Symptoms of Northern Handra | Latest news The Moscow Post
28 July 2021

Symptoms of "Northern Handra"

In whom the Arctic syndrome becomes a "disease" political.

The Arctic received a detailed comment from Vladimir Putin at a press conference following the results of the Russian-American summit in Geneva. As the Russian president said, "the United States has long accused Russia of militarizing the Arctic and its allies too." The development of this region, ensuring border security is a priority for Russia, the correspondent of The Moscow Post reports.

At the moment, the Strategy for the development of the Arctic zone and ensuring national security until 2035 has been adopted. The government approved a new program for the socio-economic development of the Arctic, designed for 2021-2024 years.

In this region, Moscow has retained ties with the West, despite the confrontation with countries that, being "Arctic," are part of NATO, and some even actually lead the alliance. Biden's White House announced, after the Geneva summit, that it did not intend to "be friends" with the Kremlin. And although Russia headed the Arctic Council for the second time, in which Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Norway, the USA, Finland and Sweden, it is hardly worth counting on a constructive dialogue in the framework of this forum.

The Legend of Stability

The Arctic Council, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, remains a platform for depoliticized intergovernmental dialogue. Moscow assumes that the states bordering the Arctic have their own regional interests. While some non-regional players would like to see the subject of "common heritage" in the Arctic.

The leaders of the eight states that are members of the Arctic Council must meet to formulate a common position. Perhaps Moscow will offer such a meeting of leaders to hold. The Kremlin also proposes to use the Arctic Council to stabilize relations through a dialogue of the general staff of the armed forces, preparatory meetings of military experts of eight countries.

In Geneva, the Russian leader invited the United States to cooperate in the Arctic. Russia is ready to provide its capabilities in the field of eliminating the consequences of environmental accidents, in the field of reducing emissions, in discussing the problems of adaptation to climate change, including melting glaciers and permafrost. In particular, the study of climatic processes will be the International Scientific Station, which Russia and other countries of the Arctic Council intend to build by 2025.

National Maritime Highway

The Northern Sea Route (NSR, Sevmorput), perhaps, is the main thing that underlies the interest in the Arctic from the main Arctic and non-regional players. The recent weekly blocking of the Suez Canal in terms of losses suffered by the operator and freight carriers is estimated at about $550 million. Most states potentially interested in the use of the NSR are in favor of giving it an open status for free navigation. The United States, for example, insists on the principle of free navigation, although it has neither experience nor an icebreaking fleet to ensure such a "voyage" in a dangerous ice environment.

The Federal Law of the Russian Federation on NSR of July 28, 2012 defined the Northern Sea Route as "historically established national transport communication of the Russian Federation." In 2013, Russia adopted the NSR Navigation Rules, which provide for obtaining permission from the NSR Administration to walk ships in these waters, and in some cases involve icebreaking and pilot escorts.

The operation of the NSR depends on the ice situation. The Russian icebreaker fleet leads in the number of ships and their capacity. The nuclear icebreaker fleet includes the Yamal and 50 Years of Victory icebreakers with two-reactor nuclear power plants with a capacity of 75 thousand hp, as well as the Taimyr and Vaigach icebreakers with single-reactor plants with a capacity of about 50 thousand hp.

The nuclear ship "Sevmorput" with a single-reactor plant with a capacity of 40 thousand hp combines the qualities of an icebreaker and a container ship, performs the functions of technological maintenance of nuclear icebreakers. Rosatomflot also operates three service vessels and the Rossita container ship.

In 2020, Rosatomflot accepted the Arctic icebreaker of project 22220. The icebreaker is the largest and most powerful, capable of ensuring Russia's leadership in the Arctic. Project 22220 icebreakers can conduct caravans of ships in Arctic conditions, breaking through ice up to three meters thick. The first serial nuclear icebreaker "Siberia" of project 22220 should be commissioned in December.

The icebreaker fleet allows you to more fully unlock the transport potential of the NSR, it can consolidate the superiority in Arctic transport communications for Russia. Currently, navigation on the NSR lasts six months or more, but can become year-round with new icebreakers, including the Leader. Three such nuclear icebreakers will be commissioned in 2027-2032.

Northern Sea Route for All

So far, only Russia has actively and regularly used the capabilities of the NSR for civil and other purposes, including the supply of a few settlements, weather stations, infrastructure on the Arctic coast of the country. NSR uses gas carriers transporting products of the Yamal LNG project, tankers and ships of other companies, ships of the Russian Navy.

The use of NSR by other countries is governed by international law, including the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Polar Code, ratified in 2017 and defining technical requirements. Vladimir Putin said that Russia adheres to these norms, is ready to assist countries and companies in developing NSR.

The Convention on the Law of the Sea describes the legal regime of world waters, dividing them, in particular, into inland waters and the territorial sea. By territorial sea, the coastal state is obliged to provide peaceful passage to all, including warships. But this status is not applicable to straits located in the NSR water area. Russia's position is that the Kara Sea, the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea, the Chukchi Sea (within the Russian sector) are flood-type seas, historically belong to Russia, and have a regime of inland waters.

The United States disputes this position. Washington intended to comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, but was not a party to that agreement. In particular, the United States disputes the position of Russia on the straits of Laptev (115 km) and Sannikov (238 km) of the Novosibirsk Islands. These straits are located on the NSR and have a difficult ice situation even in summer. NSR without the use of these straits can for a long time remain only a potential transit corridor, dependent on the melting of Arctic ice.

For the wiring of tankers with a draft of more than 12 m in 2011, the path bypassing the Novosibirsk Islands from the north was mastered, but the use of this route became possible only with the wiring of nuclear icebreakers. It should be noted that the waiting time of icebreakers for conducting foreign ships can reach several days. Ships serving cabotage transportation along the Arctic coast of Russia can expect icebreaking longer. Hence the rule to submit applications in advance.

As Vladimir Putin noted at a press conference in Geneva, the regime of inland sea waters is special, and the total length of all sovereign sections of the NSR, including historical waters, is about a thousand nautical miles. In these areas, Russia has the right to grant the right of passage, provide pilotage, navigation, security, including environmental.

Our Rules

The Northern Sea Route Administration, re-established in 2013, is responsible for monitoring the movement of ships through the NSR, monitoring the navigation, meteorological and ice situation, providing information in these areas, organizing and maintaining communication systems, etc. The legal basis for the NSR regime, including for foreign vessels, as well as the recommendations for navigation routes were set out in the "Regulations for navigation on the Northern Sea Route," adopted as early as 1990. The rules were in accordance with article 234 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In April 2013, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, pursuant to Law No. 132-ФЗ, approved the Rules for sailing in the NSR, which establish a permitting procedure for Russian and foreign ships. A mandatory condition is that the captain and the person replacing him have experience in managing the vessel in ice. The vessel shall meet the ice requirements.

Vessels which do not have on board a certificate of financial liability of the owner of the vessel for damage caused by marine pollution shall not be allowed to sail. In order to obtain permission to pass through the NSR, the ship owner or captain of the vessel must submit an application to the NSR Administration at least 15 days before the start of traffic in this water area. They must also notify the Administration in 72 hours about the approach to the boundaries of the NSR, daily inform about the movement of the vessel, its condition and the actual time of crossing the borders of the water area.

In 2018, Rosatom appointed the operator of the Hydrographic Enterprise NSR, which is responsible for port fees. Tariff policy is at the stage of formation and is far from always in the interests of carriers. For example, Novatek, which transports LNG through NSR, asks the state to ensure "stable tariffs" within the framework of port fees, including the stability of channel collection in the Gulf of Ob. Tariffs for maintaining the canal in this water area were calculated based on the forecast volume of cargo flow of 40-50 million tons per year. There are no such volumes yet and the operator is forced to suffer losses. Rosatom believes that the current tariff revenue does not cover the costs of maintaining the channel in the Ob Bay.

What about them?

According to Moscow, there are no problems in the Arctic that may require a military solution. The Border Guard of the Russian Federation interacts with the American Coast Guard, which is one of the types of US armed forces. According to the State Department, Washington also views the Arctic region as conflict-free. Secretary of State Blinken expressed the hope that the Arctic will remain an area in which cooperation between the United States and Russia is possible. But Washington considers it illegal to regulate the passage of foreign ships in transit under the NSR.

In the document of the Pentagon "Return of domination in the Arctic" (Regaining Arctic Dominance) specified the main threats and calls. Russia and China are the main "suspects" and the United States plans to defend their "leadership," increasing the performance of the military presence in the region. The ground forces have three bases in Alaska near the Arctic Circle with a personnel of about 12 thousand people.

It is also planned to deploy a consolidated unit with a division. The United States and Canada also agreed to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). In February, exercises were held in Alaska with the landing of paratroopers of the 25th Infantry Division. The Amalgam Dart 2021 maneuvers were conducted by NORAD in March. The Pentagon sees a problem in Russia's restoration of air bases and radar systems, in the deployment of S-400 and Pantsir-C1 anti-aircraft systems, as well as the Bastion coastal systems. As a result, Russia is declared a threat to US security, and its relations with China, according to Washington, do not promise anything good at all.

Russia is determined differently, but remembers that 80 years ago, the state of affairs on the Eastern Front depended on the employees of weather stations on Franz Josef Land. The accuracy of the forecasts of the polar explorers depended on whether convoys could pass through the North Atlantic to the ports of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.

On Novaya Zemlya there were military operations. The places of defensive structures on Cape Desire of the island have been preserved. On Alexandra Land, which is part of the Franz Josef Land archipelago and is part of the Primorsky District of the Arkhangelsk Region, the Nazis equipped a communications hub and built an airfield. Now on the island of Alexandra Land, the Arctic Trilistnik air defense base, as well as the Nagurskaya outpost. But, as Vladimir Putin noted at a press conference in Geneva, "the concerns of the American side about militarization have absolutely no basis."

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