Russia is one of five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean. In 2011, out of 4 million inhabitants of the Arctic, roughly 2 million lived in arctic Russia, making it the largest arctic country by population.
The main goals of Russia in its Arctic policy are to utilize its natural resources, protect its ecosystems, use the seas as a transportation system in Russia's interests, and ensure that it remains a zone of peace and cooperation.Russia currently maintains a military presence in the Arctic and has plans to improve it, as well as strengthen the Border Guard/Coast Guard presence there. Using the Arctic for economic gain has been done by Russia for centuries for shipping and fishing. Russia has plans to obtain the large offshore resource deposits in the Arctic. The Northern Sea Route is of particular importance to Russia for transportation, and the Russian Security Council is considering projects for its development. The Security Council also stated a need for increasing investment in Arctic infrastructure.
Russia conducts extensive research in the Arctic region, notably the manned drifting ice stations and the Arktika 2007 expedition, which was the first to reach the seabed at the North Pole.
Russia says that it has military units specifically trained for Arctic combat.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced plans on July 16, 2011, for the creation of two brigades that would be stationed in the Arctic. Russia's Arctic policy statement, approved by President Medvedev on September 18, 2008, called for the establishment of improved military forces in the Arctic to "ensure military security" in that region, as well as the strengthening of existing border guards in the area.
Part of Russia's current Arctic policy includes maintaining a military presence in the region. In 2014, the Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command (Russia) was established. The Russian Northern Fleet, the largest of the four Russian Navy fleets, is headquartered in Severomorsk, in the Kola Gulf on the Barents Sea. The Northern Fleet encompasses two-thirds of Russia's total naval power, and has close to 80 operational ships. As of 2013, this included approximately 35 submarines, six missile cruisers, and the flagship Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser. In 2012 the Russian Navy resumed naval patrols of the Northern Sea Route, marked by a 2,000 mile patrol of the Russian Arctic by ten ships led by an icebreaker and the Petr Velikiy.
The Russian Military also reportedly announced in June 2008 that it would increase the operational radius of its Northern Fleet submarines.
The first nuclear icebreaker, the Lenin, began operating in the Northern Sea Route in July 1960. A total of ten nuclear-powered civilian vessels, including nine icebreakers, have been built in Russia. Three of these have been decommissioned, including the Lenin. Besides its six nuclear icebreakers, Russia also has 19 diesel polar icebreakers. Its nuclear icebreaker fleet includes the 50 Let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory), the largest nuclear icebreaker in the world. There are currently plans to build six more icebreakers, as well as plans to build a $33 billion year-round Arctic port
Russia has conducted research in the Arctic for decades. The country is the only one that uses drift stations- research facilities seasonally deployed on drift ice- and also has other research stations in its Arctic zone. The first drift station, North Pole-1, was established on May 21, 1937 by the Soviet Union. Russian research has focused on the Arctic seabedmarine life, meteorology, exploration, and natural resources, among other topics.
Current research stations under construction include one on Samoylovsky Island, which should be completed by mid-2012 and will focus on researching shelf zone permafrost, and one on the Svalbard Islands, which will be finished in 2013 and will focus on geophysical, hydrological, and geological research.
Russia's economic interests in the Arctic are based on two things - natural resources and maritime transport. The Northern Sea Route, in use for centuries and officially defined by Russian legislation, is an Arctic shipping lane that stretches from the Barents Sea to the Bering Strait through Arctic waters. Travel along Northern Sea Route takes only one-third the distance needed to go through the Suez Canal, without as high a risk of pirates.
Even when "open" this route is not totally ice free and requires Russian icebreaker and navigational support to ensure safety of passage. Currently 1.5 million tonnes (1,500,000 long tons; 1,700,000 short tons) of goods are transported along the Northern Sea Route every year.
The Russian government estimates that annual cargo traffic could reach 85 million metric tons, and shipping along the Route could account for a quarter of cargo between Europe and Asia by 2030.