MOSCOW (AP) — President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that Russia must invest more in the Arctic amid tough competition from other nations for the region's mineral riches.
Medvedev said in televised remarks to workers in the fareastern city of Khabarovsk that Russia will take the necessary security steps and other moves to protect its interests in the polar region.
"We simply must continue our research of the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic in general, because if we fail to do that other countries will take control," Medvedev said. "It's our shores, and it's our sea."
"We will defend our interests in the region, naturally including security issues," he added.
Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, believed to hold up to a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.
With shrinking polar ice opening up new opportunities for exploration, Russia, Canada and Denmark have said they would file claims with the United Nations that an undersea 1,240-mile (2,000-kilometer) mountain range that crosses the polar region called the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of their respective territories.
In 2007 Russia staked a symbolic claim to Arctic seabed by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag on the ocean floor from a small submarine at the North Pole. Russia first submitted its claim in 2001 to the United Nations, but it was sent back for lack of evidence. Russia said it will resubmit the claim after collecting more scientific data.
An Arctic strategy paper signed by Medvedev in 2008 said the polar region must become Russia's "top strategic resource base" by 2020.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this year that Russia "remains open for dialogue" with its polar neighbors, but will "strongly and persistently" defend its interests in the region. The Defense Ministry said it will deploy two army brigades to help protect the nation's interests.
In its 2011 risk assessment released Monday, the Danish Defense Intelligence Service warned that "it is likely that the competition for extraction rights in the Arctic Ocean will be intensified in the years to come."
"This could mean that some of the coastal states will use military assets to emphasize their political and legal arguments," it said, adding that minor military incidents may occur up to 2020.
"It is not likely that such incidents will develop into military conflicts," the document said. "However, if relations between the United States and Russia worsen significantly, mutual mistrust, political conflict and military tension between the powers could occur also in the Arctic."
Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark contributed to this report.