Russia employs Arctic brigade to defend oil and gas reserves

By Andrew Osborn, Moscow 11:33PM BST 31 Mar 2011

Russia is setting up a special motorised infantry brigade of troops ready to fight in the Arctic as tensions over the region’s allegedly vast oil and gas wealth reserves grow.

The troops will be based in the far northern town of Pechenga on Russia’s Kola Peninsula close to the Norwegian and Finnish borders and will be combat-ready later this year.

Russian military planners said they had studied the way Arctic troops in Norway and Finland operated and had ordered in the necessary winterised clothing and arms for the new brigade which could number up to 8,000 troops.

The move follows a muscular series of comments from the deputy head of Russia’s Border Service Colonel-General Vycheslav Dorokhin who said the Kremlin planned to build up its forces in the region to better patrol its Arctic territorial waters.

In particular, he said Russia wanted to step up patrols of the strategically important North East shipping passage.

"Our potential there will be built up. We won’t let anyone feel themselves free (to move about as they please) in the Arctic."

Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway are all locked in a race to grab a slice of the northern wilderness after US researchers predicted that global warming might leave the area ice-free, and therefore more easily navigable and explored, as early as 2030.

Experts say the region potentially contains one fifth of the world’s oil and gas reserves and that the swath of Arctic territory claimed specifically by Russia could be home to oil supplies double the size of Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/8419514/Russia-employs-Arctic-brigade-to-defend-oil-and-gas-reserves.html

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