Monday, February 20, 2023

Key Strategic Construction Project in Far North Comes to an Abrupt Halt Putting Russia’s Future in Question, Rybin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 19 – The Northern Polar Railway, begun under Stalin but ended after his death, resumed briefly under Brezhnev but then suspended, and ordered to be completed by Vladimir Putin has come to a complete stop with no indications that there are any plans to finish what has come to be known as the Northern Broad Gage railways, Ivan Rybin says.

            Enormous sums of money have already been spent on what officials acknowledge is a critical for both economic development and Russian national security, but over the past five years, nothing has been built despite much upbeat talk in Moscow to the contrary, Svobodnaya Pressa commentator says (

            The final back and forth on this project was started in April 2021 when Putin called for the construction of the Northern Broad Gage to be started. Then, a year later, he repeated his call for this to happen and specified a date, 2022. But in October 2022, when nothing had happened, Deputy PM Marat Khusnullin stopped all work on this project.

            Khusnullin is a Kazan Tatar, and some observers think he made this decision to find funds to pay for the super highway between Moscow and Kazan ( But however that may be, it highlights two things of enormous consequence for what is taking place in Russia today.

            On the one hand, it underscores the fact that in today’s Moscow, junior officials can sabotage even a critical security-related infrastructure project that the Kremlin leader has made it clear he cares very much about. And on the other, it shows just how tight the Russian budget now is even for the Arctic.

            That in turn means that most of what Putin has talked about developing in the Russian North is just that talk and that alarmist talk in the West about it almost certainly pays too much attention to what Putin says and too little attention to what is actually taking place on the ground and in Moscow as well. 

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