Putin Presents Ambitious Arctic Investment Program

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday outlined an ambitious Arctic investment program, which includes building new ports and other facilities and expanding the country’s fleet of icebreaker vessels, The Associated Press reports.

He said that the amount of cargo carried across the shipping lane is set for a dramatic increase from 20 million metric tons last year to 80 million tons in 2025.

“This is a realistic, well-calculated, and concrete task. We need to make the Northern Sea Route safe and commercially feasible,” Putin said, speaking at the 5th International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg attended by leaders of Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.

The shrinking polar ice in the Arctic region is expected to offer new opportunities for resource exploration and the development of new shipping lanes, leading Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Norway into a competition for jurisdiction in the region.

Putin also noted that Russia, the only nation with a nuclear icebreaker fleet, is moving to expand it. The country currently has four nuclear icebreakers, and Putin said that three new such ships are currently under construction. By 2035, Russia stands to have a fleet of 13 heavy icebreakers, including nine nuclear-powered ones, he said.

The Russian leader said that ports on both sides of the Arctic shipping route — Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula — are set for expansion, and invited foreign companies to invest in the reconstruction project.

“We contemplate creating…preferential conditions for companies working in the challenging Arctic environment,” Putin said.

Speaking at the forum, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg emphasized the need to respect international law and noted that the Arctic Council provides a key arena for dialogue.

“Respect for international law and regional cooperation are keys to ensuring peace and stability across borders,” Solberg said.