Staunton, June 28 – Ever more countries including those without any territory adjoining the Arctic are demanding that the Northern Sea Route be internationalized, but the Russian Federation cannot permit such a change of status in the Northern Sea Route because that route is the primary link between its various northern territories and Moscow, Valery Zhuravel says.
The head of the Center for Arctic Research at Moscow’s Institute of Europe says that “for Russia, the question of control over the Northern Sea Route has critical importance because this is still the only transportation route capable of integrating the distant regions of the Far North and its resource potential into the national economy” (ng.ru/dipkurer/2020-06-28/9_7896_arctic.html).
Thus, all efforts to internationalize the route are a direct threat to Russia’s national security and even its territorial integrity, and the Russian government cannot fail to respond forcefully to prevent such outcomes, Zhuravel says. He singles out for particular criticism, the US, China, Korea, Japan, the UK, and Norway.
And the Moscow scholar says that these countries are doing everything they can to “discredit the activity of Russia in the Arctic” both with respect to handling the environment and the treatment of the numerically small indigenous peoples there. Some recent events, like the Norilsk oil spill, have hurt Russia because they have been used by the country’s opponents.
To protect its interests, Zhuravel says, Moscow is creating a separate military command for the north, building new airfields there, replacing its aging icebreaker fleet with new generation ships, and expanding the role of the Russian Guard there, which will soon stand guard at all the major harbors in the north.
Other countries need to recognize that they have forced Russia to take these steps because from the Russian perspective, “the Arctic must remain a territory of low political tension and the successful development of multi-faceted international cooperation,” as long as everyone recognizes Russia’s special transportation and communication needs.