18 January 2013, 18:50

Global interests focussed on the Arctic

Global interests focussed on the Arctic

Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry will set up ten firefighting and rescue centres in the Arctic to ensure safety of the Northern Shipping Route and of the employees of the companies working on the Arctic shelf. Experts say that owing to Russia’s efforts, the shipping route will soon become the key transport waterway between Europe and Asia.

These centres will be equipped with advanced equipment and should cover the entire Arctic in case of emergency situations. According to Minister Vladimir Puchkov, the new infrastructure will ensure safety of the local residents as well as the employees of Russian companies working there. Notably, several major companies are implementing large-scale energy projects on Russia’s northern territories.

The life itself and the need for new economic solutions have prompted Russia’s full-fledged return to the Arctic since the country lost this most important region after the collapse of the Soviet Union, says political scientist Vladimir Khodarenok in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

“This concerns both military presence, which is quite necessary in the present conditions, and economic development. There are other reasons too. During the hard times, a network of meteorological stations in the region was closed. However, at present, the Arctic has become exclusively important geopolitical region and even something decisive for Russia. Consequently, its return is inevitable. Many things are to be rebuilt from scratch,” Vladimir Khodarenok said.

The economic competition for the oil-and gas-rich Arctic is now at its peak. The Arctic is divided into five zones between Russia, the U.S., Norway, Denmark and Canada. In this context, the development of the Northern Shipping Route will produce significant dividends and advantages to Russia. This route is the shortest path between Europe and Asia. The ice layer is the main obstacle to develop shipping. However, an advanced icebreaker fleet is being built by Russia will help solve this problem. As part of the marine doctrine and the programmes of the development of northern territories, Russia is planning to develop several classes of advanced icebreakers.

Clearly, the implementation of the project is advantageous for all. For Russia, it is the development of infrastructure, while for the users, it will help to save time and money. Moreover, there is no risk of facing attacks by pirates. In the past three years, transit operations along the Northern Shipping Route have increased ten times. As the ice melts in the Arctic, the year-round shipping will become a reality, and the role of the route will be special for Russia, says first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov. At the same time, he calls on to look at another aspect of the Artic issue.

“The shortest air and space route between Russia and U.S. as well as Eastern and Western Hemispheres lies over the Northern Pole. In view of this, control over the region will help to ensure U.S. and Russian security,” Konstantin Sivkov said.

The expert says that China has also shown keen interest in the Arctic. In fact, China has started building its icebreaker fleet. In these circumstances, Russia’s economic and infrastructure development in the region is quite logical. At present, no one is planning to wage a war for the Arctic, of course. Moscow has more than once emphasized that the Arctic should become the scene for implementing joint scientific and economic projects. However, this does not mean that Russia will not promote its national interests in the region.

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