BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MOSCOW — Russia’s outspoken prime minister, Vladimir Putin, dismissed forecasts Thursday that Arctic nations would soon clash over resources in the polar region believed to hold up to a quarter of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.
Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic.
Mounting evidence shows that global warming is shrinking polar ice, turning the previously inaccessible area into a potentially rich source of hydrocarbons and other mineral riches.
“Most of those frightening scenarios for the Arctic have no grounds,” Putin said in televised remarks, addressing an international Arctic conference in Moscow. “They only aim to stir a conflict between the nations and fish in troubled waters.”
Putin admitted that the countries’ interests in the Arctic “indeed clash,” but said he thought all issues could be resolved by international law.
An Arctic strategy paper signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 said the polar region must become Russia’s “top strategic resource base” by 2020.
Russia and Norway last week signed a maritime border treaty for the energy-rich Barents Sea, paving the way for more offshore oil and gas production.
Russia’s Arctic territories contain up to 100 billion tons of oil and gas, Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said Tuesday.
Russia, Canada and Denmark are planning to file claims to the United Nations asserting their respective rights to the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range. Russia plans to spend 2 billion rubles ($64 million) on research in the next three years to prove its claims.
But Russia will not rush to search for energy riches in the Lomonosov ridge if it wins the case. Trutnev said the claim was more “about working for the future.”
Putin on Thursday underscored that environmental concerns were at the top of Russia’s Arctic agenda, and that oil and gas producers will be subject to stringent ecological rules for operating in the region.
“The price of the Arctic is much higher than billions of barrels of oil and gas,” he said. “If we do not act responsively in the Arctic, we will get new global problems instead of advantages.”