02:25 GMT +319 October 2019
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    Giant icebergs float in the fjord in Narsaq, southern Greenland.

    Denmark Reinforces Its Arctic Domains, Tests Russia's Patience

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    Denmark is preparing to open its state coffers and invest millions of kroner to strengthen its military foothold in the Arctic. The move is presented as a bulwark against the increasing problems posed by global warming. However, it may further chill the kingdom's frosty relationship with Russia.

    The bid to formally address the swelling challenges in connection with the continued melting of the Arctic's ice caps is expected to set Denmark back 360 million kroner (roughly 55 million dollars), with an additional 120 million kroner (roughly 20 million kroner) each year thereafter. The Arctic plans, which were the focal points of an analysis report presented by the Danish government earlier this week, focus on improved satellite surveillance, better communication, an increased role of the Navy, and Canadian-style "ranger patrols" in Greenland, for the first time in the island's history.

    "Military forces have a large amount of civilian tasks in the Arctic. For instance, search and rescue operations in case of distress at sea. Also pollution control. And indeed fisheries inspection," Mikkel Runge Olesen, researcher in conflict potential and continental shelf claims in the Arctic, explained the build-up to the Danish TV-channel TV2. "As the Arctic becomes gradually more opened as a result of the global warming, all the tasks are becoming more expensive. So, from this perspective, it is no wonder that the Danish armed forces need to be provided with more money."

    Despite the Danish build-up in the Arctic being assessed by local experts as "soft," it will most likely lead to further confrontation with Russia, which, according to the Danish Institute for International Studies is "by far the strongest military power in the Arctic."

    Denmark's plans will probably arouse criticism in Russia, estimated Andrei Kortunov, director of the Moscow-based think tank RIAC, to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

    "The plans will certainly not be welcomed by Russian leaders," Kortunov said to Jyllands-Posten, referring to the tensions between NATO and Russia.

    According to Olesen, however, Russia can take it easy as its status as the strongest power in the Arctic remains unquestioned.

    "Anyway, hundreds of millions [of kroner] is hardly something that will tip the military balance in the Arctic. Obviously, Russia remains the strongest military power in the region," Olesen said.

    At present, Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, making territorial claims over the polar waters, which are believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas.

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    Tags:
    territorial claims, defense, NATO, Russia, Arctic, Greenland, Denmark
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