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Arctic Icebreaker: How Russia Is Clearing The Northern Sea Route

Moscow sees huge new business opportunity in northern shipping routes. But figuring out the best ways to travel via the Arctic is a massive, and chilly, undertaking.

Breaking the ice in the Arctic
Breaking the ice in the Arctic
Nikita Aronov

MOSCOW — When, in the 1990s, the Northern Sea Route administration left its headquarters in central Moscow for good, polar explorer Artur Chilingarov took a wooden door sign with him as a souvenir.

Even then, he was sure the Northern Route would one day be reborn. "I always knew that the Northern Sea Route would exist," the ice explorer says. "Logically, there had to be a time when we decided to extract the oil in the far northern shelf, and the only route that would allow that is the Northern Sea Route."

Motivations for reopening the route are purely pragmatic. According to several estimates, about one-fifth of the world's oil and gas reserves are located in the Arctic region. It's thus no surprise that Russia is in the process of trying to regain control over 1.2 million square kilometers of ocean area that was previously controlled by the Soviet Union.

Should we be surprised that the Arctic is becoming the site of major geopolitical intrigue? Russia is sending researchers to the far north and building military bases. The Northern Seas are increasingly frequented by both military and civilian ships.

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A man walks on a tank left behind by Russian troops, on display in Kyiv’s Mykhailivska Square.

Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Tuesday, which marks three months since the war in Ukraine started. Meanwhile, BoJo is in trouble again, and millionaires at Davos ask to be taxed more. Persian-language, London-based media Kayhan explores what the future of Lebanon could look like after the election defeat of Iran-backed Hezbollah.

[*Swedish]

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