Navy Chief Admiral Yevmenov together with Vladimir Putin at a naval parade in St.Petersburg. Photo: Kremlin

Moscow aims for another grab: Navy Chief says Russia will expand into Arctic Ocean

Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov underlines that it is a national priority for Russia to make a "full-scale takeover" of Arctic territories beyond the country's 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
December 07, 2023


The Head of the Russian Navy delivered a clear and unequivocal message at this week’s Arctic Forum, the bi-annual Russian conference on the Arctic that takes place in St.Petersburg. In front of an audience of Russian and foreign politicians, researchers and business people, the admiral left little doubt that Russia intends to expand in the Arctic and that his Navy will follow up on the ambitions.

In his speech, as published on the website of the Russian Armed Forces, he highlighted the importance of the Arctic for Russia and underlined that the region is crucial for national security.

Among the Russian main national interests in the region, he underlined the importance of “a full-scale expansion into the continental shelf beyond the borders of the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.”

He also highlighted that the Northern Sea Route must function as “a national transport communication way.”


Russian cruiser Pyotr Veliky in Arctic waters. Photo: Ministry of Defense


Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov is the Head Commander of the Russian Navy and has many years of experience from the Russian North. In the period 2015-2019, he headed the Northern Fleet, the naval force based in the far northern Kola Peninsula.


During his tenure in the Northern Fleet, Russia significantly strengthened its military capacities in the Arctic. The naval forces of the Kola Peninsula were bolstered by new submarines and surface vessels, and new bases were built in the remote Arctic archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and New Siberian Islands.

He also led the modernisation of existing bases, both on the mainland and on archipelagos.

Speaking at the Arctic Forum, Yevmenov explained that the development of Russian naval capacities in the Arctic comes as a “forced measure” following “aggressive action from other countries.”

He condemned the USA and its allies that seek to contain Russia “with all kind of means, including sanctions and militaristic instruments.” He did not mention with a word the aggressive war that Russia wages in Ukraine.

Together with the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, the Russian Armed Forces have over the past years actively studies underwater resources in the Arctic. According to Admiral Yevmenov, this includes areas such as the Lomonosov Ridge, the Alpha-Medeleev Height, the Chutkota Plateau and the Gakkel Ridge.

The lion’s share of the mentioned underwater areas are located outside the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone and remain disputed territory.

Russia has long claimed a large swath of seabed along the Lomonosov Ridge, but the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has not yet completed its assessment of the claims.

Nevertheless, Nikolai Yevmenov appears confident that Russia will ultimately get its will in the area. In his speech in St.Petersburg, he argued that the UN Commission this year has confirmed its consent with Moscow’s requested point coordinates in the Arctic Ocean.

Today, no country owns the geographic North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states are limited to a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off their coasts. The Arctic coastal states do however have continental shelves that extend beyond the EEZ.

Russia is still negotiating with the United Nations Commission for the Limits of the Continental Shelf over its Arctic shelf claims. Norway got its claims to a 235,000 square kilometres shelf area approved in 2009. 




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