Russia wants to strengthen its position in the Arctic both economically and militarily, according to a new Russian naval doctrine signed by Vladimir Putin on Sunday on the occasion of Russian Navy Day.
The Arctic is in the process of “transforming into a region of international competition, not only from an economic point of view, but also from a military point of view,” says this doctrine, described in a 55-page document signed with great fanfare. as part of the naval parade in St. Petersburg. Taking these factors into account, Russia will strengthen “its leading position in the exploration and conquest of the Arctic” and its mineral deposits and ensure its “strategic stability” in the region by strengthening the military potential of the Russian Northern and Pacific fleets, the document specifies.
In the Arctic, the country also wants to “fully develop the Northern Sea Route,” also known as the Northeast Passage, which connects Europe to Asia along the Russian coast, to turn it into a “safe” and competitive route that will operate year-round. round”, according to Dr. The document also condemns the United States’ desire to “dominate the world’s waters” and “the approach of NATO’s military infrastructure to Russia’s borders,” describing these phenomena as “main threats” to Russia.
Years of great tension in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
Recently, the tone between Russia and Norway has increased in the heart of the Arctic, in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, which is called “NATO’s Achilles heel in the Arctic”. Because of sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Norway blocked at the border in mid-June a shipment destined for Russian miners from Barentsburg, a small town on Svalbard whose coal mine is operated by a Russian company. This decision angered Moscow, which was the last to ask Oslo to resolve the issue “as soon as possible”, threatening “retaliatory measures”. The solution was found at the beginning of July.
The situation on Svalbard is complicated. Located a thousand kilometers from the North Pole, Svalbard is governed by a treaty concluded in 1920 in Paris. It recognizes Norway’s sovereignty, but also guarantees the citizens of the signatory states, today 46, including Russia, China, India and the two Koreas, the freedom to exploit there natural resources “with one foot” of full equality. It was in this capacity that for decades Russia, like the USSR before it, mined coal on these lands, among the northernmost inhabited places on the planet (less than 3,000 inhabitants on a territory of 61,000 km2).
The agreement is inevitably subject to different interpretations, in particular with regard to its geographical coverage. Virtually alone against all, Norway claims that at sea this applies only to territorial waters, thus limiting equal access to resources to a 12-mile zone around Svalbard. Russia and the West believe that the treaty, in spirit, refers to a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a concept that did not exist in 1920. To get around the obstacle, Norway did not create an EEZ, but established a fish protection area (FPA) that allows fishing in these waters to be regulated. Potentially significant resources are hidden behind these legal disputes… Judging by the fact that the principle of equal access is valid for the 200-mile zone, and ignoring the fact that Norway (a non-EU member) is in any case the only recognized regulatory authority – the last For years, the European Union has granted its fishermen licenses to fish for cod and snow crab. Although Brussels and Oslo recently agreed on cod fishing quotas, the main issue of the agreement’s geographic coverage has yet to be resolved by an international body.
A special problem is caused by the snow crab. Unlike European fishermen, Norway considers it to be a “sedentary” species (living in constant contact with the seabed like oysters) and therefore subject to the law governing the continental shelf, another concept that did not exist only in 1920 and where the coastal state has exclusive rights. If Oslo once started trading in crabs, there would be a question of ownership of other resources (hydrocarbons, minerals) potentially located there.
Canada, together with the United States, is modernizing air and missile defense
Canada’s defense minister recently announced the modernization of the country’s air and missile defenses in the Arctic, which is being carried out in cooperation with the United States. According to Minister Anita Anand, the new measures are justified by growing military threats from Russia and the emergence of new hostile technologies such as hypersonic missiles.
At a news conference at Canada’s largest air base in Trenton, Ontario, the minister said the C$4.9 billion (€3.6 billion) budget would be released over six years. The money will be used to build ground-based and satellite-based radars capable of detecting “over-the-horizon” bombers or approaching missiles, as well as sensor networks with “secret capabilities” to monitor aerial approaches and navigate from the Arctic to the continents.