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Putin Outlines Arctic Expansion Plans

Russia is consolidating its position as the major commercial and military power in the far north. 11 April 2019

Russia’s civilian and military presence in the Arctic will keep growing, Nordic leaders heard at an event in St. Petersburg this week.


New ports and other infrastructure are in the works, and the icebreaker fleet will grow, President Vladimir Putin announced at the International Arctic Forum, The Associated Press reports.


Last year, Russian ships carried 20 million metric tons of cargo through the Arctic sea route. Putin said that figure would rise to 80 million tons in 2025. Russia is at the forefront in developing new shipping lanes in the far north as warming temperatures thin the Arctic ice. The country’s fleet of four icebreakers will increase to 13 by 2035, including nine nuclear ones, Putin said.


The state nuclear company Rosatom is even more optimistic about the Arctic sea route. At the forum, Rosatom chief executive Aleksei Likhachev said the company can exceed Putin’s target by 12 million metric tons, and do it by 2024, according to the Arctic news site Barents Observer.


The leaders of Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden joined Putin at the forum, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (pictured) defended Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic.


“We don’t threaten anyone. We ensure sufficient defense capabilities given the political and military situation around our borders,” Lavrov said during a panel on Tuesday, The Moscow Times reports.


The United States is belatedly paying attention to Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic, CNN writes.


"I think we are starting to finally pay attention," Navy Rear Admiral David W. Titley told the broadcaster. "[The Arctic] was basically ignored in the last couple of years. But our rivals have serious plans with serious resources behind them for understanding how to operate up there.”


Major Vladimir Pasechnik, who commands a tactical group at Northern Clover base on Kotelny Island, one of three new Russian military bases above the 75th parallel, told CNN, "Our base performs radar control, monitors the airspace, secures the Northern Sea Route, and eliminates damage to the environment."


The base is equipped with coastal defense missile systems and medium-range missiles adapted for Arctic conditions.


Following one of NATO’s biggest military exercises held in Norway for a decade, Russia plans large-scale military exercises in the Arctic this year.



  • Rosatom foresees that liquefied natural gas will make up more than a third of the 92 million tons of freight transiting the northern sea route by 2024. Oil and coal will contribute almost as much. Goods manufactured elsewhere in Russia will be transported to a new seaport via a projected railway called the Northern Latitudinal Passage, according to Barents Observer.


  • The Arctic “is now the front line in our defense,” U.S. Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of the U.S. Northern Command, declared in January, The Moscow Times says.


Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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