Russia on the Northern Sea Route: Having the Cake and Eating It Too?

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2021-65-11-123-130
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 16.02.2021.

Abstract. Today Russia implements two different approaches to managing the Northern Sea Route (NSR). The first one entails signaling openness for international cooperation, foreign investments and cargo with the aim to develop the NSR into a globally competitive maritime route. Such approach is evident both from the statements of the high-ranking Russian officials and the strategic documents dedicated to the Arctic region. The other pattern is reflected in Russia’s willingness to impose limitations on foreign shipping on the Route. In addition to the permission-based national regime for navigation on the NSR, since 2018, Russia has ruled out certain maritime activities on the Route carried out by vessels flying non-Russian flags. Further measures for ships built outside Russia, as well as foreign warships, are being discussed. Taken together, these trends could lead to a suggestion that Russia sees the future development of the Northern Sea Route in attracting foreign investments and cargo, but not the vessels. However, additional layer of inconsistency emerges in Moscow’s attempts to justify the harsh national permission-based regime and national measures aimed at limiting foreign shipping on the NSR. The main argument by the Russian authorities is the special responsibility of the coastal state for the safety of navigation and protection of the marine environment. Yet, the practice indicates that the state is sometimes reluctant to keep high environmental and safety standards – both due to the lack of efficient law enforcement mechanisms and possible unwillingness to challenge the economic development of the region. The article concludes with the suggestion that Russia will need to more clearly decide the future course of development for the NSR and adjust the navigation regime and law enforcement mechanisms accordingly.

Keywords: Arctic, Northern Sea Route, Law of the Sea, shipping, security, environmental protection


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For citation:
Todorov A. Russia on the Northern Sea Route: Having the Cake and Eating It Too?. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2021, vol. 65, no. 11, pp. 123-130.

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