A Europe-based consortium is seeking money to build a polar research ship as the European Commission considers promoting studies into the North Pole.
If the commission approves the idea of a Europolar network, Russia would join 25 research agencies from 19 European Union countries as an external observer. The network could be operating by 2007.
Backers think Arctic research will become increasingly fruitful given the region's vulnerability to climate change and the possibility of northern polar regions being ice free and accessible in summer.
A European scientific planning committee wants to build the first Arctic research ship. Named Aurora Borealis , it would be a German-Finnish designed icebreaker, armed with a deep drill.
Jorn Thiede, chairman of the committee, said: "European nations have a particular interest in understanding the Arctic environment with its inherent sensitivity to change. Europe is under the steady influence of and in exchange with the Arctic environment."
Mr Thiede's group is appealing for donations of €250 million (£174 million) to pay for the ship. It is being backed by the European Polar Board, which is encouraging European governments to support the project.