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article imageRussia unveils major plans for Northern Sea Route

By Karen Graham     Jan 3, 2020 in World
Moscow - While the world has been focused on trade wars, the impeachment of the U.S. president and shifting geopolitical dynamics, Russia has been quietly expanding its sphere of influence in a lesser-watched space - the Arctic.
A document signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and published on December 30th revealed Moscow's 15-year plan to build major infrastructure for the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as part of its efforts to make the Arctic viable for commercial shipping.
The NSR project is sweeping in its initiatives, building on President Vladimir Putin's decree of May 2018, that reads: "On National Goals and Strategic Tasks of the Development of the Russian Federation for the Period until 2024”, by 2024, cargo flows through the NSR should increase to 80 million tons."
As is expected, the government's 84 separate initiatives will be supported by Rosatom, the nuclear power giant that has already invested heavily in the NSR. To that end, by 2035, Russia expects to build at least 40 Arctic vessels, upgrade 4 regional airports, construct railways and seaports and begin massive exploitation of Arctic natural resources.
The Northern Sea Route includes the waters between archipelago Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait.
The Northern Sea Route includes the waters between archipelago Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait.
Administration of the North Sea Route
A few of the initiatives are already close to being finished, including a geological mapping of natural resources that should be adopted by April 2020. By June 2020, a decision should be within reach for the development of a railway line to Sabetta, the seaport and LNG terminal on the northern coast of the Yamal peninsula, according to The Barents Observer.
There will also be major dredging operations in the Gulf of Ob to allow for the passage of large vessels through the region, and ice-breakers capable of breaking through the thickest Arctic ice are being built, reports Port Technology.
The government is also building three Lider Class vessels. The Lider class destroyer is a combined stealth nuclear-powered guided-missile destroyer and cruiser.
A model of the project 23560 destroyer at the «ARMY-2015» military-technical forum. This is the Li...
A model of the project 23560 destroyer at the «ARMY-2015» military-technical forum. This is the Lider Class Guided missile destroyer/cruiser.
Artem Tkachenko (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The bulk of the project will depend on the extraction of natural resources to meet the government's ambitions. To that end, besides Rosatom, there are oil and gas companies Novatek, Gazprom Neft, Rosneft, and the Independent Oil Company.
The government is also expecting mineral and ores developers - like Nornickel, VostokCoal, Baimskaya, KAZ Minerals, Vostok Engineering, and Severnaya Zvezda to develop facilities in the region.
Russian influence in the Arctic
Don't kid yourself in thinking Russia is out to only exploit the Arctic's natural resources. Getting there first with all the infrastructure built and ready, Russia will also have a geopolitical advantage over other countries and be in a near-perfect defensive position.
A worker walks down the stairs of a gas drilling rig at the Bovanenkovo gas field on the Yamal penin...
A worker walks down the stairs of a gas drilling rig at the Bovanenkovo gas field on the Yamal peninsula in the Arctic Circle
Alexander NEMENOV, AFP
Russia’s coastline accounts for 53 percent of the Arctic Ocean coastline and the country’s population in the region totals roughly 2 million people. That is almost half of all the people living in the Arctic, worldwide,.
“Russia is by virtue of its geography, the largest Arctic country. The fact that there are 2 million people that are Russian living there too means that the Arctic is Russia in many ways,” Andreas Østhagen, a senior research fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, and at the Arctic Institute, told CNBC.
It is not just the Arctic's resources that make the region important to Russia - there is also a symbolic and Nationalist value, according to Østhagen. “The name of the game in the Arctic is presence,” he said, noting that the region had value for Russian President Vladimir Putin who has overseen a rise in Russian nationalist sentiment during his 20 years in power.
More about Russia, Northern Sea Route, infrastructure plan, yamal peninsula, nationalistic value
 
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