Monday, May 19, 2008

The Bear Stretches....,

Russia accused of annexing the Arctic for oil reserves by Canada

The battle for "ownership" of the polar oil reserves has accelerated with the disclosure that Russia has sent a fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers into the Arctic.

It has reinforced fears that Moscow intends to annex "unlawfully" a vast portion of the ice-covered Arctic, beneath which scientists believe up to 10 billion tons of gas and oil could be buried. Russian ambition for control of the Arctic has provoked Canada to double to $40 million (£20.5 million) funding for work to map the Arctic seabed in support its claim over the territory.

The Russian ice breakers patrol huge areas of the frozen ocean for months on end, cutting through ice up to 8ft thick. There are thought to be eight in the region, dwarfing the British and American fleets, neither of which includes nuclear-powered ships.

Canada also plans to open an army training centre for cold-weather fighting at Resolute Bay and a deep-water port on the northern tip of Baffin Island, both of which are close to the disputed region. The country's defence ministry intends to build a special fleet of patrol boats to guard the North West Passage.

"The message from Vladimir Putin is that Russia will no longer be shackled to treaties signed by Yeltsin when he was half drunk or when Russia was on its knees,"

Russia rivals Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer and is estimated to have the largest natural gas supplies. Energy earnings are funding a $189 billion (£97 billion) overhaul of its armed forces.