Medvedev: Arctic resources are key to Russia's future
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that developing the Arctic is crucial to Russia's future, demanding that Russia mark its Arctic territory so it can claim a large share of the region's mineral resources.
MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that developing the Arctic is crucial to Russia's future, demanding that Russia mark its Arctic territory so it can claim a large share of the region's mineral resources.
Russia is jockeying with the U.S., Canada, Norway and Denmark, all of which have territorial claims in the Arctic.
Russian explorers planted a flag on the Arctic seabed directly beneath the North Pole last year, symbolically staking a claim to an area that energy experts estimate may contain up to one-fourth of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.
The region "has a strategic significance for our country," Medvedev said Wednesday.
"Resolving long-term tasks of developing the state, and its competitiveness on the global market, is directly tied to its development."
Medvedev urged speedy passage of a law to determine Russia's southern Arctic zone and added that "marking of the external border of the continental shelf is a long-term goal."
Russia contends the underwater Lomonosov Ridge links Siberia to the Arctic seabed, evidence that may allow the country to extend its territory toward the North Pole.
The five countries bordering the Arctic pledged in May to honor international law and work to reduce tension as global warming opens the Northwest Passage, a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that is making developing the region's reserves more affordable.
Russia claims 18 percent of the Arctic region, which touches on 12,000 miles of the country's border, said Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council. "Our first and main task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century," Medvedev said in the Kremlin before a meeting of Russia's Security Council. "Using these resources will guarantee energy security for Russia as a whole."
The Russian energy company Gazprom, supplier of a quarter of Europe's natural gas, is counting on remote Arctic and offshore locations to provide half of its natural-gas production by 2020 as output at mature Siberian fields plummets. State-run Gazprom's Shtokman project in the Arctic Ocean has enough gas to meet global demand for more than a year.
Until recently, Arctic oil, gas and minerals had been considered too difficult to recover. The dispute over who controls what has become more heated with growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and resource-development possibilities.
Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev said after Wednesday's meeting that Russia realizes other Arctic nations may oppose its expanding influence.
"We must defend our interests, but we understand that Arctic states such as Canada, Norway, Denmark and the United States will be defending their interests," Patrushev said.
Under international law, the five Arctic Circle countries — the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia — each now have a 200-mile economic zone in the Arctic Ocean.
Russia last year sent two mini-submarines to take soil core samples as well as plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole. Russian officials said preliminary results on the samples show that the 1,240-mile Lomonosov Ridge under the Arctic is part of Russia's continental shelf.
Other nations have made rival claims — and more geological tests are planned by Russia and others.
Russia said earlier it would submit documentary evidence to the United Nations of the external boundaries of the Russian Federation's territorial shelf in 2009.
Medvedev also said modernizing the transport infrastructure in the north was a priority for Russia.
Compiled from Bloomberg News, The Associated Press and Ria Novosti
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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