GP Insights

GP Insights # 79, 18 June 2019

Russia's expanding  Footprints in the Arctic
Mahath Mangal

What happened?

Russia conducted a landing training for its elite troops in Pechenga Bay, 15Km away from Norway’s border. Russian troops in the Kola Peninsula have reportedly held over 100 training exercises since June 1. The training comprised of both offshore and coastal exercises.
Of these, 57 involved the use of weapons. Russia also conducted missile tests two days back, successfully firing its new Tor-M2DT missiles. These are capable of operating in a Tundra environment. 


What is the background?

Moscow has been investing heavily in the region, about one-tenth of its entire investments. It has developed seven bases along its coast and offshore. With global warming and the opening up of more navigable waters, the prospects are too attractive for Russia to not take advantage of it.

The Northern Sea Route(NSR) opens up and offers a shorter route to Europe. Compared to the conventional route through the Suez Canal, this would be 10-15 days faster. The only concern is its navigability period, currently being three months when it is ice-free. This would also cut down carbon dioxide emissions by 52% according to estimates. With the impending warming of the oceans, this is bound to change. Added to this is the vast oil reserves under the region.

Russia has deployed its cutting-edge missile defence system – the S-400 Triumf in all seven of its bases on the islands and peninsulas, which has a 600Km detection range and 400Km striking range, overlapping each other.


What does it mean?

The establishments essentially state how Russia does not want anyone acting in the region without abiding by their rules and regulations, and rightly so. With a fifth of its land territory inside the Arctic Circle, Moscow is leading in placing claims to the emerging geopolitical region, leaving the other countries far behind.

With the only nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet in the world, Russia is well equipped to explore and utilise the frozen North. This will also help it improve its ties with countries like China, which is looking at any and every option to grow its economy. Moscow is in short, establishing its dominance in the most prospective region in the world, making it its stronghold.

Concerns with such developments are also environmental. An increase in the traffic in the region would accelerate the melting of ice caps and extraction of the enormous oil reserves should not be an incentive as fossil fuels have already damaged the planet’s ecosystem. The world is moving towards cleaner fuels, and it is time the developed countries set an example in becoming more environmentally friendly.

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