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Russia plans to deploy troops in the Arctic: document
MOSCOW, March 27 (AFP) Mar 27, 2009
Russia plans to turn the Arctic into its "leading strategic resource base" by 2020 and station troops there, documents showed Friday, as nations race to stake a claim to the oil-rich region.

The country's strategy for the Arctic through 2020 -- adopted last year and now published on the national security council website -- says one of Russia's main goals for the region is to put troops in its Arctic zone "capable of ensuring military security."

The strategy also calls for the "creation of (an) actively functioning system of the Federal Security Service coastal guard," in a sign that the KGB's successor agency seeks to tighten its control of the region.

Following the publication of the strategy, the Security Council quickly moved to allay possible concerns that Russia was seeking to flex muscles in the region.

"The issue of the Arctic's militarization is not on the agenda," a spokesman said in written comments to AFP on Friday.

"The Arctic region is becoming a most important arena for Russia's relations with foreign partners in the area of international and military security."

According to the strategy, the Arctic should become Russia's "leading strategic resource base" between 2016 and 2020.

To that end, the country should finalize the borders of the Russian Arctic and ensure "Russia's competitive advantages in exploration and transportation of energy resources" are realised between 2011 and 2015, the document said.

Scientists say that global warming is opening up Arctic resources for exploration, prompting nations with Arctic coastlines to stake a claim to the resource-rich region.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Stoere this week that the scenario of NATO war games dubbed the "Cold Response" in Norway had raised eyebrows in Moscow.

"We are surprised that the games that are currently being conducted in the Norwegian waters are dedicated to the scenario of the aggravation of a conflict regarding access to resources," he said.

Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said Friday the Western military bloc should refrain from making inroads in the region.

"NATO has nothing to do in the Arctic, the alliance is unable to melt the Arctic ice," he said in televised comments.

Five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean -- Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States -- dispute the sovereignty over parts of the region, which has been estimated to contain around 90 billion untapped barrels of oil.

Moscow in 2001 submitted a request to the UN to extend its territory to the Laminose Ridge, a mountain chain running underneath the Arctic.

Russian scientists in 2007 planted a flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole in a symbolic bid to stake the Kremlin's claim over the region.

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