Medvedev says Russia must bolster its Arctic military

The former president and prime minister also called for Russia to use its Arctic Council chairmanship to further its national security interests.

Dmitry Medvedev is deputy head of the Russian Security Council. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said this week that Russia should boost its military to counter foreign threats in the Arctic — and that the country could use its two-year period chairing the Arctic Council (which began last month), to strengthen its national security interests there.

“There is no secret that a number of countries are actively trying to curb Russian engagements in the Arctic and that they encroach on the mineral resources of the Arctic Ocean and seek control over strategic maritime and air communications in the region,” Medvedev said in this week’s session in the Arctic Commission, a body under the Russian Security Council.

According to the former president and prime minister, the foreign engagement is “absolutely unacceptable,” and poses a direct threat to Russia’s national security interests in the region.

“It could lead to an exacerbation of the situation in the region,” Medvedev said and added that Russia therefore “must continue its work on the strengthening of Arctic troops equipped with modern types of armament.”

“This will be an efficient response to attempts from foreign states to destabilize the situation in the Arctic and prepare the ground for anti-Russian provocations,” he said.

[Russia calls for military meetings between Arctic states]

The Arctic Commission is a body established by the country’s Security Council in August last year. It comes in addition to the State Commission for Arctic Development chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev.

Medvedev also argues that Russia can use its chairmanship in the Arctic Council to strengthen its national security interests in the region.

“The takeover of the chair in the Arctic Council provides us with an opportunity to promote our own initiatives aimed at strengthening [national] interests in the Arctic.”

At the same time, he says that “all efforts must be made to preserve this organization as key international arena for strategic decision-making in the Arctic.”

[Arctic Council marks cordial start to Russian chairmanship in Reykjavik]

Medvedev also underlined that Russia  must proceed with the exploration of new oil and gas resources in the region with full steam, and build new huge transport and energy infrastructure and develop the Northern Sea Route.

Medvedev has since early 2020 served as Deputy Chairman of the Security Council. It is not the first time that former state leader speaks out on Arctic affairs.

Also in the Commission meeting in October 2020, Medvedev lashed out against the U.S. and NATO members for their position on Arctic affairs and hinted that matters of national security should be incorporated in the work of the Arctic Council.

When Moscow took over the two-year rotating chairmanship of the council in May this year, the security issues were partly included in the Russian agenda.

The country’s top representative in the council, Nikolay Korchunov, before the international top meeting explained that his country intends to work for the establishment of a platform for cooperation between leaders of the Arctic countries’ armed forces. The Arctic council’s founding document, the Ottawa Declaration from 1996, states that “the Arctic Council should not deal with matters related to military security.”

The Russian Security Council is headed by President Vladimir Putin. Among its 12 permanent members are key representatives of the Russian top power and law enforcement authorities. The council holds weekly meetings. Medvedev is deputy head of the body and former FSB director Nikolai Patrushev is its secretary.