The last week saw five major developments in the Russian Arctic. The Federation sent a new icebreaker directly to the North Pole, recorded an unprecedented amount of Arctic shipping through the Northeast Passage, and oversaw a formerly dominant shipping corporation’s bankruptcy filing. Additionally, the Federation closed in on a Korean infrastructure deal, and uncovered new petroleum reserves with the aid of China.
Icebreakers and Ice
Built in 2016, the Arktika successfully completed its voyage to the North Pole, breaking through ice up to three meters thick along the journey. Despite a troubled construction, the nuclear-powered Arktika exceeded expectations by completing the voyage unscathed. On its route, the vessel recorded unprecedentedly northern Arctic sea-ice. This means that polar ice had receded closer to the poles than expected.
Russia’s development of the Northeast Passage is paying off. From January to September, a record 22.98 million tons in goods were shipped along the route. Less than half of this amount passed through the passage in just 2017. Shrinking sea-ice and steadily improving infrastructure are working in tandem to make the Arctic Sea a maritime shipping superhighway.\
Boom and Bust
Amid the rapid expansion of Russia’s Arctic economy, the previously dominant Murmansk Shipping Company filed for bankruptcy. The company lost several crucial contracts, and was gradually overtaken by competitors.
Korean and Chinese Infrastructure Assistance
The Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering company is set to construct maritime storage facilities for Russian liquified natural gas (LNG). All of the LNG will be exported, and maritime storage will cut export costs substantially. The deal further cements growing ties between Russia and Korea.
Utilizing Chinese semi-submersible drilling infrastructure, state energy corporation Gazprom discovered new sources of gas in Leningradskoye field, significantly increasing the field’s value.
The success is emblematic of China and Russia’s partnership generally, whereby Chinese capital or technology is exchanged for access to Russian resources and sea-space.
The Arctic’s Russian Future
Holding vast swathes of Arctic territory, it’s only natural that Russia enjoys significant influence in the region. Despite sanctions and isolation, the Federation’s mixed model of economic development, combining private, public, and military investment, continues to be successful. Arctic states should look to Russia for inspiration in charting their own courses to sovereignty and prosperity in the High North.