Newport Arctic Scholars Initiative, a network of researchers and sailors from the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway, released a report on Arctic conflict and cooperation. “The way it is today, deterrence and military posturing are more or less the only signaling that takes place in the Arctic. That may lead to an accelerating security policy challenge in the future,” said Professor Lars Saunes of the U.S. Naval War College. The report identified that NATO is not an adequate platform for conversations on Arctic security, in part because it does not include Russian participation. Instead, the authors recommend reinstating regular convening of the Arctic Chiefs of Defense Forum. This is supported by Nikolay Korchunov, the Russian Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic. Additionally, the authors suggest revamping the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable, a similar platform for Arctic states to discuss security issues. Currently, the Roundtable is not open to Russian officials as a result of Western sanctions against Russia (HNN).
Softening of environmental law paves way for big oil push into pristine Arctic lands
Russian energy companies appear to be increasingly influencing the Russian state to backtrack on its environmental commitments in the Arctic. Already in 2019, at the request of the Vostok Coal company, the government had agreed to move the borders of a national park in the Taymyr Peninsula back to allow the company to operate. It seems that the same thing is likely to happen further south, where the company Rosneft wants to locate a new oil project. This influence was repeated on the 28th of January, when a group of Duma representatives proposed to abolish a law from August 2020 which stipulated that any new infrastructure project in the Arctic had to be accompanied by an environmental expert assessment in order to be authorized. The proposed abolition came in response to the request of the companies Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and Lukoil, which complained about the adverse effect of such an environmental assessment on the socio-economic development of the region. They pointed out the long delays in the implementation of projects and referred to the government's ambition to increase maritime transport on the Northern Sea Route, arguing that the law prevents this from happening (IBO).
Containers next for the Northern Sea Route as new Murmansk transshipment terminal moves one step closer to realization
Rusatom Cargo, a logistics operator and subsidiary of Russia’s nuclear corporation Rosatom, has stated that it is planning to open its Murmansk container terminal in mid-2024. The new Murmansk terminal will, together with a second terminal in Primorsky Krai, bookend the Northern Sea Route and facilitate more container cargo along the NSR. Containerized cargo coming from Asia will arrive at the Murmansk terminal, where it will be reloaded onto rail, destined for the European market. Last autumn, the Barents Observer reported on negotiations between local authorities in Murmansk and the Russian Defense Ministry regarding releasing military-closed areas to be the site of the new container port. Rusatom Cargo has previously stated that it plans to order its own fleet of Arc7 ice-class container carriers (IBO).