NIAS Europe Studies Brief

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NIAS Europe Studies Brief
Russia's Position in the Arctic: New challenges

  Indrani Talukdar

About the Author

Dr Talukdar is currently a Faculty at Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service. Dr Talukdar has received her PhD from West Asian Studies Division, School of International Studies, JNU. Her research interests include: Russia, Turkey, Cyprus issue, Greece, Turkey-Greece relations, strategic studies, peace and conflict studies, defence studies, foreign policy, Russia and US.

NIAS Area Studies Brief No. 57
NIAS Europe Studies 10 May 2023

In 2015,* then Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin called the Arctic the “Mecca” for Russia,1 which is one of the biggest stakeholders in the region. With its Northern Sea Route (NSR), Russia has the edge over other Arctic countries as this historical sea route dating back to the 18th century, connected European Russia to the Far East.2 Global interest in the region has caught the attention of the Kremlin and the Russian strategic community. The region's potential to emerge as the next geopolitical theatre of competition and a deteriorating relationship with the West is driving Russia to upgrade its militarisation and accelerate its energy activities. The Ukraine crisis since 2014 has helped the Kremlin to put its plan for the region into action, marked by an increasingly assertive policy for the Arctic. The Arctic has been significant for Russia since the 11th century. During the Cold War, militarisation was accelerated to dangerous levels, and the Soviet Union developed its Arctic regions building full-scale industrial facilities, infrastructure, and large permanent settlements.3 Russia’s engagement in its Arctic zone has witnessed phases of concentration and negligence during the Soviet Union and immediate post-Soviet periods. During the Soviet era, Moscow established a strong industrial presence in the Arctic zone, and its scale of economic activity surpassed the activities of other circumpolar countries. The Arctic gained significance during that period; however, due to other domestic and external problems, the Kremlin could no longer sustain its focus on the region strategically, militarily, or economically. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet Union radically reduced the level of military confrontation in the area. He said, “Let the North of the globe, the Arctic, become a zone of peace. Let the North Pole be a pole of peace.” 

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