The Arctic provides almost 25% of Russia’s GDP, according to a
July U.S. Air Force report on Arctic Strategy, which describes
the area as “a region of immense geostrategic significance and a key location for global power projection.”
Rising temperatures and several environmental catastrophes over summer have revealed the underlying risks to Moscow’s ambitious plans to develop everything from military bases to mines and associated infrastructure in Russia’s far-flung eastern and northern regions, including the increasingly strategically important Arctic.
Record temperatures and wildfires in Siberia this summer — following Russia’s mildest winter yet — were accompanied by a series of highly polluting incidents in the High North, including one of the worst oil spills ever seen in the rapidly warming region.
Climatic concerns have by no means dampened Moscow’s enthusiasm for exploiting the Arctic, though. “Today, the geopolitical, geostrategic and economic interests of the world’s leading powers have collided in the Arctic,” Mikhail Popov, a deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said Aug. 19.
“The melting of centuries-old Arctic ice, caused by global warming, facilitates access to the rich potential of the Arctic and opens up colossal prospects in the sphere of exploration of mineral resources.”