Putin orders military to boost Arctic presence

MOSCOW, Russia – President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's military on Tuesday, December 10, to step up its presence in the Arctic after Canada signalled its intention to claim the North Pole and surrounding waters.

"I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic," Putin told a Russian defense ministry meeting in televised remarks.

Canada last week filed a claim with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf concerning the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the submission includes Canada's claim to the North Pole.

Russia has an overlapping claim to both the North Pole and large parts of the Arctic that are believed to include vast oil and natural gas reserves.

A government-sponsored diving team in 2007 planted a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole and the Kremlin has long mulled plans to deploy a large military presence in the region.

Putin told Tuesday's defence ministry meeting that "next year, we have to complete the formation of new large units and military divisions" in the Arctic that remain on constant combat alert.

He said Russia was "ever more actively reclaiming this promising region, returning to it" after a brief absence that followed the Soviet Union's collapse.

The Kremlin chief added that Russia must possess "all the levers necessary for protecting its security and national interests" in the region. – Rappler.com