“This year we intend to continue our work on reclaiming the temporarily forgotten sailing areas of the Arctic seas,” Andrey Korablev said at a roundtable on securing Russia’s national interests in the Arctic, RIA Novosti reports.
The Northern Fleet is planning expeditions to the islands of Franz Josef Land, Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island.
Russia has in the last couple of years increased its presence in the Arctic. In 2012, after a large-scale naval exercise which included more than 7000 people and some 20 vessels, personnel from the Northern Fleet conducted Russia’s first ever amphibious landingon the Arctic archipelago of the New Siberian Islands. In 2013 the Northern Fleet assisted the Russian Air Force in reestablishing the Temp airfield on the island of Kotelny.
“We will continue to study the Arctic Ocean. We will conduct a series of scientific and meteorological observations, study the navigation and hydrographic conditions, correct charts and sailing directions, survey the geodetic stations in the Arctic, as well as explore the areas of navigation for ships of non-ice class,” Korablev said.
The studies are to be carried out not only in the interests of the military, but also to ensure Russia’s maritime economic activities in the Arctic, as well as to preserve the Northern Sea Route as a national transport system.
“In addition, we plan to create military infrastructure on almost all the archipelagos and islands in the Arctic Ocean in order to create a unified system of monitoring the air, surface and underwater conditions,” Korablev said.
In February a source told ITAR-TASS that Russia plans to reorganize its military forces in the Arctic. The Northern Fleet will be the base of a new strategic formation – Northern Fleet-United Strategic Command - that will have as its main objective to defend Russia’s interests in the Arctic. The new strategic command is planned to be established already in 2014, but since the first information appeared in February, there has been no news in Russian media on this issue.
Russia is prepared to protect its interests in the Arctic with military means if necessary, says Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu, pointing to the increasing interest in the region’s resources by countries with no direct access to the Arctic.
This February the hotels of Rovaniemi, Lapland have been full to the brim with customers. Usually this many people stay in hotels in the northern city only during the Christmas season, but this year the tourist boom will continue into March at least.
Development of tourism is one of Russia’s prioritized areas to secure its presence on the archipelago of Svalbard. The state company Trust Arktikugol is now registered as a tour operator and could welcome its first guests to the Arctic wilderness.
The UK needs to up its game in the Arctic or risk being «outmaneuvered” by other states, and should start by appointing an ambassador to the region, according to a report by the House of Lords Arctic Committee.