Alexander Pelyasov

1. To understand properly the context of the Russian document one needs to clarify the specificness of the Russian Arctic. Russian polar territories are really vast even in comparison with the other Arctic federations like US and Canada. Two third of the circumpolar wealth are created in the Russian Arctic (AHDR-1). Because of this fact the whole document is concerned with the internal problems of the Russian Arctic and much less with international affairs. This is characteristic for the strategies of all Arctic federations. The Russian difference is that this internally oriented document is preoccupied with how to answer the challenges which face the country and its Arctic zone because of the deep restructuring of its industrial economy.

The Russian Arctic has the thickest 'layer' of industrial activity; and the scale of industrial activity here is much more than that of the other polar states. Here we have the most urbanized Arctic community in the world, the maximum amount of monoprofile cities and settlements, and the most powerful resource sector of the Arctic economy in the world. Not surprisingly then, the imperative of innovative modernization is set throughout the whole text of the strategy. Large-scale industrial activity began in the Russian Arctic decades before the other polar countries and therefore one can distinguish old and young polar industrial territories.


2. If we compare the Russian Strategy with previous Russian Arctic documents of the last 20 years we can distinguish a clear breakthrough:

  • in new priorities regarding the innovative modernization of the Arctic economy, Arctic zone in all directions. What is important is that innovative and economic priorities are mentioned more often than defense priorities;
  • in a new social agenda – first is development for the Arctic people, then for state interests. Social priorities of Arctic development are declared much more clearly than before;
  • the topic of international cooperation has never been addressed in the Arctic federal documents in Russia in such a condensed and precise manner.

3. As we can see in all Arctic strategies of the polar states, Arctic federations understand their sovereignty fundamentally different from unitary states, and Russia is not the exception. Because of this, a special block of questions in the Russian strategy is related to property rights on the resources of the Arctic land and sea, that is Russia's sovereignty rights in the Arctic region. The document covers the issues of the delimitation of the space in the Arctic sea in the region of the Lomonosov Range; issues related to the Russian presence in the Svalbard archipelago; and on the utilization of the results of research in history, culture and economics prove that Russia does have historic rights of the concrete areas in the Arctic seas.

4. Russia was and is the world leader in issues of the polar navigation. Not surprisingly, this is one of the priorities of the Russian polar policy. The Russian strategy mentions infrastructural issues connected with the development of the Arctic transportation system very broadly understood as the national transportation artery, oriented on the all-season functioning and including the Northern Sea Route, meridian river and rail communications and airports network; development of the Arctic ports and new logistical complexes; and development of the coastal infrastructure in general not only for navigation but also for the fisheries. Arctic transportation system and infrastructural mega-projects should provide not only lateral integration of the Arctic territories, but also integration in a north-south direction with the developed regions of Russia.

5. Arctic business services are a new phenomenon in the Russian strategy. The document mentions Arctic business services as an entity embracing polar hydrographical provision; monitoring of the extraordinary natural and social events; industrial safety services to react rapidly to emergency situations in exploratory and exploitation drilling activities; marine seismic exploration, etcetera. Inside the Arctic Service Strategy is addressed knowledge-intensive marine service complexes with marine geology, satellite communications, mobile telephone networks, Internet wireless access and other elements.

6. In the period till 2020 the speed of development of the Arctic knowledge-intensive business services will be higher than in the rest of the sectors of the Arctic economy.
The theme of energy safety and energy efficiency is covered in the Russian Arctic Strategy in a very comprehensive way. In the document this topic is covered at the national level as sustainable development of the Russian energy complex (with the help of reserve funds in the Arctic deposits, diversification of the main routes of the Russian oil and gas delivery on the world markets and other measures); provision of energy independence for remote small settlements, including realization of the national and international projects in energy saving and efficiency; optimization of the provision of coal, oil and oil products in the remote regions; and development of local sources of energy and heat and differentiation of the scheme of delivery of energy sources.

7. New off-shore industrial regions in the Arctic shelf are mentioned in the document many times. To expedite the process of their formation, the document mentions how to stimulate resource corporations to work in the Arctic shelf, utilizing special taxation and other measures. It will be necessary to modernize northern marine sea route and Arctic ports, transportation infrastructure, to develop an icebreaker fleet and to train qualified personnel in the Arctic marine complex in areas such as navigation, marine geology, extraction and processing, and marine biotechnology.

8. The topic of environmental safety is covered in the document in several instances. These include the realization of projects to mitigate the environmental damages that arose from past industrial, military, and other activity. The elaboration and realization of measures to diminish environmental risks is also connected with the expansion of industrial activity including within the Arctic shelf. This includes the utilization of special datasets to control the situation and minimize pollution in the environment, and utilizing contemporary means of monitoring both land and space. It also seeks to address the consequences of global climate changes in the Russian Arctic zone, taking into consideration biodiversity of the Arctic flora and fauna, dangerous situations etc. It also describes the development and expansion of the network of the Arctic protected federal and regional natural reserves.

9. To fulfill the very ambitious goals of the Russian Arctic Strategy it is necessary to elaborate adequate mechanisms of its realization, aimed at increasing returns from state efforts and channeling resources to develop the Arctic. Therefore the theme of improvement in the whole system of state governance is very important for the document. Russia as an Arctic federation should make progress in the process of inter-agency coordination in the elaboration and realization of the measures of state Arctic policy. So it is time to think about how a central coordination body could be reestablished under the Russian Government that would be responsible for the elaboration of the federal Northern and Arctic policy (like Goskomsever of 1990-s).

Alexander Pelyasov is the Director of the Center for the Arctic and Northern Economies, Council for Research for Productive Forces, Moscow, Russia.

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