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RUSSIA-On July 2nd, 2011, Russiaâ€™s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has announced that their new submarine- launched intercontinental ballistic missile is ready for deployment. It was also announced that the Russian navy would step up arctic deployments in anticipation of the pack melting further. On land, Russia announced the deployment of two brigades, about 4,000 men, to be moved to either to Murmansk or to Archangelsk. These locations are not set however, and other locations are being considered.
The build-up can be traced back to the planting of a Russian flag under the Arctic ice pack in 2007. It was at this time that Russia declared its sovereignty of close to 750,000 square miles of underwater continental shelf. Also, in 2008, Medvedev signed a strategy paper and stated that the polar region would become Russia’s “main strategic resource base,” it was then that Russia began plans for restoring military capabilities to the North and pointed out that they would be deploying warships to protect polar sea routes. They announced the development of their new long range missile and new class of submarine during this time as well.
In response to those declarations, Norway moved its Operational Command headquarters from Stavanger in the south to Reitan in the north in 2009. Other Nordic countries have stepped up their military patrols in the Arctic as well. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and the US have held war game patrols in the Arctic for quite some time, with the completion of the largest ever last year. This year’s games are to be even bigger than those of last year.
At stake are the gas and oil reserves that are widely believed to be present under the ocean in the arctic region. It is estimated that roughly one quarter of all the oil and gas reserves of the entire world are in place beneath the ever shrinking ice.
Despite all of the military maneuvers from all the countries involved, and all of the rattling that goes with it, for the most part, relations in the Arctic are still very stable and should remain that way. There are promising signs that the countries involved will be able to settle their disputes through legal, peaceful means.
In May, the Arctic Council, which includes Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland, signed its first legally binding treaty to divide responsibilities for search-and-rescue activities in the Arctic. Even though there was no mention of the settling of territorial disputes, discussion no doubt will come and there presently is no threat of military conflict in the Arctic.