MOSCOW (CNN) – Global warming is also presenting new opportunities…and international rivalries.
As arctic ice melts, it’s making it easier to access more of its rich natural resources. Russia wants a bigger slice of that.
On state-controlled television, Russia is projecting its power into the Arctic. In recent months, the Kremlin has staged some of its biggest ever military exercises in the region, deploying a newly-created Arctic brigade, raising concerns this could be the next frigid flashpoint.
In its standoff with the West, few know the Kremlin’s ambitions better that Arthur Chillingarov, Russia’s top arctic explorer, and President Putin’s special advisor on arctic affairs. “It’s our home! The Arctic is Russia’s home. Lots of our regions are up there. We are the Arctic country. We’re in favor of international cooperation but, of course, we care about Russia’s security too.”
Security, and resources. Along with the other northern countries with Arctic territories, including the United States, Russia is acutely aware of the vast potential beneath the melting ice: up to a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, but also the lucrative new trade routes opening up as the polar ice cap recedes.
It was Chillingarov who led a Russian expedition to the Arctic seabed in 2007, to stake the country’s claim to a vast swathe of polar territory.
In recent weeks, Russia has re-submitted to the U.N. its claim of sovereignty. The issue has struck a nationalist chord among many Russians.
(Matthew Chance, CNN Reporter) “How far will Russia go to protect it’s interest, to protect it’s claim in the Arctic? We see increased militarization and some former soviet bases had been opened up; there have been big military maneuvers in the Arctic region. Is this a region where you see the potential for a conflict in the future?
(Arthur Chillingarov, Presidential advisor on Arctic affairs) “No, no, no. There shouldn’t be any conflicts in the Arctic. There’s a mutual understanding in the international community that is developing fast and I believe will develop even further.”
But protection of its Arctic interests is emerging as a major Kremlin theme, and one which could easily draw Russia and its Arctic neighbors into conflict.
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