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Toning It Down In Arctic Nuclear Theatre

Russia's claims have the potential to cause conflict with the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway. Like Russia, these four countries currently enjoy a 200-mile economic zone off their land territories in the Arctic Ocean.
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Oct 29, 2008
Russian officials have tried to play down tensions with the United States, Norway and other nations over possible conflicts in the Arctic Ocean.

"Media assessments of possible aggression in the arctic, even a third world war, are seen as extremely alarmist and provocative. In my opinion, there are no grounds for such alarmism," Anton Vasilyev said Oct. 15, according to a report from the RIA Novosti news agency. RIA Novosti described Vasilyev as "a high-ranking official on the (Russian) Arctic Council."

"We are following the situation in the region; this also includes the military activity of other countries, but we hope cooperation will be the main feature," Vasilyev stated.

Russian leaders have made clear their determination to prioritize their claims to the potentially rich mineral, natural gas and oil resources beneath the Arctic Ocean. The progress of global warming and the unprecedented melting of the arctic ice cap are making those resources accessible to modern undersea mining technology for the first time.

President Dmitry Medvedev told a Russian Security Council meeting last month that Russia needed to clearly draw its desired designated borders on the arctic continental shelf as quickly as it could. "We have to reliably ensure Russia's national interests in the arctic in the long term," he stated.

Medvedev took the visionary position that the arctic region had the potential to be the main source of natural minerals and energy resources for the rest of the 21st century. He said that already "about 20 percent of Russia's GDP and 22 percent of Russian exports are produced" in the Far North.

RIA Novosti noted that the Kremlin already had sent two recent expeditions to map the Mendeleyev underwater mountains in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge in summer 2007 to argue its legal rights to the area. The Russian government has said it will present evidence to support its arctic continental shelf territorial demands to the United Nations next year.

Russia's claims have the potential to cause conflict with the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway. Like Russia, these four countries currently enjoy a 200-mile economic zone off their land territories in the Arctic Ocean.

Pacific Fleet carries out new ASW exercise.
The Russian Pacific Fleet carried out a three-day anti-submarine exercise last week, the fleet's press service said Thursday.

Surface ships, including the missile cruiser Varyag and four anti-submarine warship vessels, participated in the Oct. 20-22 exercises that were directed by Rear Adm. Sergei Avakyants, the Pacific Fleet's press service said, according to a RIA Novosti news agency report.

"The submarines were the aggressor," the press service stated. It said the ASW ships practiced search-and-destroy operations carrying torpedoes and depth charges.

RIA Novosti said the maneuvers also included combined-arms units and the firing of land-based missile systems, firing surface-to-air and surface-to-sea live weapons.

The news agency noted the three-day exercise followed rapidly on the heels of the month-long, September-October Stability-2008 exercises across the entire Russian Federation and neighboring Belarus.

As part of Stability-2008, forces in Russia's Far East Military District carried out a tactical exercise from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5 called Bereg ("Coast"). Forces operating from the Primorye Territory in the Far East Military District took part in those maneuvers along with Far Eastern air and air defense forces and the Russian Pacific Fleet, RIA Novosti said

The report said the mission of the exercise was to protect what it described as the "infrastructure" of Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands from potential terrorist attacks.

Japan wants Russia to return oil-rich Sakhalin and the Kurils, which the Soviet Union occupied at the end of World War II.

Sakhalin now has major oil production and refining centers based on it, and Russian Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin has taken a great personal interest in their development.

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Gates calls for modernization of US nuclear arsenal
Washington (AFP) Oct 28, 2008
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called Tuesday for the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal to strengthen deterrence at a time when Russia and China are upgrading their nuclear weapons.

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