Russia and China are stepping up cooperation in the Arctic region, which is now regarded by Washington as the “principle challenge” to US security and prosperity. Glenn Diesen, a Norwegian author and academic, explains how Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) may upset the established balance of power and challenge US control over the sea.
On 21 December 2019, the Russian government approved the country’s development plan for its Northern Sea Route (NSR), a shipping lane located along Russia’s Arctic coast within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in accordance with President Vladimir Putin’s 7 May 2018 decree envisaging the increase in freight traffic through the NSR to 80 million tonnes by 2024.
The Chinese eye the route as an alternative transportation solution which can cut several thousand kilometres off the established see lanes and provide the shortest way to Europe, calling it a “polar silk road”. Europeans are also watching the development closely as the Arctic route to Asia may save them time and money. Although currently the route is partly free of ice only for several months – a problem which is successfully solved by Russia’s icebreaking fleet – European researchers predict that the climate change will make the NSR navigable for the whole summer season by 2035.
Meanwhile, the US is increasingly concerned about Russo-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic Ocean, which prompted a shift in their 2019 Arctic Strategy, says Glenn Diesen, a Norwegian author and…