The viability of developing the Northern Sea Route for international shipping : understanding Russian Arctic policies in Arctic security and resource management
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Challenges and opportunities are continuing to emerge in the Arctic Region. As the Arctic sea ice is decreasing due to climate change, exploration and development in the region has become more accessible. This phenomenon has also opened up the Arctic shipping lanes. Russia, a member state of the Arctic Council (AC), has the longest of the Arctic coastlines. Historically, Russia has exclusively controlled the Northern Sea Route (NSR). In utilizing the NSR for shipping and developing the Arctic region, Russian Arctic policies have been politically and strategically changed during the past years, mainly concerning the Arctic security and resource management. This thesis aims to analyze and discuss how to understand Russian Arctic policies to evaluate whether the NSR could become an international transit shipping lane. Researching the recent historical background and current conditions of the NSR, this study argues the importance of three parts: Russian political ambitions in the Arctic since the 2000s in changing Arctic security, territorial disputes of Russian jurisdictional claim over Arctic resources and control of the NSR, and developing Arctic shipping mainly for internal transportation. This thesis has found that Russia faces political, economic and environmental challenges to developing the NSR for international use. The military and economic strategies of Russian Arctic policy in the context of Arctic security and resource management are deeply grounded in the national security. Through prioritizing its national security in developing the Arctic region, Russia strategically plans a long project to develop the NSR mainly for domestic use. Thus, developing the NSR for international shipping does not seem to be feasible, neither politically nor economically.