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In cold access

North ready to open in front of the non-Arctic East

The conclusions from the statements and forecasts made at the international forum “The Arctic - Territory of Dialogue” are made by EastRussia.

In cold access
Photo: shutterstock.com

Politics with poles

Last week in Arkhangelsk, the annual Arctic Forum was held. Dialogue in plenary session with the participation of the presidents of the three Arctic countries - Russia, Finland and Iceland, - led journalist of the American CNBC Jeff Catmore. Communication was inevitably acute. Asking questions to Vladimir Putin, the moderator mentioned both the election of the US president, and the Crimea and Syria, and also quoted the new defense minister of his country, James Mattis, who called Russian behavior in the Arctic to improve the military infrastructure "aggressive." The Russian president even had to explain that all such steps are connected with "restoring infrastructure to ensure the safety of navigation", besides, it will be used not only by the Ministry of Defense, but also by the Ministry for Emergency Situations, and by scientists.

However, further during the discussion, the forum participants came out on the topic, of course, strategically no less important for the Arctic and the Russian Far East than the foreign policy disagreements of the Russian Federation and the United States. Jeff Catmore said that he saw representatives of countries outside the Arctic Council (unites eight northern states), including a large delegation from China, in the hall and asked Vladimir Putin whether the participation of such states in the development of the North should be reduced to purely investment activity "or to be broader.

The Russian president stressed that “all states of the world” have the right to work in the Arctic: “The only question is how to build this work, how to agree on this.” As examples of cooperation between the Arctic and non-Arctic states, Vladimir Putin cited the gas project of Yamal LNG, where in addition to two Chinese shareholders (CNPC and Silk Road Fund), partners from seven countries are involved, including Korean and Japanese companies. Recall that liquefied gas from the South Tambeyskoye field under the Yamal LNG project is to be delivered to Asia via the Northern Sea Route and through Europe. The fields in the Arctic are ready to jointly develop ExxonMobil and Rosneft, as well as Indian companies, Vladimir Putin continued. “The same Chinese partners intend to participate and speak about their readiness to participate in the construction of railways in the Russian north, which will lead to new deep-water ports,” he recalled.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö agreed with his Russian counterpart that the Northern Sea Route may be interesting as a project for non-Arctic countries, since "it will certainly reduce the transport link from Asia to Europe." And the President of Iceland, Gudny Johansson, confirmed that “closer cooperation, generally speaking, is good,” and the natural interest of the Asian states in the North “will allow them to extract the most from the sustainable development of the region”. “I will not talk about sanctions here. But the path to the future is the formation of such ties, because it serves the common interests, working together for the benefit of not only the two parties, but also all the parties, ”he added.

In the bowels or on the road

The Arctic Forum did take place against the backdrop of increased sanctions on Russian projects related to the development of the subsoil of the North. So, 28 March, the European Court of Justice of General Jurisdiction recognized as justified the EU sanctions against Rosneft. Measures prohibit the Russian state-owned company including oil production in the Arctic zone at a depth of more than 150 m and from shale deposits. And two weeks earlier, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for the prohibition of drilling in the Arctic waters of the European Economic Area, as well as the "use of diesel fuel in the Arctic." The Eurodeputies called for an end to the "militarization" of the Arctic, while not forgetting to mention "Moscow's military activity at the North Pole".

EastRussia Help. The territory beyond the Arctic Circle occupies only about 6% of the Earth's surface, but its share, according to preliminary estimates, is up to 20% of undiscovered recoverable reserves of oil and natural gas. Access to these deposits is provided by the Northwest Passage, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Northern Sea Route (NSR), connecting the countries of Europe and the European part of Russia with the Far East and Asian markets. About half of the mainland Arctic zone of Russia falls to the north of the Far East - the coastal territories of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

Taking into account the observed warming of the waters, the Northern Sea Route is able to become an alternative to the main transcontinental route passing through the southern seas of Eurasia and further to Africa via the Suez Canal, which Already repeatedly wrote EastRussia. It is these prospects that attract China, Japan and South Korea to cooperation with Russia, whose export flow of goods to European countries increases from year to year. Experts interviewed by EastRussia say that the SMP can be the main incentive for businessmen from Southeast Asian countries who are interested in their products reaching consumers as quickly as possible and investing in the modernization of the infrastructure of the Far East.



As Vladimir Petrovsky, chief researcher at the Russia-China Center of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, reminds EastRussia, interest in investments "in the construction of multimodal logistics routes that will literally" sew "the entire Eurasian continent, as well as in the construction of high-speed roads between the Far Eastern cities" The East Economic Forum last year was confirmed by representatives of South Korea. "No less interest in the NSR was shown at the forum by the Japanese, which are primarily interested in this route as the shortest route for the delivery of liquefied gas from the facilities of the Yamal LNG complex under construction. And in the plans of the Chinese already by 2025 year to transport on the Northern Sea Route no less than 20% of all their foreign trade cargo. That is, there is a competitive disposition of at least three Asian countries, thanks to which, with proper skill, Russia will be able to manage this promising resource with great benefit for itself, "the scientist says.

Natalia Ionova, General Director of CAF Group, says that for Russia the interest of neighbors to the Northern Sea Route is beneficial, since "the resource development of the Arctic is practically impossible without the high technology technologies that are being developed all over the world, including in Japan, South Korea and China." "But at the same time, the issues of pollution of the Arctic territories, climate change and melting of ice, protection of animals and many others are extremely acute today. And only joint efforts of Arctic and non-Arctic countries can become a guarantee of successful resolution of problems that are not directly related to the economy, "she said.

While it is warm, it is necessary to build

However, to predict how soon Chinese, Korean or Japanese investments will pour into Russia to develop the Northern Sea Route or other sectors of the Russian Arctic zone, while no one is at risk. The head of Rosmorrechflot Viktor Olersky explains this by the ambiguous state of the Arctic climate. "Yes, at present the prevailing theory is the increasing influence of human activity on the climate in the Arctic. In accordance with it, a long-term constant warming process and, as a consequence, a gradual decrease in the area and thickness of the Arctic ice are predicted. But forecasts of changes in air temperature and ice cover for the 21st century, based on taking into account the main climatic cycles and real trends, indicate the preservation of the vibrational rather than unidirectional background of climate change in the Arctic, "he says.

At the same time, the head of the federal department notes, large oil and gas companies may be interested in the development of Arctic shipping, which will ensure the uninterrupted export of hydrocarbons and other minerals from the North Sea Route to the destination. And now they are already creating conditions for the use of the Northern Sea Route as a transit highway between Europe and Asia, with the operation of large-capacity vessels right up to the Suezmax type ships. But as long as there is ice in the Arctic, a specialized icebreaker fleet is still required to work on its routes.

Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Shport, the governor of the Khabarovsk Territory, draws attention to the fact that even now, without waiting for the arrival of Asian investments, the Russian regions that are south and are not formally related to the Arctic should be built into the system of the Northern Sea Route and the development of the Arctic. For example, shipbuilding plants based in the Khabarovsk Territory have built more than 10 ice-class ships in recent years, Mr. Shport recalls. "And what is SMP? These are icebreakers, escort ships, tugboats, service vessels. We already have some experience. Of course, we would like to participate in the construction or maintenance of such projects, "says the governor. Vaninsky port can also take part in servicing the traffic flows coming along the Northern Sea Route, he continues: "The ships arrived, unloaded there - the 21 berth is operating in the port - and the cargoes have traveled along the Baikal-Amur Mainline to anywhere in Russia or beyond."