Russia defines its slice of Arctic

The use of Arctic resources is central to Russia’s energy security said President Dmitry Medvedev speaking at the country’s Security Council meeting. Russia also wants its border in the Arctic continental shelf be legally established. The region contains

Medvedev said the country needs “a firm normative-legal base regulating Russia's activity in the Arctic”.

“First of all, the federal law on the southern border of Russia's Arctic zone should be completed and adopted,” he said.

Medvedev also said that Russia would next look to establish “the external frontier of the continental shelf.”

The Russian leader said about 20% of Russia's GDP and 22% of national exports were produced in the Arctic.

The main task, he said, “is to turn the Arctic into Russia's resource base of the 21st century,” adding that a number of problems, including the protection of Russia's national interests in the region, needed to be solved.

Most of the Arctic doesn't belong to any one country – and Russia is among five keen to claim their share.

Speaking after the meeting, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev said: “We must define the borders in the north of our country, where the Arctic lies. Our estimate is that it makes up 18% of our territory. And we are saying that 20,000 kilometres of the state border runs in this region.”

“But we are aware that the Arctic states – Canada, Norway, Denmark and the U.S. – will defend theirs,” he said.

The Russian government will work out a plan of the implementation of state policy in the Arctic by December 1, 2008.

According to the United Nations’ Law of the Sea, any state with an Arctic coastline that wishes to stake a claim to the region must lodge its submission with the UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which is what Russia intends to do.

The country's specialists want to prove that the Lomonosov ridge, a vast underwater mountain range that runs underneath the Arctic, is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.

Should they succeed it would be the icing on the Arctic cake. But whether Russia's claim cuts any ice with the UN is anybody's guess – as the other contenders will certainly not give up without a fight.

“The challenge for Russia is that its Arctic neighbours have long started to formulate their own Arctic strategy, while Russia needs a great deal of inter-ministry and inter-departmental coordination in order to come up with a solid strategy in terms of diplomacy, geology and economy. It's for this reason that the Security Council wants to set up some very specific goals and then an action plan,” said political analyst Mikhail Troitsky.