"Not only are there major economic interests for our country there...it is also an important part of our defence capability.
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There are (U.S.) submarines there and they carry missiles. It only takes 15-16 minutes for U.S. missiles to reach Moscow from the Barents Sea. So should we give away the Arctic? We should on the contrary explore it.”
In order to provide greater defensive options and more control over the region, Putin has ordered for an old Soviet military base to be reopened in the Arctic, that will be able to protect the northern coast as it turns into a more popular global shipping route, and any energy infrastructure operating in the area.
Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter, is one of the countries vying for a piece of the Arctic now that global warming is causing sea ice to melt at a faster rate, making the vast deposits of oil, gas, and precious metals more accessible. Other countries interested in the area are Canada, the US, Denmark, and Norway.
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Reuters says that Moscow has already laid claim to a large portion of the Arctic seabed, stating that it is theirs by right as it is an extension of the Siberian continental shelf.
Now with the knowledge of how Russia views the Arctic as a matter of defensive and economic importance, it is slightly easier (although not much) to understand their overreaction to the Greenpeace protestors arrested in Arctic waters in September. Only through sever international pressure were the charges against the 30 activists dropped from piracy, carrying a 15 year jail sentence, to hooliganism, which carries a seven year sentence.