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Russia's geopolitical interests in the Arctic
Material posted: Publication date: 15-11-2014

Over the last decade have greatly increased interest in the Arctic region with the global community. It is noteworthy that the Arctic today is not only in the sphere of geopolitical interests of circumpolar Nations (Russia, USA, Canada, Denmark and Norway), but other States located far from the region (China, Japan, South Korea), as well as several international organizations that have not previously been involved in Arctic Affairs (NATO and EU). For Russia, began the development of the polar region eight centuries ago, the Arctic remains today an integral part of the Russian geopolitical space.

Russia has rich experience in exploration of the polar regions: in 1616 – 1620, Royal decrees were secured exclusive rights of Russia in some regions of the Arctic [1]. It is Russia that initiated the development of Alaska. In 1821 "the only Russian subjects" were given the right to conduct economic activity on the Islands, ports and bays around the North-West coast of America, Aleutian Islands and on all the coast of Siberia [2]. A note from the foreign Ministry dated 4 September 1916 declares lands and Islands, discovered by the expedition of B. Vilkitsky in 1913-1914, Russia. This course was continued in the Soviet period: the Decree of the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR of 15 April 1926 includes in the USSR "everything is both open and able to be open in the future, lands and Islands, not components of <...> recognized by the government of the Soviet Union the territory of any foreign States located in the Arctic ocean, North of the coast of the USSR up to the North pole" [3].

The opening of the Arctic's rich reserves of natural resources (in particular, hydrocarbons and ores), and the development of new global routes has led to a reassessment of the geopolitical position of the region and brought it to the attention of many influential States of the world. In the Arctic zone of the concentrated extraction of 91% natural gas and 80% (of Russia's proven reserves) gas of industrial categories [4]. Russia is a key player in the Arctic. The total value of mineral raw materials in the subsoil of the Arctic regions of Russia, by estimations, exceeds 30 trillion. dollars. And the total cost of explored reserves of 1.5-2 trillion. dollars [5]. These data indicate a low degree of exploration and exploitation of mineral resources, but in the future the Russian shelf can be a major source of oil and gas for Russia but also for the global market as a whole.


Source: Russian international Affairs Council

In the literature it is often noted that we live in the "age of the Arctic", as this region is the key to the future of humanity. Today, the focus of international tension are energy problems. So Leonid Ivashov said that the power shortage on the background of dynamic development of the Eastern economies and increasing demand from the Western countries, Latin America, the Islamic world, led to a confrontation between not only individual countries, but civilizations and regions – in connection with this powerful challenge of Russia throws the Arctic [6].

And Russia accepts this challenge. 22 April 2014 a meeting of the Security Council "On the implementation of the state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic in the interests of national security". During his speech at the meeting of the President Vladimir Putin noted that the Arctic "is a concentration of practically all aspects of national security: military-political, economic, technological, environmental and resource" [7]. In September 2008 approved the principles of state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the period till 2020 and further perspective. According to the document the basic national interests of Russia in the Arctic are [8]:

  • the use of the Arctic zone as a strategic resource base providing the solution of problems of socio-economic development of the country;

  • preservation of the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation;

  • preservation of unique ecological systems of the Arctic;

  • the use of the Northern sea route as a national single transport communication of the Russian Federation in the Arctic.

Today is a particularly acute problem of strengthening Russian positions in the Arctic, therefore, the key activity becomes possible strengthening of the strategic control over these areas. Given the sparse population of the territories is an important aspect of military control over the coast, information communication, supply and provision of food and housing wealth [9].

In economic development a priority for Russia in the Arctic zone is the expansion of the resource base. Currently the Arctic zone provides 11% of the national income of Russia, despite the fact that it is home to about 1.4% of the population of the whole country [10]. In the Arctic region is more than half of Russian stocks of rare metals, minerals, ores and other raw materials of strategic importance. In particular, the chromium deposits on the Yamal Peninsula and on the Kola Peninsula is vital to the economy, since the collapse of the USSR, Russia lost sources Empirijsko with chromium Deposit, which has remained in Kazakhstan. At the fisheries complex in the Arctic region accounts for up to 15% of the total catches of aquatic biological resources and fish products in Russia [11].

In the organization of the Arctic policy of Russia it is necessary to focus on ensuring integrated development of the region and socially responsible policies. The implementation of the economic component of the geopolitical interests of Russia in the Arctic A. G. Dugin proposes a multilevel integration of the North, which would have significantly increased the autonomy and regional autonomy, but did not weaken the strategic relationship with the Center. The main activities of the state in the Arctic zone should become the infrastructure update, the investment of funds on the principle of public-private cooperation in specific projects, attract the necessary labor force and the solution of social problems of the indigenous population, the re-industrialization of the Arctic on the basis of advanced and ecologically safe technologies. In addition, the necessary transformation of resource economy into knowledge economy: refers to the development of modern oil and gas processing industry, the output of which is value-added products (high value added).

From the point of view of military security, in the conditions of tough competition and the increased militarization of the Arctic, Russia continues to increase its military presence in the region is recovering a number of polar airdromes and base on the new Siberian Islands, there is an optimization of groupings of troops and forces of the Navy. However, a number of experts noted the insufficient strength of Russia's positions in the region, for example, Leonid Ivashov points out: "the Arctic zone has been a draw in the Russian state. There is the Northern Navy, land military district subordinate, – but he disarmed, has neither aviation nor the resources that would be active in the Arctic. There are only the border patrol, coast guard. Coordinating patterns in military terms here, either. In this no man's land mostly actively involved in the business" [12]. In the conditions of growing geopolitical status of the Arctic, has increased pressure on Russia on issues such as the definition of the outer limits of the continental shelf, section of marine areas, the development of oil and gas resources, exploitation of biological resources, access of foreign States to the Northern sea route (NSR) [13].

For Russia the North - a huge strategic military zone, major zone safety: in the Northern territories is the number of key enterprises, the largest naval base. Do not forget and about the comprehensive security in the Arctic, speaking of which on the Security Council meeting Vladimir Putin noted: "oil and gas production Facilities, loading terminals and pipelines should be reliably protected from terrorists and other potential threats.<...> We should also improve the reliability of our Arctic border protection, including by strengthening the marine component of the border group of the FSB of Russia. At the same time should strengthen the military infrastructure" [14]

Important for Russia is the provision of environmental security in the Arctic. Unique Arctic ecosystem requires careful and responsible attitude, so the economic development of the region actualizes the problem of compliance with environmental protection requirements and environmental protection both from Russia and from its foreign partners. There remains a risk of radioactive contamination of the Arctic, the negative impact on polar ecosystems also provides atmospheric streams and currents that bring North pollutants from Western Europe. In addition, the problem of preservation of the Arctic biosphere is also pressing against the activities of foreign companies in the far North. The state should carry out the assessment of impact on environment and ecological examination, to develop mechanisms of financial responsibility domestic and foreign companies in the event of an accident, as well as support the development of new competitive and environmentally friendly technologies.

In the globalized Arctic, Russia should pay more attention to transport and information infrastructure. The current satellite constellation is unable to provide communication in the polar regions of Russia. According to K. Benediktov, the solution is: "in order to rectify the situation, we need a separate grouping of communication satellites in highly elliptical polar orbits. Breeding programme of this group ("Express RV") was developed 5 years ago, <...> however, the implementation of the program moved on 2016-2025 years And prior to that time in the Arctic for a reliable connection you can only use the Iridium satellite system, head station which is in the U.S."[15]. For satellite monitoring of the Arctic today used data from the canadian satellite. However, in terms of geopolitical struggle, Russia cannot depend on the infrastructure of one of the rivals.

One of the promising directions in the development of the Arctic are the Northern sea route and the transit and cross-polar routes. The Northern sea route (NSR), the national transport artery. For Russia, the NSR is the only transport route that integrate remote areas of the far North of the country and their resources in the economy. Currently in the US and several NATO countries seek to internationalize SMEs and to force Russia out of there, because in the case of continued melting of ice, the NSR may become an important transport corridor of global importance. Russia still retains its advantage, as the ice off the Russian coast is thinner than outside duchatelet zone, but it is necessary to develop the infrastructure of the SMP in the following areas:

  • to ensure control over the implementation of Federal target programs on building of icebreaking and auxiliary fleets;

  • to upgrade existing ports and build new terminals taking into account possible increase in freight traffic;

  • create service search and rescue at sea to ensure the safety of ships throughout the route, etc.

The Arctic strategy of Russia set the task organization and effective use of transit and Transpolar air routes requires the establishment and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure. Cross-polar routes represent the most dynamically developing direction for the development of which Russia needs to modernize and replace the worn out Park of small aircraft, to support the production of models of domestic aircraft intended for operation in Arctic conditions, to provide dispatching support civil Transarctic flights, organize the items on hydro - and meteorology, etc.


Source: NASA, information office of the logistics Center of the far North, the draft transport strategy of Russia until 2030

One of the factors ensuring the interests of Russia in the Arctic is the development of techniques and technologies: in the event of further technological lagging behind of Russia, one should expect negative effects not only in short run but in the long run. There is a risk that the development of Russian Arctic resources will be made on the conditions of the technology provider. Today in the development of the far North to the fore the factor of economic presence – which, in turn, is directly related to the level of development of technique and technology. The development of fundamental science is also one of the important tasks, implementation of which will ensure long-term development of the Arctic: scientific research provide the basis for determining the legal status of the territories of the far North.

Russia seeks to maintain the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation. In its Arctic policy of Russia is based on international law, in particular the UN Convention on the law of the sea 1982, members of which include all of the circumpolar States, except the United States. In accordance with the Convention, all Arctic coastal States have extended their jurisdiction on the Arctic shelf and exclusive economic zone in the Arctic ocean with a width of 200 nautical miles, with a right of further extension of the shelf up to 350 miles if they can prove that the continental shelf is an extension of their continental platforms. USA, not being members of the 1982 Convention, reserve the right to limit the width of your shelf in the Arctic ocean, which may serve as a source of additional tensions in the region.

In the context of the growing interest of world powers in the Arctic, there is a dangerous tendency of militarization of the region. This is clearly apparent in the increased military presence and activity of a number of countries in the Arctic, modernization of the armed forces and infrastructure in the far North, as well as intensive use of armed force to protect its economic interests. A number of States today pursues a policy of changing the legal regime of the Arctic: they have not questioned the jurisdiction of the circumpolar countries, however, actively seek to change the status quo.


Source: Russian international Affairs Council

So the Kiruna Declaration on the occasion of the eighth Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council from 15.05.2013, provides observer status to China, South Korea, Italy, India, Japan, Singapore and the European Union. It is also noteworthy that during the last meeting of the Arctic Council, a key focus of which was the environmental component, special attention was paid to the economic development of the region, to promote cooperation between government and business to ensure sustainable development of the Arctic. The General result of the preceding transformations in the framework of the Arctic Council is the globalization of the Arctic, which will take the focus from the ecological component of development of the region economic: the focus will be mining and the development of transit routes. With the introduction of the system of governance for the Arctic region new players traditionally, the Arctic States may lose part of its influence.

To ensure national security and protect its Arctic interests of Russia in this situation should be maintained, the format of cooperation within the Arctic Council and promote the idea of creating a body that would coordinate the activities of States in the Arctic region and ensure respect for international law. In addition, it is necessary to develop long-term policy, the implementation of which would be aimed at protecting Russia's national interests in the region. A logical step would be the creation of a unified management center, the main activity of which was the integrated implementation of the "fundamentals of state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the period till 2020 and further perspective", and the separation of the Northern territories, including the shelf, between the subjects to involve economies entities in the development of the Arctic. It is important to continue work in the sphere of border demarcation and scientific basis for the Russian claims in the Arctic.

A. A. Pupkova

1 L. S. Voronkov, Russia's Interests in the Arctic. Russian international Affairs Council, 30.08.2012.

2 International law / ed. by A. N. Vylegzhanina. M.: Higher education, yurait, 2009. S. 188.

3 the Decree of the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR from 15. 04.1926 "On declaring territories of the USSR of lands and Islands located in the Arctic ocean". [Electronic resource]:

4 P. V. pilyavskiy the Arctic as center of geopolitical and economic interests. [Electronic resource]:

[5] Natural resources of the Arctic. Help. RIA Novosti. 15.04.2010. [Electronic resource]:

[6] Lukin Y. F. Russian National interests in the Arctic: conference in St. Petersburg / Arctic and North. 08.12.2013. [Electronic resource]:

[7] [Electronic resource]:

[8] fundamentals of state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the period till 2020 and further prospects // Russian newspaper, 27.03.2009.

[9] Dugin A. G. geopolitics Basis. Moscow: ARCTOGAIA centre, 2000. P. 175.

[10] Konyshev V. N., Sergunin A. A. the National interests of Russia in the Arctic: myths and reality // National interests: priorities and security, 2011. No. 29 (122). C. 3

[11] Kochemasov, Y. V., Morgunov B. A., Solomatin V. I. Ecological and economic assessment of prospects of development of the Arctic [Electronic resource]:

[12] A. Samarin, the Ministry of Arctic security // Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 01.07.2014.

[13] Konyshev V. N., Sergunin A. A. the National interests of Russia in the Arctic: myths and reality // National interests: priorities and security, 2011. No. 29 (122). S. 9

[14] [Electronic resource]:

[15] K. Benediktov Great ice boards // news 18.12.2013.

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