Wider Eurasia
The Eurasian Aspect of Arctic Cooperation

The Eurasian continent has traditionally played and continues to play a key role in the system of international relations. The Arctic and Eurasia are closely interconnected, since, on the one hand, the key participants in international interaction in the Arctic region historically have been countries geographically located on the Eurasian continent, and, on the other hand, the Arctic itself is of great importance for ensuring the security and well-being of the Eurasian powers, Irina Strelnikova writes.

Geopolitical competition in the Arctic is attracting an increasing number of international actors. The Arctic is becoming one of the centres of international relations due to the dynamic changes taking place in the region. Melting glaciers, the opening of new shipping routes and the presence of untapped natural resources are sparking global interest in the Arctic and create new opportunities for economic activity. This leads to growing interest in Arctic governance and the relevance of building the right mechanisms for international cooperation. The Arctic region has long been a subject of interest, primarily among the eight Arctic states — the United States of America, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden. However, in recent years, non-Arctic states, primarily India and China, have increasingly been paying attention to this region.

The Arctic region is so attractive because it has significant oil and gas reserves, estimated at up to 90 billion barrels of oil and 1.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. These resources are becoming increasingly important as global energy demand increases. In addition to oil and gas, the Arctic also provides opportunities for infrastructure development, mining and tourism. The region has an extensive transport network, including one of the most promising shipping routes — the Northern Sea Route, which is currently actively developing. As the Arctic ice melts, it is attracting the attention of an increasing number of international actors. As a result, the diversification of international logistics is leading to the construction of new ports and pipelines, and the region’s mineral resources, including rare earth metals and diamonds, are opening up opportunities for investment in the mining industry.

Russia is a key power in the Arctic region; it accounts for more than half of the entire coast of the Arctic Ocean, and its scientific and technical potential creates opportunities for productive international cooperation. It is no coincidence that the development of the Far East and the Arctic was declared a strategic priority for Russia for the entire 21st century. In paragraph 17 of a key document — the Concept of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 229 dated March 31, 2023, the formation of a fair and sustainable world order is highlighted among the main tasks aimed to achieve the strategic goals of the foreign policy on the basis of national interests and strategic national priorities. This entails maintaining international peace and security, strategic stability, ensuring peaceful coexistence and progressive development of states and peoples; developing mutually beneficial and equal cooperation with constructively minded foreign states and their associations, and ensuring that Russian interests are taken into account using the mechanisms of multilateral diplomacy.

Moreover, Section V of this document gives priority attention to the Arctic and the Eurasian continent; they are located in close connection with each other. The main task is the establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation with non-Arctic states which are pursuing constructive policies towards Russia and are interested in carrying out international activities in the region, including the infrastructure development of the Northern Sea Route.

Economic Statecraft
The Arctic: Eurasia’s Final Pivot
Emanuel Pietrobon
The Russian Arctic is as resource-rich as it is inherently weak. It is militarily vulnerable to malicious foreign activities. It is demographically poor, being home to only two million people. Additionally, it lacks a highly developed land-and-sea infrastructure network, although the adoption of a pioneer mindset could give rise to a Russian remake of the American Westward expansion

This close association is not accidental. The Eurasian continent has traditionally played and continues to play a key role in the system of international relations. The Arctic and Eurasia are closely interconnected, since, on the one hand, the key participants in international interaction in the Arctic region historically have been countries geographically located on the Eurasian continent, and, on the other hand, the Arctic itself is of great importance for ensuring the security and well-being of the Eurasian powers. At the present stage, the Arctic region plays a key role in ensuring the energy, water and climate security of Eurasia, and it is also a promising transport and logistics corridor.

Russia strives to maintain peace and stability, increase environmental sustainability, reduce the level of threats to national security in the Arctic, ensure favourable international conditions for the socio-economic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, as well as for the development of the Northern Sea Route as a competitive transport artery with the possibility of international use for transport between Europe and Asia.

Of particular importance to achieving strategic goals and fulfilling the main objectives of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation is the comprehensive deepening of ties and coordination with friendly sovereign global centres of power and development on the Eurasian continent.

In this regard, Russia aims both to further strengthen its comprehensive partnership with the People’s Republic of China and bolster strategic interaction, while building up a particularly privileged strategic partnership with the Republic of India in order to expand interaction in all areas on a mutually beneficial basis.

The most promising areas of cooperation between the countries of the Eurasian continent within the framework of the Arctic are energy and green energy, shipping and logistics, climate and environmental protection, and science and education.

From an energy perspective, the Arctic is a region that contains significant reserves of fossil fuels. The role of the Arctic from an energy security standpoint is not limited to reserves of traditional fuels, the importance of which is declining in the context of the global energy transition. The Arctic is a promising region in terms of the development of renewable energy. In particular, the northern regions located along the sea coast are characterised by relatively high average wind speeds, which makes them attractive from the point of view of wind energy development.

The Arctic plays a huge role in ensuring water security, given the increasing global shortage of fresh water, which is also one of the most important processes that characterise modern world politics and economics. Arctic ice contains about 70% of the world’s fresh water, which can be used to replenish the growing shortage. In this context, Corine Wood-Donnelly notes that the problem of national sovereignty over icebergs may in the future become one of the areas of international legal contradictions between the Arctic countries.

This aspect of the climate security of the Eurasian continent is closely related to sea ice in the Arctic, since due to global warming and active ice melting, the level of the world’s oceans is rising. This threatens to flood the coastal territories of many states and poses an existential threat to small island states. In this context, maintaining a stable climate in the Arctic is of key importance from the point of view of the “ontological security” of the Eurasian powers, since in some cases it is associated with the physical existence of the country’s land. It is no coincidence that in recent years, within the framework of the Eurasian continent, a project called the “Third Pole Process” was initiated, which is an international dialogue platform for resolving water security issues for the Third Pole region (Himalayas), where active glaciers are also melting, but there is a lack of accumulated knowledge, tools and methods in combating these climate changes. At the same time, the scientific and practical experience accumulated by Russia in solving similar problems in the Arctic region can be taken as a basis in terms of combating climate change in the Third Pole region, in which a large number of other countries of the Eurasian continent, in addition to China and India, are interested.

Finally, the Arctic is of key importance from the point of view of strengthening the infrastructural connectivity of the Eurasian continent. For example, the use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) will reduce the distance of the transport route from the northern part of East Asia to Europe by approximately 60%, compared to the current routes. Although the use of Arctic transport routes is associated with a number of objective problems, in the medium-term they can seriously compete with traditional routes, because the latter are currently becoming zones of armed conflicts, in which the great powers are involved.

Two of the key Arctic powers, whose interest in the Arctic region has been steadily growing in recent years are China and India. The main areas of international cooperation in the Arctic for these countries are energy, transport and logistics, as well as climate and ecology.

China is showing the greatest interest from the point of view of Arctic energy. In particular, Chinese companies are actively involved in the exploration and development of oil and gas fields in the Russian Arctic. The share of the Chinese state oil company CNPC in Yamal LNG is 20%, and another 9.9% belongs to the Chinese Silk Road Fund. Before US sanctions against Arctic LNG 2 were imposed in 2023, Chinese companies CNPC and CNOOC participated in the project, together accounting for 20% of the shares. In December 2023, these companies approached the US government with a request to grant them an exception from sanctions against this project. In addition, the Chinese semi-submersible drilling platform Nanhai VIII is used to carry out geological exploration work in the Kara Sea. From a green energy perspective, both China and India are showing great interest in collaborating with Russia at Snezhinka (Snowflake) Arctic research station, a key feature of which is its focus on hydrogen energy.

One of the most important areas of Arctic cooperation, which includes China and India, is the development of the Northern Sea Route as a transit transport corridor. In particular, in 2015, an agreement was signed between the Russian Ministry for the Development of the Far East and the State Committee for Development and Reform of the People’s Republic of China on cooperation on the Northern Sea Route. In March 2023, a preliminary agreement was reached on the creation of a joint Russian-Chinese working body for the development of the Northern Sea Route. In April 2023, a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in the field of maritime law enforcement was signed between the Chinese Coast Guard and the Russian Federal Security Service. This memorandum was signed in Murmansk during the Sea Patrol 2023 exercise, which was attended by Chinese representatives as observers. India is showing more interest in developing cooperation in the field of transport and logistics. In particular, this was reported following the meeting of Alexey Chekunkov, Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, and Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways of India, in September 2023. In addition, at EEF 2023 it was possible to agree on the training of Indian sailors at Russia’s Nevelsky Maritime State University. At the same time, India also proposed to build non-nuclear icebreakers for the Northern Sea Route at Indian shipyards.

Finally, moving on to cooperation in the field of ecology and climatology, it should be noted that both China and India are observer countries in the Arctic Council. In addition, in 2018, China became a party to the Agreement to prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean, which is precautionary in nature and largely aimed at preserving biodiversity in the Arctic region.

In particular, China has a scientific base on Spitsbergen, organises regular marine scientific expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, etc. India’s interest in scientific research related to the natural and climatic conditions of the Arctic is expected to increase over time. This is due to the fact, that for this country the processes taking place at the Third Pole — the Himalayas — are of great importance.

Thus, the role of the Arctic in modern world politics is steadily growing. On the one hand, this is due to the potential of this region in terms of economic development; on the other hand, the Arctic is becoming one of the confrontation zones between great powers. At the same time, establishing effective international cooperation with countries pursuing a constructive policy towards Russia remains is an important element of stability and the sustainable development of the Arctic region, and also contributes to the infrastructural connection and the development of Eurasian cooperation.

Geopolitics of Northern Sea Route: Russia-China-India's Growing Interest in Arctic
Nivedita Das Kundu
China's efficient ship building and transport network could provide China faster access to the European markets through the Northern Sea Route, as well as to USA's east coast. These commercial interests have also political objectives and China has the potential to significantly re-order the balance of power in the Arctic.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.