The Arctic region is emerging as a new centre of global interest as melting Arctic ice due to climate change could lead to unlocking vast energy resources and shipping lanes. As Russia positions itself as a major player in this area, concerns are being raised about this development’s environmental and economic consequences.
Russia’s increasing military presence in the region is part of its plan to become the biggest beneficiary of the Arctic’s vast resources and shipping lanes. While some view the melting ice as an environmental nightmare, others see it as an economic miracle for Russia.
One major advantage for Russia is the cost of shipping. The Northern Sea Route, which passes through Moscow’s exclusive economic zone, would allow faster and cheaper trade between Asia and the West. It takes only 8,000 miles to travel via the Northern sea route compared to the 13,000 miles it takes to travel via the Swiss Canal route. This would result in significant savings for ship operators, making it an attractive option.
Moreover, the Northern Sea Route has no chokepoints compared to the four major chokepoints along the Swiss Canal route, making it a safer alternative for shipping. As the ice keeps melting, Russia will uncover a massive treasure trove of natural resources. According to the US Geological Survey assessment of 2008, 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of the undiscovered oil reserves lie close to the North Pole, and Russia has easy access to them. The Arctic is also rich in minerals and rare earth metals, providing Russia with additional economic opportunities.
Russia has allocated $29 billion to develop the shipping route to achieve these goals by 2035. Massive port construction projects are underway, railway lines are being expanded, and the army is being modernized in the region. Russian military bases are strategically located and more numerous than the West, providing them an advantage.
The West is still far behind Russia’s military presence in the Arctic region. The world must now consider how to react to Russia taking advantage of a catastrophe like global warming. While Russia sees this as an opportunity to rebuild itself from the shatters of the Ukraine war, the rest of the world must be cautious about the environmental and economic consequences.
Russia’s increasing military reach in the Arctic Circle and its plans to benefit from climate change can potentially shift the balance of power away from the US and towards Russia. The Arctic route could become an economic miracle for Russia, with vast energy resources and shipping lanes unlocked. However, the melting of Arctic ice due to global warming is also a major concern, and the world must consider the potential consequences of Russia’s actions in the region.