Tuesday, February 26 saw President Vladimir Putin signing the Executive Order on Improving Government Administration of the Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation. According to it, the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East is now assigned the additional functions of drafting state policy and carrying out legal regulation in the field of developing the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation.
The President has repeatedly stated that the wealth of Russia will grow with the expansion into the Arctic. According to Vladimir Putin, "resource development should go hand in hand with care for nature, meeting all the requirements on economic activity in this very sensitive region. We must always be mindful of the interests of the indigenous peoples of the North. If there are insurmountable contradictions with major national projects, compensation and substitution measures are needed. This is a crosscutting objective".
And the Arctic is a region with truly abundant resources, including huge amounts of potential energy sources, e.g. oil and gas, a point that is receiving a lot of attention nowadays. Thus, according to American experts, the Arctic ocean's undiscovered reserves contain 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 44 billion barrels of technically recoverable natural gas liquids, and 90 billion barrels of oil. This accounts for 30 percent, 20 percent and 13 percent of the world's undiscovered reserves of gas, gas liquids and oil respectively. In total, the Arctic is home to some 22 percent of undiscovered hydrocarbon deposits.
In this regard, it is no wonder that this region has grabbed the attention of all the adjacent countries, namely Russia, the USA, Canada, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). These five nations with Arctic claims have the final say in regulating the region's legal status. Also, the mentioned states have an unparalleled 370-kilometer wide coastal zone at their disposal. The last four of the above listed countries are NATO members. And it is the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance that have recently tried to escalate the situation in the region, expanding their military presence in the Arctic.
For one, the United States is anxiously preparing to militarize the Arctic ocean. As is argued by US politicians and the military, by 2030 they intend to establish themselves firmly in the region in a military, political and economic sense. Washington obviously intends to bite off a huge chunk of territory whose rightful owner is Russia: the US will unlikely encroach on, say, the territorial waters of its NATO allies Canada or Norway. America's purpose is unconditional supremacy in the resource-rich Arctic ocean.
The behavior of the United States in the region is quite consistent with its doctrine of global domination, including in the Arctic. Which is confirmed by a recent pronouncement of Admiral James Foggo, the commander of the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, who said that America will not tolerate Russian or Chinese domination in the Arctic. According to him, the Northern sea route is "nobody's lake", and all the Arctic Council countries should have equal access to the region.
Denmark and Norway are also intensifying activities and military presence in the Arctic. The number of nuclear submarines owned by NATO member states in northern Norway has almost tripled over the last decade. Last year alone, observers recorded 27 visits of NATO submarines to the ports of Norway. The United Kingdom does not lag behind its allies either. So, just a little while ago its Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, well-known for his anti-Russian position, said that the number of British troops in the Arctic will be significantly increased in the nearest future. There are no prizes for guessing that this only serves to protect NATO's northern flank from Russia.
At the same time, as repeatedly stated by President Vladimir Putin, Russia is not going to threaten anyone from the Arctic, but will at the same time stand up for itself in this region. "We won’t threaten anybody, but, using our advantages, of a territorial nature in this case, we will ensure the security of Russia and its citizens," the President said. And Russia have full facilities for this, as the Russian leader once again reminded during his February 20 address to the Federal Assembly. In particular, Vladimir Putin announced the development of new weapons, comprising the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the Sarmat superheavy thermonuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile, submarines armed with Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles, the Kinzhal nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile, the Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicle, and others.
It is entirely possible that some of these modern weapons will be used to protect our territory from threats coming from the Arctic. Especially given that, according to the recently disclosed new Pentagon strategy for a "stealthy invasion" deep into the territory of Russia announced by Chief of Staff of the US Air Force General David Goldfine, the Arctic is one of the alleged places to pursue this strategy.
But even despite these sinister plans of the United States, Russia primarily considers the region as a zone of exclusively peaceful uses, which includes in partnership with China, its strategic partner as regards the Belt and Road initiative. China is interested in cooperating with Russia to develop resources, the main reserves of which are concentrated in the northern latitudes. However, due to the Arctic's strategic importance for both countries, the agenda of bilateral relations is frequently shifting from separate investment projects to comprehensive cooperation in developing economic, transport, logistics corridors in adjacent Arctic territories.
This follows from a joint statement by the leaders of Russia and China following their negotiations held last summer. Strengthening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic in the interests of its sustainable development, including support for cooperation development between the two countries' interested departments, agencies and enterprises, particularly in such areas as scientific research, implementation of joint infrastructure, transport and energy projects, development and use of the Northern sea route potential, tourism and ecology, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping said in a statement.
It is apparent that Moscow and Beijing see the Arctic only as an area of peaceful cooperation and by no means an arms race.