Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Russia outlines Arctic force plan

Greenland icebergs
Warmer temperatures are making access to the Arctic easier

Russia has announced plans to set up a military force to protect its interests in the Arctic.

In a document published on its national security council's website, Moscow says it expects the Arctic to become its main resource base by 2020.

While the strategy is thought to have been approved in September, it has only now been made public.

Moscow's ambitions are likely to cause concern among other countries with claims to the Arctic.

'Military security'

The document foresees the Arctic becoming Russia's main source of oil and gas within the next decade.

In order to protect its assets, Moscow says one of its main goals will be the establishment of troops "capable of ensuring military security" in the region.

With climate change opening up the possibility of making drilling viable in previously inaccessible areas, the Arctic has gained in strategic importance for Russia, says the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow.

Russian flag planted on Arctic seabed, 3 Aug 07
Russia's moment of Arctic triumph in 2007 was captured on film

However, Russia's arctic ambitions have already put those with competing claims on the defensive.

In 2007, a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole.

Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, all of whom have an Arctic coastline, dispute the sovereignty over parts of the region.

With an estimated 90 billion untapped barrels of oil, Russia's strategy is likely to be scrutinised carefully by its neighbours in the far north.

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