Russian Ministers Try to Fulfill Putin’s Arctic Shipping Goals
Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed last year that shipping traffic through the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route must increase to a soaring 80 million tons annually within a mere five years, the emperor’s wish has been treated as a reality.
The May presidential decree had the ring of the old-fashioned Stalinist five-year plans, which, throughout the communist era, were the economic yardstick of the Soviet economy. The penalties for coming up short were harsh, with under-producing bureaucrats singled out for public humiliation, the Gulag and worse.
Today’s generation of movers and shakers heard Putin’s message loud and clear. Huge industries, like Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear corporation, have retrained their focus toward Arctic port and infrastructure development. The Yamal LNG project, a $27 billion natural gas endeavor, reached full capacity on the tundra above the Russian Arctic circle a year ahead of schedule, heralding a bustling year-round sea trade with gas markets in Asia and Europe alike.
Moscow’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, already the biggest in the world, is getting a facelift, with three new billion-dollar vessels nearing completion and several even grander ones on the drawing board.
And the Russian state policy on climate change, instead of combating rising temperatures, seems geared toward letting them heat up. The more the Arctic melts, the Kremlin logic seems to suggest, the more accessible it will become – complete with new Russian hydrocarbon and mineral reserves and more ice-free shipping lanes controlled by Moscow to bear out the bounty.
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