Category Archives: Russia in Focus, Spring 2017

Russia’s Arctic Interests

As climate change opens the Arctic for business, the region is also heating up militarily.

By Riikka Muhonen

With temperatures rising due to climate change, the once-frozen Arctic Ocean is slowly opening up for business and transportation. Hand in hand with this development, military interests in the area remain a major factor in the question of power and influence in the region.

Climate change has had and continues to have an enormous impact on the Arctic region, turning it from a backward frontier into one of the future’s most important sources of energy and natural resources. The melting permafrost has made mining and oil production in Siberia easier and cheaper than ever before. Around 40 percent of Arctic oil reserves are located in Russian territory, making the Arctic region especially important for Russia’s strongly natural resource-reliant economy.

In addition, Russia has high expectations for the Northern Sea Route from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the Arctic Ocean. Long a pipe dream of European explorers, this legendary potential route has previously been frozen and unnavigable year-long, but the current higher temperatures are quickly melting the ice, making the route accessible to some traffic during summer months. It is expected that the Northern Sea Route will be fully open for traffic all year round in only 50 years. Russia is already developing its coastal areas along the route and building the icebreakers that are necessary for securing the flow of traffic. The Northern Sea Route is approximately 30 percent shorter than the distance from the Far East to Europe through the Suez Canal—and without the risk of pirates. To date, the amount of traffic taking this route is still fairly low, with 5.1 million tons transported along it in 2015. However, the Russian government expects annual cargo traffic to reach 86 million tons by 2030, which would account for a quarter of the cargo between Asia and Europe.

Russia has been investing in the route by …

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