Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 417

417 Arctic Yearbook 2014 the wild card in the Arctic strategic equation (Zysk 2011: 85-86).4 However, in contrast to quite frequent military exercises and harsh public diplomacy, one of the main declared priorities of Russian politics is to keep the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation (Medvedev 2008a). The reason is that Russia is a dominant actor in the Arctic (with half of its territory and a majority of its population) it can thus be considered as a status quo power in the region, i.e. it is not seeking revision in the regional balance of power. Moscow needs stability in its Northern territories to guarantee the necessary level of industrial and economical development. As a status quo power, it wants to solve disputes in this region by peaceful means, with the help of international law and international organizations, as it guarantees economical, political and security benefits (Konyshev and Sergunin 2014a).5,6 In the field of social-economic development Kremlin plans to transform the Arctic as a principal source of natural resources, which will fully meet the Russian needs, by 2020.7 From this perspective the above mentioned status quo and stability are crucial. A potential military conflict could negatively influence the assurance of Russia’s national interests (Strategia 2009). Therefore, in this case the economic interests prevail over other intentions. Furthermore, Moscow realizes that it is very much in their interest to avoid significant militarization in the Arctic, as they need to have good relations with western corporations, first and foremost because of western capital and know-how to develop its Arctic oil and gas resources. On the other hand, Moscow has expressed its readiness to protect its interests in the Northern territories even by military force. This does not necessarily mean a change in the existing strategic balance, but rather applies to situations where some potential factor threatens Russia’s security or economic development, and thus threatens the status quo (in geopolitical terms). Modernization of Russian Military Capabilities: A Key Factor in Maintaining the Status Quo In a strategic context, Arctic military capabilities play a crucial role in Russia’s ability to maintain its current advantages and deter potential challengers. In recent years all Arctic countries have increased their capabilities to operate militarily in the Far North. They have also started to increase their military presence and have presented plans for additional military build-up (acquiring specific equipment capable for the polar conditions, improving military infrastructure and increasing military forces) (for detailed information see Annex 1). While these changes are sometimes portrayed as significant military build-ups and potential threats to security, the five littoral states are making only limited increases in their capabilities to project military power beyond their recognized national territories (Wezeman 2012). However this development could be perceived in Moscow as a challenge to the status quo which is favorable to Russia.8 The reaction included the development of several modernization plans tailor-made for the Arctic. It includes modernization of military hardware but also support capabilities and necessary infrastructure in the High North. In the vast distances of the Arctic, the maintenance of infrastructure is a necessary precondition for effective military presence. In this context the Ministry of Defence has announced plans to modernize its Arctic military and border patrol capabilities and to reopen its airfields as well as ports on the New Siberian Islands and the Franz Josef Land archipelago, which were mothballed in 1993 (Ria Novosti 2014a). In 2013, Russia also completed reconstruction of the runway at the airport “Rogachevo” (“Anderma- Russian Military Build-Up in the Arctic