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Putin's Arctic Ambitions

Russia's Economic Aspirations in the Far North

Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom builds a pipeline outside city of Ukhta December 3, 2008. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Rapid climate change and the fallout from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea have made the Russian Arctic’s vast oil, gas, and mineral deposits an increasingly attractive development play for Moscow. President Vladimir Putin’s government is also looking to transform the country’s Arctic coastal waters into a serious commercial shipping lane—one capable of handling not only more domestic traffic but cargo vessels transiting from Asia to Europe as well. With its economy in shambles and international reputation in doubt, Russia today sees the Arctic’s potential as a rare glimmer of hope. 

Russia’s evolving relationship with the High North is exemplified by two ambitious projects—the construction of the Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility and the propagation of large-scale shipping along the Northern Sea Route. If successful, these initiatives will bring in badly needed revenue and cement Moscow’s reputation as the preeminent Arctic power.

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