capable of protecting infrastructure, controlling the waters and detecting, tracking and, if necessary, destroying a potential enemy. The prospective machinery may be deployed on the sea bottom and specialized submersibles," he said.
So far, the Foundation is focused not so much on defense issues as on mineral development projects, Davydov said.
"The rivalry in this region will be centered on its natural resources. A key task to be solved in the Arctic is access to mineral resources, first and foremost, hydrocarbons. This goal can be achieved through the completion of numerous tasks in the discovery, production and transportation of resources, sub-glacial operations and infrastructural security. This is the target of the Foundation's research programs," he said.
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As The Guardian concludes, The Arctic, which is governed by international maritime law, is also the focus of other disputes. Canada regularly carries out military exercises in its Arctic territory. Relations between Ottawa and Moscow have cooled significantly since the start of the Ukraine crisis.