ANCHORAGE (AP) — While Russia has built up its military on its side of the Arctic, there is no evidence of Russian aggression in the region, a panel of national security experts said.
Julia Gourley, the senior Arctic official at the U.S. State Department, said Thursday that it appears that Russia is preparing to protect its economic interests.
All countries would do the same, she said during a briefing for congressional staff in Washington, D.C.
Russia has built or refurbished bases in the Arctic, constructed new airfields and built-out ports, the Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
The country also has submitted to a United Nations commission a claim for more territory in the Arctic based on the reach of its continental shelf. While the documents surrounding the claim aren’t public, the State Department doesn’t consider the claim to be outlandish, Gourley said.
“In determining its outer limits of the continental shelf, so far there are no overlaps with the United States, from what we know of its submission,” she said.
The United States is mapping its continental shelf in the region.
Sherri Goodman, a former Pentagon official who is now a think-tank fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, said the United States should pay attention for any changes in the way Russia operates in the Arctic.
“I agreed that today we are not facing those challenges in the Arctic, with Russia,” she said. “But we’ve got to operate up there with eyes wide open.”