Russian President Vladimir Putin called for Russia to expand its military presence in the Arctic following Canadian plans to claim dominion of the North Pole.
Russia is “intensifying the development of this promising region” Putin said in a Tuesday meeting of the Russian Ministry of Defense according to a report in Russia Today.
“I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic,” he said.
Russia has been building new ships and preparing to deploy troops along its northern border as melting Arctic ice will make it possible for more commercial traffic to transit the so called Northern Sea route. There is also the potential for large mineral deposits in the region.
“There are plans to create a group of troops and forces to ensure military security and protection of the Russian Federation’s national interests in the Arctic in 2014,” Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at the same meeting.
Putin’s declaration highlights several military moves the Russians have made in relation to the Arctic in the last few years.
Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, announced in mid-2012 it would create ten naval bases along its northern coast. In May, Russia announced it would be constructing up to four new ships for duty in the Arctic.
Putin’s remarks follow Canada’s plan to claim Arctic territories — including the North Pole — as sovereign Canadian territory, the country’s foreign minister announced on Monday.
“We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada’s far north,” John Baird said, according to an Associated Press report.
Last week, Canada made preliminary claims to some Arctic regions and plans to make more.
Russia, of all the eight members of the Arctic Council, has the most naval assets to patrol the surface of the Arctic.
Russia has more than 37 government icebreakers compared to Canada’s six and America’s five, according to a July review from the U.S. Coast Guard.
However Canada is currently constructing a new surface naval force, complete with a collection of ships that would be designed to operate in cold climates.
Under the sea, the U.S. nuclear submarine force remains as the dominant power in the region.