Russian President Vladimir Putin formally approved the Russian Federation’s long awaited fifteen year plan for the Arctic last week. The plan, titled “Basic Principles of Russian Federation State Policy to 2035” addresses Russia’s Arctic environmental policy, infrastructure development, and security position. Russia’s 2035 strategy details a more assertive approach to the High North, in keeping with recent increases in development and military activity.
The Northern Sea Route (NSR), also known as the Blue Silk Road, was emphasized as being critical to Russia’s liquified natural gas (LNG) extraction and transportation strategy. LNG and freight are critical for Arctic job creation, with Basic Principles 2035 laying out a target of 200,000 new jobs in the next 15 years.
‘Basic Principles 2035’ takes a pragmatic approach to climate change. The document singles out the possibility of foreign powers contaminating Russia’s Arctic waters and makes general paeans to global warming. However, Russia departs from the usual platitudes to emphasize the potential economic gains from Arctic warming–longer periods ice-free allow for cheaper, faster trade and transit. These periods also enable energy extraction in previously inaccessible areas. Russia is rightly focused on oil and gas over renewables and poised to maintain its energy dominance with redoubled Arctic extraction.
Most of Russia’s highlighted security concerns are domestic troubles, such as a dearth of Arctic public-private partnerships, a lack of technological development, aging and nonexistent infrastructure, and demographic decline. However, Basic Principles 2035 also highlights the need for military modernization in the face of increased Arctic NATO activity. The cornerstone of Russia’s Arctic leap forward is the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) system, which hastens information transmission and models battles in real time to determine strategies and project outcomes. Russia also rightfully warns against ‘discrediting its economic claims’ in its territory, the largest of any Arctic state.
“Basic Principles of Russian Federation State Policy to 2035” is a continuation of previous Russian policy, and contains essentially no surprises. The sheer expanse of Russia’s Arctic territory makes the Federation a de facto regional leader. Basic Principles 2035 outlines the economic development and national security measures necessary to improve quality of life and maintain strategic dominance in the High North.