Courtesy Reuters

Soviet Strategy in the Arctic

WE CANNOT rule out the possibility that Japan's present war against China may grow to involve the Soviet Union and even perhaps Germany. In that event there will come into play a new geopolitical factor which has improved Russia's strategical position in comparison with what it was in 1905 and in 1914. The Soviet Government's recent rapid development of navigation in, aviation above, and industrial enterprise along the shores of the Arctic Ocean has partly solved the age-old and crucial problem of Russia's precarious access to the great outside world. The fact gains additional importance from the circumstance that transportation is still the weakest wheel in the Russian war machine.

Only in the last few months has the world begun to be conscious of Russia's energetic efforts to push open her frozen window in the North and develop a Polar Empire. This consciousness has come largely from Soviet flights across the North Pole and the establishment of a permanent floating weather station in the center of the Arctic. But though these are spectacular they nevertheless are comparatively small parts of the whole vast scheme of expansion in the Far North.

Other items obviously of greater importance are: the regular annual operation of the new shipping route along the North East Passage, with the help of four main ice-breaker bases and a fleet of over one hundred Arctic airplanes; the sinking of nickel mines and oil wells in Northern Siberia (to mention only the most significant industrial enterprises in the Polar regions); the organization of heavy transport on the rivers Ob, Enisei and Lena, with ports and provision for the exchange of loads in their estuaries (Novy Port, Igarka and Tiksi respectively); and the establishment of a chain of independent coal and oil refuelling bases for water vessels and aircraft. In other words, the "backyard of Asia" is about to become the front porch of a newly oriented "Arctic-conscious" Russia.

"Glavnoe Upravlenie Severnovo Morskovo Puti," the Central Administration of the Northern Sea Route, was Glavsevmorput's jurisdiction -- transport by sea, river and air; industry; town building; reindeer breeding; wireless and meteorological services; native education; scientific study of the earth, the flora and fauna. The peoples of the North are the subject of study in two special university-like institutions: the Institute of the Peoples of the North and the Arctic Institute, both in Leningrad. Last year Glavsevmorput had already spent an equivalent of $1,000,000,000 on its activities, while 40,000 men and women, a regular army of invasion against the Arctic, were on its payroll. Russians like to call this enterprise a modern socialist equivalent to the East India Company. Undoubtedly in scope and achievement it is the largest systematic pioneering organization in the world today. Nor can it be denied that its value to the Russian nation will be at least as great in peacetime as in war. If as expected it makes the vast natural riches of Siberia more easily accessible and exploitable, both for the Soviet Union and for the world, its historic consequence will be very great.

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