Alaska, Arctic, Arctic missiles, arctic nuclear icebreakers, Arctic strategy, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, floating nuclear, GDP, Icebreakers, infrastructure, Militarization of the Arctic, military, Northern Sea Route, Norway, nuclear, Nuclear Icebreakers, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, oil and gas, polar class icebreakers, Putin, Rosatom, Russia, Russian State Owned Companies, Trump
Russian government owned civilian and military nuclear company, Rosatom, has been made responsible for navigation and infrastructure along the Northern Sea Shipping Route.
Nuclear icebreaker “Yamal” by Wofratz (CC-BY-SA)
“Russia encompasses over half of the Arctic coastline, 40% of the land beyond the Arctic Circle, and 42% of the population…. 20% of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and exports – mostly oil and gas – already comes from the Arctic…. Between 5% and 9% of Russia’s liquid hydrocarbon resources and almost 12.5% of its gas resources are contained in the Russian Arctic shelf. Forty-three of the sixty-one large oil and natural-gas fields in the Arctic are located in Russia. Russia has also stated that it will use the Northern Sea Route – the Arctic shipping lane that connects the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, also known as the Northeast Passage – as a “national” transport route…. Russia maintains major military forces in the Arctic and those have recently been more active than in the past. It has already equipped six new military bases in the region, both on its shores and on outlying Arctic islands. Russia’s pursuit of economic benefits in the Arctic could have severe consequences for the environment… to make optimal use of these resources will require Western technology and investment..” “Report on Arctic Policy, International Security Advisory Board“, US Dept. of State, September 21, 2016 https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/262585.pdf
Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation is a state corporation in Russia. “Rosatom runs all nuclear assets of the Russian Federation, both civilian and military, totaling over 360 business and research units, including all Russian nuclear icebreakerships…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosatom
Rosatom answers more directly to Putin, than some Russian state owned entitieshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_corporation_(Russia)
In “Rosatom drafts law giving itself control of the Russian Arctic : Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom has crafted a bill that would give it total control over infrastructure and navigation along the Northern Sea Route, signaling a major consolidation of the country’s Arctic policy“, Published on November 22, 2017 by Charles Digges, it is reported that Rosatom’s “new role will likely broaden nuclear power usage along remote passages of the 6,000-kilometer sea corridor… The legislation would also give Rosatom the say-so over which ships are allowed to sail through the corridor,…. Russia has long mulled various nuclear projects to power oil and gas installations, from delivering natural gas in nuclear submarines to rigging up reactors to drive drilling operations….“. Read this important article here: http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/nuclear-russia/2017-11-rosatom-drafts-law-giving-itself-control-of-the-russian-arctic
“Report says Rosatom will take over Arctic development – vastly increasing role of icebreakers Russia’s president Vladimir Putin wants to turn infrastructure development for the Northern Sea Route – Russia’s fabled east-west passage through the Arctic to Asia – over to state nuclear corporation Rosatom, according to reports in the Kommersant business daily“, Published on November 16, 2017 by Charles Digges. Read the article here: http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/nuclear-russia/2017-11-report-says-rosatom-will-take-over-arctic-development-vastly-increasing-role-of-icebreakers
“… Rosatom goes from strength to strength: it is now responsible for the development of Russia’s North Sea Shipping Route and is expected to acquire yet more functions. But are monitoring organs and systems growing at the same rate? Apparently the opposite is happening, and it’s a dangerous tendency.” Read: “Wake up and smell the ruthenium“, by VIOLETTA RYABKO 21 December 2017 https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/violetta-ryabko/wake-up-and-smell-ruthenium
“This company gets responsibility for Northern Sea Route: Contrary to previous signals, the Russian government aims to give nuclear power company Rosatom the top authority for development of the Arctic shipping route.” By Atle Staalesen, December 07, 2017, The Independent Barents Observer: https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2017/12/company-gets-responsibility-northern-sea-route
In mid September 2013, “For the first time in history, Russia’s entire fleet of nuclear-powered ships, led by the guided-missile cruiser Peter the Great, had been dispatched to the region. Like the military air base they had come to unveil, the flotilla’s mission was to warn away Russia’s rivals in the Arctic, primarily the U.S., Denmark, Finland, Norway and Canada,” reported Time: “Russia Takes On Greenpeace — and Stakes Its Claim to the Arctic” By Simon Shuster, Oct. 02, 2013, (Reblogged here: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/russia-takes-on-greenpeace-and-stakes-its-claim-to-the-arctic )
From VOA News:
“As Russia Touts Expanded Arctic Sea Routes, US Observers See Veiled Threat April 15, 2019 7:56 AM, by Danila Galperovich This story originated in VOA’s Russian Service.
WASHINGTON – At this year’s International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russian leaders made the most peaceable statements to date about Moscow’s long-term plans for the a rapidly melting Arctic. Answering questions during the forum’s international plenary session, President Vladimir Putin extolled Moscow and Washington’s common interests in the region, explaining that he doesn’t sense any “special military tension” in the region…
But Putin’s account of an ambitious commercial program to secure an Arctic foothold, which includes the planned construction of ports, infrastructure and even an expanded fleet of icebreakers, omitted the following activities.
May 2017: At Moscow’s annual Victory Day parade, Russia unveils new weapons system with missiles outfitted for use in the Arctic.
October 2017: Arctic detachment of Russian Navy Northern Fleet combat ships practice live-fire missile drills.
February 2018: Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, commander of the Northern Fleet, declares the strengthening of Russia’s Arctic military presence with the placement of tactical unit outposts. “This is an Arctic-motorized rifle brigade, a tactical group of coastal troops, air defense units that maintain a watch on the islands of the Arctic Ocean, in the archipelagoes of Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya and the New Siberian Islands.”
March 2018: “Putin,” a newly released campaign-trail film, shows the president boasting of Arctic-based, state-of-the-art missile-launch detection and tracking systems. “The Arctic region is extremely important for Russia,” Putin is recorded saying, and that U.S. submarines “keep constant watch in the Norwegian Sea off the coast of Norway.”
April 2018: Rosgvardia, Russia’s National Guard, conducts transport and assault exercises on the militarily inhabited Franz Josef Land.
September 2018: Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, commander of the Russia’s ground forces, announces a new generation “Tor-M2” air-defense missile system for use in the Arctic, and he says that the Bastion-P mobile anti-ship and surface-to-surface missile defense systems have already been placed on Kotelny Island.
February 2019: Pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper reports on Russian plans for MiG-31 fighter jet patrols of the Arctic, with two squadrons based at the Murmansk region aerodrome and plans for a permanently stationed regiment.
US voices: Arctic strategy needs update
Some U.S. military officials and legislators have expressed concern that Washington isn’t paying enough attention to Russia’s military entrenchment in the region.
They say the Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, last updated in 2017, largely got overlooked in the more all-encompassing National Defense Strategy, the main U.S. military strategy document signed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In August 2018, Congress passed a National Defense Authorization Act that approved unprecedented funds for the construction of six new polar class icebreakers by 2029. The U.S. Coast Guard has only two — one of which is 10 years beyond its intended use — compared to Russia’s 46.
The bill also calls for an updated Arctic strategy, including regularly updated summaries of regional foreign threats posed by Russia and China, along with specific roles and missions for each branch of the U.S. military.
According to one expert, the asymmetry of U.S. and Russian assets in the Arctic may have to do with how Russia sees itself and the resources it needs for long-term planning.
“The Arctic is extremely important for Russia, because it’s really part of their national identity,” said Robert Orttung of the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. “In contrast to the United States, Russia really is an Arctic country. Much of the territory is in the Arctic, whereas in the U.S., it’s simply Alaska, so we don’t really think of ourselves as an Arctic country.
“I think the most important question for Russia is the energy there, because they depend heavily on the resources,” he added. “And going forward, that’s going to be the main source of oil and gas for the country. Second, of course, is defense, and they see that as the main way to build up their Arctic resources and to protect themselves against what they see as a potential threat coming from the north.”
Orttung also says the melting ice has drained the region of its historically romantic mystique, and that easier access to natural resources may open up more possibilities for international trade and cooperation.
“In the past, the Arctic was an area that people were extremely interested in, and there were these heroic explorers who really stirred the imagination in Russia and in the West,” he said. “Of course, that’s kind of changed now. Now the Arctic is seen more as a place of climate change and dramatic changes — and possibilities — in terms of trade and energy development.”
Military dominant situation
But the ultimate Russian goal is to have a militarily dominant situation in the Arctic, “especially at a time when the U.S. is perceived as an adversary,” he added.
“And the U.S. has been spending less money on the Arctic, but I think we have to look at the difference between the rhetoric coming from the Kremlin and President Putin, and the actual development on the ground,” he said. “I think [Putin] talks a better game than actually exists, and it’s more about presenting the face of developing this military capacity, when in fact there aren’t the funds in Russia to actually do that.”
Orttung also says he sees the Arctic as one of the last areas for prospective cooperation.
“The Arctic for Russia and the U.S. in particular is one of the last areas of actual cooperation, where we can work together as a citizen, as scientists, as observers,” he said. “So far, it hasn’t been infected by the difficulty of Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine, for example. That’s sort of been kept as a separate issue. So all this increased talk about militarization — and of course, the U.S. is putting more airplanes and fighter planes in Alaska — and it’s just making it more and more difficult to see how the traditional cooperation that we’ve had in the Arctic can be preserved in the future.”
Retired Admiral Gary Roughead, former chief of U.S. Naval Operations, told VOA’s Russian Service that Russia, like any country, has a primary interest in protecting and defending its coastal borders, and that it has a geopolitical interest in influencing how sea routes are developed and used.
“To see the transpolar routes become more accessible and used … I think that it adds stature to Russia, and particularly to Putin, to begin to identify as being the premier, most powerful Arctic nation by virtue of what it’s doing from a military perspective,” he said.
While he’s no longer directly engaged in U.S. military strategic investments, Roughead said U.S. and European allies should enhance communications and transnational infrastructure for cooperative naval and aerial patrols with conventional and unmanned vessels.
“Something that we looked at was the ability to use unmanned aircraft to be able to patrol in the Arctic, because of their long endurance,” he said. “And that’s something that not only the United States should look at, but Canada and the some of the European Arctic nations to begin to put in place, some cooperatives, activities, perhaps cooperative investments, cooperative operations that allow us to operate up in the high north, routinely, reliably and safely.
“For example, unmanned airplanes being able to take off in one country, conduct the patrol and then land in another country,” he said. “Just having the infrastructure in place to do that — that’s something Arctic nations should strive toward.”
Twenty percent of Russia’s gross domestic product is drawn from the Arctic via mining and shipping, whereas less than 1% of U.S. GDP is taken from the region.
In 2013, the U.S. and Russian signed the Arctic Council’s “Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic,” which aims to improve U.S.-Russia collaboration on research in the environmental sciences, biology, ecology and shipping in the region.” https://www.voanews.com/a/as-russia-touts-expanded-arctic-sea-routes-us-observers-see-veiled-threat/4875843.html
Better to wait until Trump leaves office to update the military plans, so that Putin doesn’t know the details.
“Mystery persists over where Rosatom will fuel its floating nuclear plant Four months ago, responding a pressure campaign from environmentalist and foreign governments, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom agreed not fuel its controversial floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, in thickly populated St Petersburg“. Published on November 20, 2017 by Charles Digges http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-11-mystery-persists-over-where-rosatom-will-fuel-its-floating-nuclear-plant
“Russia encompasses over half of the Arctic coastline, 40% of the land beyond the Arctic Circle, and 42% of the population. Russia has claimed that the Arctic is a “strategic resource base of the Russian Federation providing the solution of problems of social and economic development of the country.” There is potential for Russia to be less cooperative in some areas with Arctic states, where its economic interests take precedence. While many countries have expressed interest in extracting energy resources from the Arctic, 20% of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and exports – mostly oil and gas – already comes from the Arctic.
With an economy that relies heavily upon hydrocarbons, Russia is a leading investor in energy development in the region. Between 5% and 9% of Russia’s liquid hydrocarbon resources and almost 12.5% of its gas resources are contained in the Russian Arctic shelf. Forty-three of the sixty-one large oil and natural-gas fields in the Arctic are located in Russia.
Russia has also stated that it will use the Northern Sea Route – the Arctic shipping lane that connects the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, also known as the Northeast Passage – as a “national” transport route. This would be the shortest maritime route between the Eastern and Western parts of Russia; it also plans to expand air routes.
Maintaining security through a military presence in the Arctic, particularly as traffic in the NSR increases, is important to Russia, given its territorial and maritime claims, plus military policies in the region.
Russia maintains major military forces in the Arctic and those have recently been more active than in the past.
It has already equipped six new military bases in the region, both on its shores and on outlying Arctic islands.
Russia’s pursuit of economic benefits in the Arctic could have severe consequences for the environment, potentially creating tension with other Arctic States which are working to protect the environment or mitigate climate change. However, to make optimal use of these resources will require Western technology and investment. Russia first pursued partnerships with France and Norway, but must now look elsewhere so long as sanctions remain in place. Even after sanctions were lifted, investors would be concerned about whether Russia’s legal and political systems would be safe for their investments.” “Report on Arctic Policy, International Security Advisory Board“, US Dept. of State, September 21, 2016 https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/262585.pdf
Top Photo credit: “Nuclear icebreaker “Yamal” on its way to the North Pole, carrying 100 tourists. 3 August 2001, by Wofratz,CC-BY-SA: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nuclearicebreakeryamal.jpg