The US Navy’s military capability in the Arctic has worried Russian President Vladimir Putin who has ordered his armed forces to increase their presence in the region.
During a speech at the Moscow State University, Putin rejected the idea that his country abandoned Arctic territory to help protect the environment.
"Experts know quite well that it takes US missiles 15 to 16 minutes to reach Moscow from the Barents Sea," Putin said on Tuesday.
"I proceed from the assumption that we will never engage in a global conflict, particularly with a country like the United States," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
"Just opposite, we must develop cooperation and partnership, and we have every opportunity for that despite arguments. But the submarines are there, and they do carry missiles," the Russian president said.
The United States has nuclear-armed submarines in the Arctic region to patrol international waters.
Experts say the US has been tempted by what it has estimated to be 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits in the Arctic.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last month the Pentagon’s strategy to guide changes in military planning in the Arctic. Hagel said the military would "evolve" its infrastructure and capabilities in the region.
The Arctic was largely inaccessible in the past, but increased seasonal melting of the sea ice is opening the region and creating opportunities for oil and gas exploration and maritime shipping.
Territorial claims are among key issues for the eight Arctic countries, which include Russia and the United States.
According to a five-year assessment by the US in 2009, known as the “Arctic Roadmap,” the opening of the Arctic Ocean could lead to increased oil and gas development and reshape the global sea transportation system.
Putin also noted that the Arctic region is essential for Russia's economic and security interests.
"There is a huge amount of mineral resources there, including oil and gas," he said. "It's also very important for our defense capability."
In 2011, US President Barack Obama announced the rebalancing of American forces toward the Asia-Pacific region. Washington’s strategy is called “the pivot to the Pacific.”
Russia and China have expressed concerns about growing US military presence in the region.