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Strategic challenges of effective development of the Arctic shelf of Russia in modern geopolitical conditions
Material posted: Publication date: 15-11-2014

In the formation of a transnational world, the boundaries between domestic and foreign policies of the States become conditional. In the context of geopolitical challenges of modernity subyacente the focus of international law shifted from state to regional level. Thus, there is the increasing importance of regions in national and global aspects. This is reflected in the fact that economic, political, social and other interests of the States now face in a limited area. Any consequences of decisions made in respect of the territory, can affect the whole global economic system.

In one of such territories with geostrategic, geo-economic and geopolitical significance for the Russian Federation, and also the entire world community, is the Arctic.

Prior to the beginning of the XXI century the Arctic territory is not a special economic and political interest, both for the Russian Federation and other countries. Special climate conditions and the impossibility of carrying out industrial activity limited the interests of the countries in the Arctic region, as well as the possibility of a political dispute over sovereignty of the Arctic territories. Global warming has led to changes in the situation and made accessible to resource-rich Arctic regions. Thus, climate change has pushed many States to reassess its interests in the Arctic. Shrinking polar ice has opened up large prospects for industrial development of the region, primarily in the development of offshore oil and gas fields, as well as the economic potential of Maritime routes, and the global problem of depletion of conventional hydrocarbon reserves was the catalyst for the expansion of activities in the Arctic region.

The legal status of the Arctic space at the international level are not directly regulated [1]. The procedure for determining the limits of the continental shelf for coastal States established by the UN Convention (adopted in 1982) [2]. The Convention has been ratified by all the countries of the five Arctic coastal States except the USA, which, however, recognize many norms of the Convention as norms of General international law and seek peaceful resolution of potential claims to continental shelf. Other Arctic States are also interested in protecting their rights and interests in the Arctic in the framework of regular and sustainable dialogue.

Most of the Arctic lies within the national borders of the Arctic States, however, the problems of territorial disputes are still relevant and include not only disputes over the boundaries of exclusive economic zones of the countries of "the Arctic five", but also the security and the right to territorial and international waters. For example, such non-Arctic countries like China, Japan, South Korea and others consider the Arctic resources as the common heritage of all mankind, and believe that their development should take place within the framework of broad international cooperation, which should include access to exploitation of Arctic resources of all States, with technical and financial capabilities.

The modern system of international interaction in the Arctic has a dual nature. On the one hand, increases the competition between Arctic countries for strengthening position in the region, with another - no one country has sufficient scientific and technical capabilities for the implementation of Arctic projects on their own. In addition, in the region there are many other problems to be solved in the framework of international cooperation. All countries are showing their interests to the development of the Arctic resources, realizing the magnitude of the benefits, approach to solving geopolitical and economic problems from the standpoint of international cooperation [3]. In these conditions, especially important, a clear definition of the position of Russia as the largest Arctic state in respect of the prospects of the Arctic development, elaboration of its own projects in the region and their coordination with partners in the Arctic dialogue.

According to the adopted February 12, 2013 the new edition of the foreign policy Concept of the Russian Federation "Russia pursues a proactive and constructive line aimed at strengthening multi-format international cooperation in the Arctic. Consistently implementing its national interests, Russia believes the adequacy of the existing international legal framework for the successful resolution of all arising in the region through negotiations, including the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic ocean". Also emphasizes the openness of Russia to mutually advantageous cooperation with non-Arctic States "while respecting their independence, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Arctic States in the Arctic" [4]. However, the modern transformation of the political background can lead to destabilization of international cooperation on Arctic issues. So it is especially important to find common ground between the States concerned, which involve mutual benefit.

In addition to preserving political stability the most important challenges for Russia on the Arctic territories are: social problems, problems of ensuring environmental security, the development of transport infrastructure. An increased level of vulnerability of the Arctic territories associated with specific climatic conditions and the negative impact of industrial activity lead to complex interrelated problems that require strategic approaches to their solution.

The main social challenges are: maintaining the integrity of landscapes, the maintenance of the established lifestyles of indigenous peoples, human capacity-building, maintaining biological diversity, creating conditions for adaptation to modern changes in the region and others.

The formation of transport infrastructure implies: modernization of airports, ports, navigation and communication, the development of the Northern sea route as a full marine transit route in the interests of national and international navigation software complex of vehicles, the logistics worked out trajectories and flight paths, road and rail transport, etc.

With regard to environmental problems, their consequences such as: sharp growth of concentration of methane in the atmosphere, increasing the concentration of pollutants in the atmospheric air, reduction of lifetime of buildings increased risk of flooding, chronic adverse effects on ecosystems and many others - may have short-and long-term nature on a global scale. Some of them can be irreversible. Therefore, environmental issues should be given special attention at government and corporate level. The seriousness of this problem admits of both Ukrainian and foreign scientists [3, 5, 6, 7], however, now we need to strengthen the environmental focus in the implementation of any projects in the Arctic.

Given the increasing geoeconomic and geopolitical interests in the Arctic and non-Arctic States in the Arctic region, the Russian Federation it is necessary to carry out purposeful work on strengthening its presence in the region. In the first place, to begin development on their legal shelf parts that will make Russia the owner of the relevant fields and will allow her to move on to fruitful economic cooperation with other countries. Secondly, it is necessary to build a dialogue between stakeholders, why it is important to exclude the situation of gaps in legislation and to seek unity in approaches to address the key Arctic issues in all areas.


Bolsunovskaya Yu And



[1] Lukin Y. F. Russian Arctic in a changing world. Arkhangelsk: 2012. S. 34.

[2] V. P. Motyashov Gas and geopolitics: Chance for Russia. Ed. 2-E. M.:LENAND. 2014. S. 296.

[3] A. Chilingarov Russia in the Arctic: opportunities for international cooperation in the region and its specificity. Report of the International conference "the Arctic: region of development and cooperation". URL:

[4] the foreign policy Concept of the Russian Federation from February 12, 2013 URL:

[5] Basurko, O., Mesbahi E. Methodology for Sustainability Assessment of Marine Technologies / Journal of Cleaner Production. 2014. No. 68. P. 155-164/

[6] P. Johnston Arctic Energy Resources: Security and Environmental implications / Journal of Strategic Security. 2012. Vol. 5. No. 3. P. 13-32.

[7] Shakhova N., Semiletov I., Salyuk A., Yusupov V., Kosmach D., Gustafsson O. Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf / Science. 2010. Vol. 327. P. 1246-1250.


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