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Arctic Military Buildup Not Cause for Concern: Think Tank

Mar. 26, 2012 - 12:34PM   |  
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STOCKHOLM — A military buildup in the Arctic by the region’s five border states is not necessarily cause for concern, Stockholm think tank SIPRI said in a report published March 26.

There is "no basis for claims of an Arctic arms race," said the author of the report, Siemon Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

"While governments of the five Arctic states (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States) have made protection of their Arctic territory a priority, the military buildup is limited," the report said.

It was primarily aimed at border demarcations as the coastal countries vie for territorial claims to get their hands on the vast oil, gas and mineral resources expected to be made accessible by climate change, it said.

"Rather than projecting power over the Arctic as a whole, the increased military capabilities ... are generally limited to forces and equipment for policing and protection of recognized national territories and territorial waters," it said.

Under the 2008 Ilulisaat Declaration, the five states agreed to negotiated settlements to claims in the Arctic, which with the Antarctic is one of the last areas on earth where sovereignty has not been fully apportioned.

SIPRI said Canada, Denmark and Norway were moving forces into their respective Arctic regions and acquiring weapons and equipment for specific use in the region.

"Russia has also started to expand its Arctic military capabilities, while the United States' Arctic security concerns still play only a minor role in its overall defence policy," the report said.

Canada, Denmark and Russia have also recently adopted foreign and defense policies that have put a special emphasis on the Arctic, SIPRI said.

But the scramble for the Arctic "has not proven to be a military affair."

On the contrary, the five countries "are enjoying stable and peaceful bilateral relations."

The report noted however that "concerns about stability in the Arctic region cannot be discounted completely," and said "additional military confidence-building measures and regulation" may be needed in the future.

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