Arctic: Cooperation with Russia as an Inevitable Necessity

The arrival of the leaders of several Western countries in St. Petersburg is evidence of Russia's leading role in the Arctic, despite the various boycotts attempts which Brussels tries to organize, says Nikita Kuprikov, Chairman of the Technical Committee for standardisation №187 (TC187) “Research in the Polar Regions” of the Federal Agency for Technical Regulation and Metrology (Rosstandart).

The policy of “sanctions” has long ceased to pay for itself, not to mention the notorious “isolation” of Russia. The explanation is obvious – Russia is a world player which simply cannot be ignored in world politics. If we talk about the Arctic, then Russia is the biggest Arctic state, with the largest and most powerful atomic icebreaking fleet in the world. It is no secret that often the European states “rent” Russian icebreakers to pursue their interests in the Arctic. For example, there are various international research projects for monitoring climate change.

There isn’t any isolation, not on paper but in real life. The European countries know that if they refuse to cooperate with Russia, they will lose much more. Systematic work is important, and our Western partners understand this. Russia has always supported a comprehensive dialogue.

Soon we will observe how the interests of business circles in the development of cooperation between countries in the Arctic will prevail over sometimes-loud political statements, most often aimed to hinder the development of a fruitful economic partnership.

Recently, the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin promised Vladimir Putin to create an Arctic cluster capable of producing about 100 million tons of oil per year. It should be noted that foreign partners will also take part in this cluster, which will include, for example, BP, which together with Rosneft organized JV Ermak-Neftegaz. Apparently, I would not call this proposal of Rosneft a revolutionary event; rather, we see a continued stabilisation of the “post-sanctions” period, a return to normal work in the oil and gas sector in the Arctic.

We should remember that cooperation in the Arctic, which was actively developing at the end of the 2000s and at the beginning of the 2010s, was abruptly cut off in 2014. Huge losses were incurred, and not only Russia suffered. It soon became clear that the partners could not forever “ignore” each other — cooperation and the implementation of joint projects is necessary, because the Arctic is one of the most difficult regions in the world, where no country can be active alone. Therefore, the foreign leaders themselves must be watching with satisfaction the resumption of the development of joint oil and gas projects in the Arctic region.

In a broader sense, the creation of a regulatory, normative and technical system of human activities in the Arctic comes to the fore, which on the one hand provides for the environmentally friendly and safe handling of the fragile Arctic ecosystem, and on the other hand guarantees human safety. Currently the Rosstandart Technical Committee for standardisation №187 “Research in the Polar Regions” deals with these issues. On the basis of the standards pool in the future, it will be possible to create a truly solid regulatory and legal foundation for international cooperation in the Arctic.

Northern Sea Route and its impact on world trade

We see how the huge potential of the NSR is realised right before our eyes. By 2024 the projected volume of cargo traffic should reach 80 million tonnes. This goal is more than real. Russia’s nuclear icebreaking fleet is growing at a rate that was not achieved even in the USSR. Considering that the overwhelming share of transit now consists of hydrocarbons supplied to Asian countries, and also bearing in mind that the cooperation of international oil and gas companies in the Arctic region is only gaining momentum, the enormous influence of this transport channel is already noticeable in world trade just now, with more results in the future. Its prospects are very interesting.

The NSR can change the global traffic of goods. There is a chance that this transport corridor may become the leading world trade route. Moreover, there are proposals to expand the possibilities of the NSR, but it is too early to talk about. For example, it is possible to develop tourism in the northern ports area; there is active cargo-passenger traffic. The international community may have other ideas regarding the use of the NSR – Russia is open to suggestions. Using the example of the NSR, we can say that the Arctic is indeed a real “territory of dialogue”, and I am confident that this dialogue will be peaceful and positive.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.