Staunton, July 24 – The Russian defense ministry has drafted and the government approved a new bill that would significantly increase the time foreign shipping companies would have to apply for transit across what Moscow views as its territorial waters in the Northern Sea Route, according to an RBC reporters
In 2019, Moscow sought to require 45 days of notice; but if the new bill is passed, that will increase to 90 days. In addition, shippers will be required to provide security for themselves and also to operate according to Russian rules regarding environmental protection (rbc.ru/politics/25/07/2022/62de9f5c9a7947f5812e7920).
It is virtually certain that the Russian authorities will present this as an environmental protection measure, but the fact that the defense ministry has prepared this measure and that it also prohibits foreign submarines from operating in these waters while submerged clearly indicates that it is about security rather than ecology.
Given Moscow’s expansive claims of territorial waters in the Arctic Sea, this measure will put the Russian authorities on a collision course with foreign countries, at least some of whom are likely to stop using the Northern Sea Route rather than take the risks of a clash or delays should Russian naval forces get involved.