Arctic Fellowship
The Northeast Passage. Photo by: A. Solomonov/RIA Novosti

The Northeast Passage. Photo by: A. Solomonov/RIA Novosti

Russia is to develop the Northeast Passage together with China.

The Northeast Passage shall open again and live a new life. The world trade progress is pushing geographical limits as the substantial part of industrial production is shifting to Asia. Russia has got natural advantage in this process with the Northeast Passage, a new promising transport route open for anyone who wishes to cooperate. Last Friday Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Vice Premier, spoke at the Federation Council on the prospects of development of the Northeast Passage and national security in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation.

The Vice Premier pointed that the importance of the Northeast Passage has increased since the deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey. Having put down the Su-24 jet fighter over the territory of Syria, Turkey never apologized or compensated, which forced Russia to introduce economic sanctions against its southern neighbor. The situation in Syria has become drastic, and despite the armistice that recently took effect, Russian and Turkish armed forces may still come into another conflict. If this happens, Turkey will close the Bosporus for Russian vessels in accordance with the Montreux Convention, blocking the way into the Indian and Atlantic oceans. “Russia has to have a reliable, free and, most importantly, year-round outlet to the sea. The development of the Northeast Passage is our best choice,” the politician explained.

The northern part of the Atlantic is also not absolutely safe for Russian vessels. In addition to tension in the Middle East, Russia must not forget about NATO’s actions on the territory of the Baltic states. The alliance sends more and more military units to guarantee its presence in the Baltic Sea region, which poses a threat to Russian civil ships that set out from the Saint-Petersburg port. Moreover, American general Philip Breedlove recently claimed that “the USA is ready to defeat Russia in Europe.” Back in the epoch of cold war, American air bases in Norway, Scotland and Iceland in synergy with carrier battle groups would hinder Russia’s access to the sea. With that in mind, the words of the Russian Vice Minister are relevant as ever.

In his report at the Federation Council, Dmitry Rogozin also expressed worries that a tender to the project of development of the Northeast Passage had been won by an American company McKinsey. Fortunately, this “sensational” information was refuted by Alexei Galushka, Minister for Development of Russian Far East. He promised that a new model would be created by the Analytical Center at the Government of the Russian Federation. The contract with this organization had already been concluded. “This is a new look at the global map of transport routes; at changes brought by the growth of Chinese economy; and at exacerbation of certain contradictions existing in the framework of active transport routes,” the Minister said. 

It is obvious that Russia is counting on China, given the ability of the economic colossus to fill the new trade route with goods and vessels. Rogozin intends to demonstrate the advantages and reliability of the Northeast Passage firsthand: he is meeting with the Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang in the Arctic. It should be noted that this is not Rogozin’s personal initiative but part of Vladimir Putin’s plan for the Arctic. Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum, the President stated that “Russia’s goal was to turn the Northeast Passage into a competitive transport corridor with global importance.”

Chinese bulk freighter Yong Sheng. Photo by: ROBIN UTRECHT / AFP

China itself has repeatedly declared interest in using the Northeast Passage. After all, this route to Europe is 2.5 times shorter than past the Hindustan and through the Suez Canal, and Europe is one of the main consumers of Chinese production. The Northeast Passage is also safer as there are no pirates in these waters. In 2013, China gained an observer status in the major organization of Arctic states, the Arctic Council. That same year the first Chinese bulk freighter Yong Sheng traveled through the Northeast Passage from the homeport of Dalian to Rotterdam, Netherlands. Analysts in China envision that 15% of Chinese production will have been exported through the Arctic by 2020. Russia should remember that China is not only a partner but also a competitor, so it is wise to agree upon the terms of transition in advance.

The activity of China and its possible cooperation with Russia has made Japan pretty anxious. This country is also an observer in the Arctic Council and even has its own program for the Arctic. The volume of Japan’s economy is quite decent even in comparison with China, and they will certainly strife for contracts in the Northeast Passage. Russia could play out its own game with the two oriental giants, gaining considerable profits from their competition.

Russia’s major advantage in the Arctic is its polar technologies. The Russian icebreaker fleet is astounding 32 vessels; Finland is second best with mere 8 ships. Only Russia can break through two meter sheets of pack ice, and three more atom powered hulks will have been built by 2017, 2019 and 2020 respectively. Even earlier, in autumn 2016, a first drifting 80 megawatt nuclear power plant Academic Lomonosov is planned to be set out. The infrastructure needed to distribute this energy is being developed in the port of Pevek, Chukotskaya Oblast. The plant is expected to be functional without repair for 12 years, while full term of service is to be no less than 40 years. Russia’s potential competitors in the Arctic have none of these perks.

In addition to technological advantage, there are geographic conditions favorable for Arctic development. Of course, the time had long passed since the USSR held claim of all ices, snows and waters up to the North Pole. In 1997, Russia ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which permits to economically use only a narrow line of territorial sea 12 nautical miles long. However, the UN has left space for negotiation with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that accepts applications from littoral Arctic states. The Russian bid claims about a million square kilometers of seabed. Russia’s gradual and patient attempts will eventually let it stand firm in the region and continue to build military bases along the shore of the Arctic Ocean.

Hopes are that the Northeast Passage will become a project of global significance in the nearest future. According to the expertise of the Higher School of Economics, trade turnover through the Northeast Passage may reach 50 million tons by 2020, which is 20 times as much as today. In opinion of Mikhail Slepenchuk, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on national resources, nature management and ecology, the Northeast Passage could become “a new geopolitical pillar of Russia.” Indeed, Russia can only guarantee its independence and growth by taking a unique opportunity to develop its natural transportation and trade potential. 

Оригинальный текст (original)

Боевики Бандеры хозяйничают в Москве Далее в рубрике Боевики Бандеры хозяйничают в МосквеРадикализация и объединение либеральной оппозиции, осуществляемые под фашистскими лозунгами, являются серьезной угрозой для России


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