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The Role of the Arctic Zone of Russia and The Northern Sea Route in the New Naval Doctrine

31 july 2022

31/07/2022 // On July 31, Vladimir Putin signed the New Russian Federation Naval Doctrine The document subsumes the Arctic zone of Russia and the waters of the Northern Sea Route in the category of vital areas to be protected at all costs, including the employment of military force. The development of these areas was named one of the country's national priorities.

'We have overtly marked the boundaries and zones of Russian economic, vital and strategic national interests. Principally this encompasses the Arctic, the Black Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bearing Sea, together with the Baltic and Kuril straits. We will protect them rigorously, by any means,' said the President of Russia.

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The new Naval Doctrine names the development of the Russian Federation Arctic zone and the Northern Sea Route as one of the national interests. The continental shelf and the Arctic Basin, the Northern Sea Route waters, are considered vital areas 'directly related to the development of the state, the protection of its sovereignty, territorial integrity and the strengthening of defence, critically affecting the country's socio-economic development.'

The U.S. course for dominance in the oceans and the increasing NATO activity are designated in the Doctrine as a threat to Russian security. By building up the naval presence in the Arctic, the United States and its allies seek to fuel conflicts in the region and weaken Russian control over the Northern Sea Route. Therefore, counteraction toward naval activities of foreign states in the Northern Sea Route is among the priorities of Russia's national maritime policy. To advance the policy efficiency, the Northern Fleet basing system will be further developed, and its combat potential will be increased. Moreover, the Svalbard archipelago, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya and Wrangel Island will also be the focus of attention. The Doctrine assumes the Russian maritime operation growth and diversification in these northern lands.

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While defending its national interests, Russia will continue encouraging stable economic cooperation with friendly nations. Northern Sea Route is to become more than just a national transport communication. Advancing the international presence and competitiveness of the Route on the world market is outlined in the Doctrine as one of the pivotal tasks.

Russia will be fully committed to improving the safety and service quality of navigation in its national waters. Thus, an automated state system will be constructed to coordinate search and rescue activities and monitor foreign and domestic vessels. A unified secure information and telecommunications transport system for the Arctic zone of Russia is currently under development. As a first stage, it is planned to install a trans-arctic trunk underwater fibre-optic communication line.

Another priority is an increment in the proportion of ships sailing under the flag of Russia. In order to achieve this goal, a shipbuilding complex will be constructed in the Far East. The large-capacity vessels, including those for the Arctic development are planned to be built there. Rescue, environmental, auxiliary along with icebreaker fleets will be renewed. New ships will carry domestic equipment, as technological independence will be the basis of national shipbuilding advancement.

Development of the Arctic fuel and energy natural resources is another priority outlined in the Naval Doctrine. Russia will expand the geological exploration and production of hydrocarbons on the continental shelf and in the Arctic zone. However, in the first instance, administrative barriers that hinder the active and safe development of marine natural resources are to be removed. In addition, liquefied gas manufacturing and shipping capacity will be expanded.

'The implementation of the provisions will contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development of the Russian Federation, ensuring its national security and strengthening its credibility in the international arena,' concludes the document.

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