Global Politics, Russia, World

The Arctic Ocean is a Russian Lake

Hits: 286

In 2007 a Russian submersible planted a flag on the sea floor at the North Pole. This sparked a flurry of pearl-clutching in the West and idiotic concerns for Santa Claus’ safety (but keep calm, Canada will defend him!) drowning out the rational comment of Christopher Westdal, a former Canadian Ambassador to Russia:

In the Arctic, for a start, Mr. Putin is playing by the same Law of the Sea rules we endorse. The truth is that if we could have, we would have, long ago done much the same thing the Russians have just done. We were not amused, but Russia’s gambit was an entirely legitimate use of an impressive technology that we wish we had to highlight a claim.

The operative statement here is “if we could have, we would have”. The truth is that only Russia can and that means that the Arctic is essentially a Russian lake, or, if you prefer, a Russian skating rink. First of all, about 160 degrees of the circle – or 43% – is Russian, quite a bit more than Canada at 22%, Denmark/Greenland at 19% or the USA and Norway at 8% each. But it’s not just that more of it is Russian, the main point is that Russia can and the other four can’t.

Most of the Arctic is frozen most of the time and icebreaker ships are necessary. According to this list of operational icebreakers, Canada has six, the USA four, Denmark three, Norway two. Russia has more than seventy. Russia’s fleet is modern, the others are old. Russia has the only nuclear-powered icebreakers – eight in service according to Wikipedia. The Arktika is the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker capable of operating through three metres of ice; there are three more in the works. But an even larger class is coming: four metre ice; construction began in July. Russia’s icebreaker capacity is so enormous that one of them spends its time running tourist cruises to the North Pole. None of the other Arctic countries has anything like this. The USA is planning to build more to replace its elderly fleet; Canada is “exploring options“.

The principal reason for Russia’s construction of such powerful icebreakers as the Project 10510 (aka Leader or Лидер class) is to turn the “Northern Sea Route” into a year-round useable shipping route. The route runs from Murmansk (ice-free year-round and therefore accessible to world shipping) along the top of Russia, through the Bering Straits into the Pacific Ocean – a much shorter route than anything else. At present, its potential is offset by the facts that it has very thick ice at the eastern end and that current icebreakers move slowly at their icebreaking limits. The intention is that the Leader class icebreakers will be able to move through the heavy ice at normal ship speeds (about 12 knots). All this is explained in here by John Helmer.

There are considerable geostrategic implications – this route is not just a way for Russia to earn transit fees. At present Chinese goods bound for Europe travel south, through the straits in Malaysia and Indonesia, through the Indian Ocean and on either through the Suez Canal, Mediterranean and Gibraltar or round Africa. This route has many narrow passages that can be interdicted by hostile powers; much of it is within reach of NATO. If the Northern Sea Route became routinely useable throughout the year, China would be able to more quickly and cheaply ship goods to its European markets. Using the Northern Sea Route will also put these goods far from the reach of the US Navy and its interminable “freedom of navigation” patrols. Likewise, goods coming to China – especially energy from Russia – will be out of reach of hostile powers. The Northern Sea Route, when added to the fast rail network being built by Beijing through Mackinder’s “World Island“, will be a geopolitical fact of no small significance: a response, if not checkmate, to the five-century power of Mackinder’s “world islands”. Both Beijing and Moscow routinely look farther into the future than Western capitals do and Moscow’s work in the Arctic is an example of this forward planning.

The Arctic is thought to have a great deal of natural resources, particularly petroleum. In such a large and inhospitable territory there is much to be explored but already there are many estimates: one ten-year old source estimates that 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas reserves (most in the Russian Arctic) and 13% of its oil reserves may be there. Another source reports that more than 400 onshore oil and gas fields have been discovered north of the Arctic Circle, more than two-thirds are in Russia. One of the largest Russian petroleum sources is in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Region from which over half of Russia’s oil comes but there are many other oil and gas fields in the Russian sector. Modern technology has made it more possible than previously to tap these resources and Russia is in the forefront of the exercise: Rosneft has just begun what promises to be an enormous operation in the Taymyr peninsula,

Given the inaccessibility of the Arctic, the most efficient way to transport natural gas is to liquefy it. Norway appears to have pioneered LNG technology in cold climates with its plant at Hammerfest that started operations in 2007. Two years later Russia opened its first LNG plant in Sakhalin (52 degrees north). In 2017 another plant was opened in the Yamal Peninsula at 71 degrees north (the same latitude as Hammerfest but much colder weather). To carry this LNG to its customers a fleet of icebreaking LNG carriers has been built in South Korea; the first, the Christophe de Margerie, completing a voyage from Norway to South Korea in August 2017 without needing the support of icebreakers. As of December 2019 the fifteenth and final of the fleet had taken on board its maiden cargo at the Yamal LNG port bound for China. That was the 354th LNG cargo from the port in the first two years of its existence. Once again we see that the country that supposedly “doesn’t make anything” actually makes big plans and executes them. Work on the plant begun in July 2012, it opened for business in December 2017 in time for the appearance of its fleet of specialised ships. The owner, Novatek, is building a third LNG plant in the Yamal region. Rosneft is building its own fleet of  icebreaker LNG carriers for  its Arctic LNG 2 project. Meanwhile an LNG plant for Alaska has been in concept since 2014 and thus far seems to have produced nothing expect planning permission. In Canada there are  “feasibility studies“.

Petroleum supplies are by no means the only natural resources in the Arctic: there are many minerals there as well. In all these areas Russia is well advanced in exploration and exploitation. For many years Russia has maintained a coal mine in Spitzbergen, the Taymyr Peninsula has large coal reserves that India is interested in, there’s a large gold mine in Chukotka and Norilsk has been a  producer of nickel, copper and palladium for years. Russia’s Arctic helium production is the subject  of a breathless NYT piece. But these are just samples of what is likely there and the Northern Sea Route, when it is routinely operational, will open more areas for exploration, exploitation and transport.

The Arctic is a formidable environment and work, let alone mere survival, requires enormous amounts of energy the sources of which may be far from the sites. Moscow has an answer for that too – nuclear power stations. Specifically floating, and therefore moveable, nuclear power stations. The first of these, the Akademik Lomonosov, has been operating for more than a year in Pevek, Chukotka. A second is under construction and the current plan calls for seven in total. But, if the project succeeds – and so far so good – there will likely be more. Again, none of the other Arctic nations has anything like this, even though the USA actually pioneered the concept.

Of the five Arctic nations, only three seem to operate military bases in the true Arctic area. The USA has a number of facilities in Alaska but all of them are south of the Bering Strait but it does operate a significant air base at Thule in Greenland (76 degrees north) (Google maps). Canada operates CF Station Alert at 82 degrees north; but it is a relatively small huddle of buildings reachable only by air: (Google Maps). A naval facility is being constructed at the top of Baffin Island and is expected to become operational in 2022. This paper describes Canada’s efforts in its 22% of the Arctic and admits “Significant gaps remain between its current abilities and desired end-state, yet there has been a steady improvement in its basic skill sets”. Two of the Arctic nations – the USA and Russia – operate fleets of nuclear-powered submarines which can travel under the arctic ice but only Russia has submarines actually based in the territory at Polyarnyy in the Kola Peninsula.

By far the largest military force stationed in the Arctic is the Russian Northern Fleet. Not only does this include considerable surface and submarine elements but it fields a strong aviation component and coastal troops complete with shore defence missiles and air defence assets. To say nothing of nuclear forces – here are four Bulava ICBMs being fired from an SSBN in the White Sea. Altogether a very strong and balanced force with direct exit into the polar ocean. The Northern Fleet is continually exercised as the Russian MoD site shows. The other Arctic nations have nothing to compare: they may make occasional excursions into the Far North but only Russia is there all the time.

But where Russia really has a military presence in the Arctic are the bases that it has built. In no way can CFS Alert’s huddle of huts be compared to the amazing Trefoil base on Alexandra Land at 80 degrees north (Google maps.) It is said to be able to provide “comfortable” living for up to 150 soldiers for a year and a half. Another base, the Northern Clover base (250 troops) on Kotelny Island, is in operation, equipped and exercised. Another base is being built in Tiksi. There are at least five airbases on the Russian Arctic archipelago. And it’s not just troops and aircraft – a couple of years ago Arctic-adapted vehicles were shown in the Victory Day parade – they include air defence systems, all-terrain vehicles and armoured fighting vehicles. A version of the T-80 tank is being refurbished for Arctic service. Meanwhile, in 2013 Canada was testing a snowmobile but nothing seems to have happened with it.

The reality of Russia’s possession of its Arctic territories is met with the usual hyperventilation in the Western media “Russia sees its assertive military posture…”; “What Is Behind Russia’s Aggressive Arctic Strategy?“; “Arctic Aggression: Russia Is Better Prepared for a North Pole Conflict Than America Is: Not good“; “Meeting Russia’s Arctic Aggression“; “Putin is making a power grab for the Arctic“. And so on. “Assertive”, “aggression”, “power grab” are the words of the propagandist: what Russia is actually doing is defending and exploiting its territory. Just as we would. If we could.

In President Putin’s Arctic policy statement of March 2020:

Russia’s main national interests in the Arctic are as follows: to ensure Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; preserve the Arctic as a territory of peace and stable mutually beneficial partnership; guarantee high living standards and prosperity for the population of the Russian Arctic; develop the Russian Arctic as a strategic resource base and use it rationally to speed up national economic growth; develop the Northern Sea Route as a globally competitive national transport corridor; and to protect the Arctic environment, the primordial homeland and the traditional way of life of the indigenous minorities in the Russian Arctic.

A bit of propaganda there, but mostly cold hard national interest.

Russia has made the plans and followed through – the other Arctic nations mostly talk about it or complain.

To repeat Christopher Westdale:

“If we could have, we would have.”


Originally published on 2020-12-13

About the author: Patrick Armstrong was an analyst in the Canadian Department of National Defence specialising in the USSR/Russia from 1984 and a Counsellor in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow in 1993-1996. He retired in 2008 and has been writing on Russia and related subjects on the Net ever since.

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics, and international relations.

 

READ MORE!
How to Combat Croatian Revisionists’ Culture of Lies
In early 1944, Mirjana Babunovic-Dimitrijevic, a 22-year-old middle-class woman living in Sarajevo, was arrested by the Ustasa police. After she was arrested along with her mother and aunt, they were all deported to the Jasenovac concentration camp, for refusing to convert to Catholicism. All three women died there in late 1944.These women were among more than 80,000 victims who perished at Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945. While we don’t know precisely how they died nor what happened during their short lives in the camp, two things are certain.First, their deaths were the direct result of deliberate political decisions. Second, they ...
READ MORE
Russia’s Geopolitical Interests in the Balkans
First of all, taking into consideration the particular region of the Balkans in the context of Russia's national interests, we should consult official documents reflecting the wishes and intentions of the government. It is therefore necessary to consider Russia’s foreign policy doctrine. Foreign policy strategy The Russian Federation's previous foreign policy doctrine was made public on July 15th, 2008. Russian objectives were marked as the following: - Impacting global processes in order to establish a just and democratic world order based on collective principles in solving international problems and on the rule of international law, primarily the UN Charter provisions as well as equal ...
READ MORE
Bismarck, the United States and the Pomeranian Grenadier
All of the Balkans, legendary German Reichskanzler (Imperial Chancellor) Otto von Bismarck famously said, were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. And Bismarck, a Prussian landowner or junker had nothing but amused contempt for Pomeranian grenadiers who were regarded as a standing joke in the German Army. In 1890, brash, young new German Emperor Wilhelm II fired Bismarck after 28 years as minister-president of Prussia and then first Imperial Chancellor of Germany. He abandoned the priority policy of maintaining warm ties and close communications with Russia that Bismarck had always followed and scrapped the Dreikaiserbund, the League of ...
READ MORE
Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict
The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine, one of the leading journals in its field, offers a two-page photo essay on “what to see, do, and buy” in Lviv, a picturesque city in the Western Ukraine. “Amid the turmoil that has rocked Ukraine over the past two years,” the article gushes, “Lviv has stood firmly as a stronghold of national culture, language, and identity.”That’s one way of putting it. Another, less charitable way would be to note that Lviv has for nearly a century been a breeding ground of extreme Ukrainian nationalism, spawning terrorist movements, rabid anti-Semitism, and outright pro-Nazi ...
READ MORE
The Libyan Scenario for North Korea
On March 23, 2018, the US media published an interview with the newly-appointed National Security Advisor John R. Bolton, where he stated that the only solution for North Korea is complete disarmament – following the example of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi. This scenario is exactly what Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un need to discuss during their negotiations.John R. Bolton is well-known as a hardliner regarding Pyongyang. During his work for the Department of State in the 2000s, he was one of the most furious opponents of any dialogue with North Korea, and more recently he advocated a preventive strike against ...
READ MORE
Terrorist al-Nusra Front is blamed for massacre and abduction of Syrian civilians.
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford “For Russia, the war in Afghanistan is a domestic issue, with a direct impact on the drug trade and terrorist attacks on Russian cities”. If the United States were not a superpower, it would be the joke of the planet, a nation whose government tells the most outrageous and ridiculous lies -- and may actually believe them -- and whose corporate media report those lies as gospel truth. The latest whopper comes from the mouth of James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, who claims the Russians are providing weapons ...
READ MORE
President Obama’s Farewell Speech
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations. [wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
Libya: Is this Kosovo all over Аgain?
Another NATO Intervention?Less than a dozen years after NATO bombed Yugoslavia into pieces, detaching the province of Kosovo from Serbia, there are signs that the military alliance is gearing up for another victorious little “humanitarian war”, this time against Libya. The differences are, of course, enormous. But let’s look at some of the disturbing similarities.A demonized leaderAs “the new Hitler”, the man you love to hate and need to destroy, Slobodan Milosevic was a neophyte in 1999 compared to Muammar Qaddafi today. The media had less than a decade to turn Milosevic into a monster, whereas with Qaddafi, they’ve been ...
READ MORE
The US-NATO Plan for Macedonia: Keep Serbia Down and Russia Out
The role of the United States in the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is often overlooked by people who are critical of Washington’s intervention in the internal affairs of independent, sovereign countries.For it was in the former Yugoslavia that the precedent was set for future American intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo provided the launch pad for the West’s concept of humanitarian intervention, which, in reality, is a pretext for safeguarding and enhancing US global hegemony.However, intervention by Washington in the Balkans in the 1990s served a more immediate objective for the ...
READ MORE
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]Save
READ MORE
The Syrian Crisis is Part of a War Waged on Russia by the West
It seems clear now that the West wants to defeat Russia in Syria at all costs. This latest protracted confrontation in the Middle East can be understood as a proxy war of the US and NATO against Putin’s resurgent Russia. But Syria is just one zone of engagement in a much wider war against Russia that has been taking place since Putin started to stand up to the West. The same confrontation also occurs in Ukraine and formerly in Georgia, where Russia successfully halted, albeit temporarily, the Western advance. This amounts to a new Cold War or an undeclared war ...
READ MORE
South-East Europe in the International Relations at the Turn of the 20th Century (I)
Preface At the beginning of the 20th century the Great European Powers,[i] divided into two totally antagonistic political-military alliances, were preparing themselves for the final settling of accounts among each other concerning the new division of political-economic spheres of influence and the redistributing the colonies around the world. Their different interests overlapped upon the territory of South-East Europe, much more look down at the other parts of the globe, for the reason of the exploitation of the regional natural wealth and to take advantage of the military-strategic importance of South-East Europe as the strategic hinterland of East Mediterranean and the most ...
READ MORE
Nazi Collaborator Greeting Becomes Official Ukraine Army Salute
August 24th, Ukrainian Independence Day, will see a ceremony introducing the country's new official army salute, as prescribed by Ukraine’s Presidential decree: Glory to Ukraine! - Glory to the Heroes! "We have consulted with the Minister of Defense, National Security and Defense Council, Government and I have decided that starting from August 24 these words will be heard for the first time as part of the official military parade ceremony on the Independence Day of Ukraine," Petro Poroshenko was quoted saying on the Ukraine President's official site. Glory to Ukraine! - Glory to the Heroes! is a slogan of the UPA, the ...
READ MORE
Stepan Bandera's monument in Buchach, Ukraine with the flag (right) of a neo-Nazi Ukrainian political organization
In late November 2013, the 'Euromaidan' in Kiev began as a popular protest against a generalized state of corruption and cronyism in Ukraine. The spark that ostensibly ignited the protests was the inability of then President Yanukovych to sign an EU Association Agreement that would cut Ukraine's economic and military ties to Russia in favor of a closer relationship with the EU and NATO.The EU had made the release of former Ukrainian prime minister and "gas princess" Tymoshenko a precondition for signing the agreement. But the fact that Tymoshenko was/is a convicted embezzler of state funds, combined with the rather ...
READ MORE
The White House – A Purpose of the Institution
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]SaveSaveSave
READ MORE
Washington’s Wars
The New York Times reported on October 22 that the United States has “just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories,” which is a staggering total. But in an intriguing revelation the Times reported that there are a further 37,813 troops deployed “on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as ‘unknown.’ The Pentagon provided no further explanation.”It is not surprising that Washington’s war-spreaders do not supply information to the American public concerning the location of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen involved in clandestine operations around the globe, because this might bring to light the lack of justification for ...
READ MORE
Israel’s Secret Plan for a “Second Israel” in Ukraine
The role of Jewish figures and that of the State of Israel in the Ukrainian crisis has not gone unnoticed considering that this community represents less than 1 percent of the population. However, a secret report in the hands of the Netanyahu administration confirms that Ashkenazi Jews do not originate from the Levant, but are the descendants of the Khazars. This little-known population founded a Jewish empire in the tenth century on the banks of the Black Sea. Therefore, some Zionists see in Ukraine a possible second Israel.The Times of Israel, an independent Israeli newspaper that counts among its staff ...
READ MORE
The State of Emergency and the Collapse of French Democracy
The measures being taken by the government of President François Hollande in response to Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris constitute an unprecedented attack on democratic rights.The Socialist Party (PS) government has declared a state of emergency and mobilized more than 100,000 security personnel throughout the country, including regular police, gendarmes, paramilitary riot police and military forces. It is impossible to walk the streets of any major city without running into individuals decked out in camouflage or dressed in black, toting automatic rifles. These paramilitary forces have been given the power to raid any home and arrest or kill anyone declared ...
READ MORE
“Independent” State of the Republic of Kosovo(stan)
Kosovo(stan) Parliament announced "independent" state of the "Republic of Kosovo" on February 17th, 2008 as a democratic and multicultural political community.Here we present two photos from November 2015 on which you can see heavily damaged Serbian Orthodox church and totally destroyed Serbian Orthodox tombstones in the southern part of the town of Kosovska Mitrovica inhabited by the Muslim Albanians. Kosovo(stan) ISIS is doing its job profoundly.Enjoy Kosovo(stan) "independence"!P.S. Today (February 17th, 2018) on the 10-years anniversary of Kosovo(stan) "independence", Burundi canceled its previous recognition of it. Just guess why?Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you ...
READ MORE
Afghanistan: It is the Heroin, Stupid
Here we go again. In yet another Pentagon precision strike, a residential building in Achin district of Nangarhar province was hit as a crowd welcomed home a tribal leader returning from the Hajj.At least 13 civilians were turned into «collateral damage». The Pentagon of course does not «discuss the details of counter-terror operations», but it’s «currently reviewing all materials related to this strike».Nothing obviously will come out of it – adding the civilian dead to the non-stop mounting toll of Operation Enduring Freedom (Forever).Someone that actually is bound to endure his freedom in full splendor is former warlord, head of ...
READ MORE
How to Combat Croatian Revisionists’ Culture of Lies
Russia’s Geopolitical Interests in the Balkans
Bismarck, the United States and the Pomeranian Grenadier
Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict
The Libyan Scenario for North Korea
The U.S., Not Russia, Arms Jihadists Worldwide
President Obama’s Farewell Speech
Libya: Is this Kosovo all over Аgain?
The US-NATO Plan for Macedonia: Keep Serbia Down and Russia Out
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Syrian Crisis is Part of a War Waged on Russia by the West
South-East Europe in the International Relations at the Turn of the 20th Century (I)
Nazi Collaborator Greeting Becomes Official Ukraine Army Salute
Euromaidan: Anatomy of a Washington-Backed Coup D’etat
The White House – A Purpose of the Institution
Washington’s Wars
Israel’s Secret Plan for a “Second Israel” in Ukraine
The State of Emergency and the Collapse of French Democracy
“Independent” State of the Republic of Kosovo(stan)
Afghanistan: It is the Heroin, Stupid

FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share