Arctic Called Crucial To Energy Security

President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that developing the Arctic was key to sustaining Russian energy supplies because the region may hold one-quarter of the world's offshore oil and gas reserves.

"Our first and main task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century," Medvedev said in the Kremlin before a meeting of the Security Council. "Using these resources will guarantee energy security for Russia as a whole."

Russia is jockeying for Arctic territory with the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark, which all have claims in the region. Russian explorers planted a flag on the Arctic seabed directly beneath the North Pole last year, symbolically staking a claim to an area that may hold 10 billion tons of oil equivalent, as well as deposits of gold, nickel and diamonds, according to the government.

The country claims 18 percent of the Arctic region, which touches on 20,000 kilometers of its border, said Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Security Council. The government should draft a development plan for the area by Dec. 1, he said.

Gazprom is counting on remote Arctic and offshore locations to provide half of its gas production by 2020 as output at mature Siberian fields plummets. Its Shtokman project in the Arctic has enough gas to meet current global demand for more than a year.

The region "has a strategic significance for our country," Medvedev said. "Resolving long-term tasks of developing the state, and its competitiveness on the global market, is directly tied to its development."

Russia contends that the underwater Lomonosov Ridge links Siberia to the Arctic seabed, evidence of which may allow the country to extend its territory toward the North Pole.