zloy_odessit (zloy_odessit) wrote,
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zloy_odessit

Following the Baltics comes the Arctic

By all possible means, Russia is strengthening its influence and presence in the global arena. Moscow is building up its military potential along with the development of infrastructure in the Arctic and the Pacific. Moreover, Russians have been using energy projects as leverage.

Since 2007, Russia has been trying to restore military presence in the Arctic region and gain full control over resources in the Arctic and the strategic Northern Sea Route connecting Asia and Europe, which takes about two weeks to pass. Already this year, Russia restored patrol missions by strategic long-range bombers.

Growing threats are soon to be expected in the so-called GIUK pass (from the Atlantic to the Arctic, the territory between Greenland, Iceland and the UK). A potential special operation by the Russian Arctic forces could lead to the blockade of the North Atlantic communication lines between North America and Europe, which, in fact, would block any strengthening of NATO forces on this sea route.

Over the past five years, Russia has opened or restored in the Arctic 14 air fields, created three fully autonomous bases (on Alexandra Land, the New Siberian Island in the Laptev Sea, and Rogachev settlement on Novaya Zemlya) and is actively conducting military exercises in the Arctic environment (involving the Arctic brigade and Northern Fleet).

Back in April this year, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced that by the end of the year the Northern Fleet would receive 368 units of the latest weapons and military equipment, and that 59% of Russia's modern arsenal would be amassed there.

With regard to Norway, Moscow questions the legal regime of waters around Svalbard, reinforcing its rhetoric with military activity, which could at any time lead to increased regional tension. Russia is accusing Norway of breaching Clause 9 of the Spitsbergen Treaty, which states that it cannot be used for any military purposes but self-defense. If Russia considers this clause to mean complete demilitarization of the archipelago, Norway sees no problems in patrolling it for own security considerations. Russia actively opposed the joint deployment on Spitsbergen of radars and satellite stations. The incidents are not limited to what's been mentioned. Also, there was a situation with fishing boats in the banned fishing zone and the story of Russian military drills involving landing on Svalbard.

The Norwegian government recently referred to the "electronic harassment" of their information systems and communication networks by the Russian government.

At the same time, Finland also protested Russia against the alleged jamming of military and civilian communications systems by the Russian military near the northern border with Russia.

Russian authorities are working to restrict passage of foreign warships to the Arctic Ocean. And this year, they developed the navigation rules for foreign warships passing along the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Now, foreign military vessels must inform Russia of their plans 45 days prior to the passing and are obliged to take Russian military servicemen on board. At the same time, passage may be denied, and in case of unauthorized passage through the NSR, Russia is entitled to apply emergency measures, including seizure or destruction of ships. If ice conditions worsen, the new rules say it's only Russian icebreakers that will be authorized to service foreign ships.

And that's despite the fact that Russia (then the USSR) had in 1982 ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, thus renouncing significant territorial claims. Based on the Convention, Russia is allowed to explore and develop resources only within its exclusive economic zone, which should not exceed 200 nautical miles, thereby abandoning the industry principle.

Russia supports economic cooperation in its Arctic zone only by ensuring its hegemony. However, the key to the successful implementation of Arctic projects in the field of natural resources and the sea route will be mainly based on financing of economic projects on natural resources and maritime activity.

The Arctic is known for its huge hydrocarbon reserves and biological resources, being extremely important for Russia along with the NSR. The Kremlin is considering authorizing transmission of hydrocarbons via NSR only by Russian vessels.

According to various estimates, Arctic reserves amount to some 83 billion barrels of oil and 100 billion tonnes of natural gas. And this may serve to help Russia entangle Europe through energy dependence of Western powers on oil and gas. Russia unilaterally established the legal regime of inland waters for the Northern Sea Route, arguing that it is of "historical significance" to the state. In this region, their efforts so far prevail over the moves by opponents from Norway, Denmark, Canada, and the United States.

Today, the Russian government sees the Arctic as a transit corridor, a raw material base, and a geographical bridgehead for penetrating the North Atlantic, Asia-Pacific, and Baltic-Black Sea regions, where the key instrument is integrating civilian infrastructure of energy projects for own military needs.

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