Arctic/Antarctic

Russia Reveals Plans For Arctic Expansion

The Russian military has already revamped and modernised a string of Soviet-era military bases across the Arctic region.

Russia has revealed its programme for the Arctic as it looks to secure a foothold in the region, including efforts to build new ports and expand an icebreaker fleet.

At the International Arctic Forum in St Petersburg, which was attended by leaders from countries inside the Arctic circle, President Vladimir Putin said Russia plans to dramatically increase cargo shipments across the Arctic sea route.

He said the amount of cargo carried through the shipping lane is to increase by 60 million metric tons come 2025. 

He also said that Russia, the only nation with a nuclear icebreaker fleet, is planning to expand it.

President Putin said Russia plans to dramatically increase cargo shipments across the Arctic (Picture: PA).
Mr Putin said Russia plans to dramatically increase cargo shipments across the Arctic (Picture: PA).

Mr Putin said that, by 2035, Russia hopes to have a fleet of 13 heavy icebreakers, including nine nuclear-powered ones.

The Russian military has revamped and modernised a string of Soviet-era military bases across the polar region which is believed to hold up to one-quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.

The Arctic has been an area of concern for NATO with allied forces, including Britain, hoping to increase their arctic capability.

Exercise Trident Juncture, NATO's biggest exercise since the Cold War, took place in Norway last year, close to the border with Russia.

NATO troops on Exercise Trident Juncture in Norway last year.
NATO troops on Exercise Trident Juncture in Norway last year.

Russia saw the exercise as provocative, with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noting the exercise at the forum.

Mr Lavrov said that Russia's military deployments in the Arctic are only intended to protect national interests.

"We ensure the necessary defence capability in view of the military-political situation near our borders," he explained.

Britain's announcement to boost its military presence in the Arctic was labelled "unjustified" by Russia which said there was "no potential for conflict" in the region.

Russia's relationship with the West has plummeted to post-Cold War lows following the Ukranian crisis, the Syrian war and the Salisbury nerve agent attack among other issues. 

Speaking at the forum, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the Arctic is a region for "peace and stability" which "should not be taken for granted".