MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will create by 2020 a group of forces to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic, but does not plan to militarize the region, a spokesman for the Russian Security Council said on Friday.
He said the council had recently posted on its website a document, "The fundamentals of Russian state policy in the Arctic up to 2020 and beyond," which outlines the country's strategy in the region, including the deployment of military, border and coastal guard units "to guarantee Russia's military security in diverse military and political circumstances."
"However, it does not mean that we are planning to militarize the Arctic. We are focusing on the creation of an effective system of coastal security, the development of arctic border infrastructure, and the presence of military units of an adequate strength," the official said.
According to some sources, the Arctic Group of Forces will be part of the Russian Federal Security Service, whose former chief and current secretary of the Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, is a strong proponent of an "aggressive" state policy in the Arctic.
Another goal of the new strategy is to "optimize the system of the comprehensive monitoring of the situation in the Arctic," including border control at checkpoints in Russia's arctic regions, coastal waters and airspace, the spokesman said.
The strategy envisions increased cooperation with neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism, drug-trafficking, illegal immigration and environmental protection.
The document also prioritizes the delineation of the Arctic shelf "with respect to Russia's national interests."
High Arctic territories, seen as key to huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of mounting disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark in recent years as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice.
President Dmitry Medvedev said in September at a Russian Security Council session that the extent of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic should be defined as soon as possible.
Medvedev also said the Arctic shelf is a guarantee of Russia's energy security and that the Arctic should become the resource base for Russia this century, adding that "about 20% of Russia's GDP and 22% of Russian exports are produced" in the area.
Russia has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in the summer of 2007 - to support its territorial claims in the region. Moscow pledged to submit documentary evidence to the UN on the external boundaries of Russia's territorial shelf by 2010.
A Russian proposal on creating security structures in the Arctic region will be discussed at a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in April.
The Arctic Council was established in 1996 to protect the unique nature of the Arctic region. The intergovernmental forum comprises Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.