MOSCOW — Russia plans to create a new military force to protect its interests in the disputed Arctic region, a Kremlin strategy paper says.
The document outlines Russia's policy for the Arctic, which is believed to contain as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. The paper was signed by President Dmitry Medvedev in September and released by presidential Security Council, but only reported by Russian media on Friday.
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic.
The dispute has intensified amid growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and allowing natural resources to be tapped.
The Kremlin paper says the Arctic must become Russia's "top strategic resource base" by the year 2020.
It calls for strengthening border guard forces in the region and updating their equipment, while creating a new group of military forces to "ensure military security under various military-political circumstances."
By 2011, it says, Russia must complete geological studies to prove its claim to Arctic resources and win international recognition of its Arctic borders. The paper has been posted on the Security Council's Web site.
Moscow first submitted its claim in 2001 to the United Nations, but was rejected for lack of evidence. Russia now hopes to prove that an underwater mountain range crossing the polar region is part of Russia's continental shelf.
In 2007 two Russian civilian mini-submarines descended to the Arctic seabed to collect geological and water samples and drop a titanium canister containing the Russian flag. More such missions have been planned, officials have said.
Polar scientist Artur Chilingarov, who took part in the 2007 submarine mission, praised the new strategy paper.
"The creation of Arctic forces reflects a normal desire to protect our territory," Chilingarov was quoted as saying by the business daily Kommersant.
Earlier this week, a deputy chief of staff of the Russian Navy also said submarines from Russia's Northern Fleet could be involved in efforts to claim and protect Arctic resources.
Russian diplomats have voiced concern in recent days about a military exercise in Norway.
"The increased NATO activities in the Arctic could erode constructive cooperation between littoral nations," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Thursday.
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