September 17, 2008
Russia’s long-term development and its competitiveness in global markets depends on developing Arctic resources, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday, demanding that Russia mark its Arctic territory so it can claim a large share of the region’s mineral resources.
Telling his Security Council that the Arctic is “strategically important,” Medvedev urged a 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.”
Russian oil firms have recently started posting declines in production as onshore oil and gas fields are getting depleted. The Arctic continental shelf, meanwhile, may contain up to one-fourth of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, according to estimates by energy experts.
“The use of these energy reserves is a safeguard for Russia’s energy security,” Medvedev said. “It is our duty to our descendants, we have to ensure the long-term national interests of Russia in the Arctic.”
Russia, the United States, Canada and other northern countries are trying to assert jurisdiction over the Arctic, whose oil, gas and minerals until recently have 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.
Already, some 20 percent of Russia’s GDP and 22 percent of its exports are produced in the Arctic.
Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that Russia realizes other Arctic nations may oppose its expanding influence in the region.
“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.
Moscow last year sent two mini-submarines to plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole and take soil core samples. Russian officials said preliminary results on the samples show that the 1,240-mile (2,000-kilometer) 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 both Russia and others.