Shaken by the financial and diplomatic effects of the war in Ukraine, Russia strengthened cooperation with China to expand Its foothold in the ArcticWith significant implications for US national security, according to a new private intelligence report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long considered it a priority Military and economic expansion in the Arctic whom is a key aspect of its geopolitical strategy and ambitions, and began cooperation with China in the region after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. A report by Strider Technologies, a firm that focuses on open-source intelligence, said that Russia recently invited more Chinese involvement after trying to limit the participation of the People’s Republic of China.
“Russia’s increasing willingness to allow the PRC in the Arctic demonstrates the reality of their ‘unfettered’ partnership and potential counterbalance to US-led alliances,” the report said.
The report adds that Russia has for decades discouraged China and other non-Arctic countries from playing a role there, including denying Chinese scientists access to research and refusing to help China build or share designs for icebreakers.
But Russia’s growing economic and diplomatic isolation is forcing the Kremlin to change its approach, Strider believes. Seven other member countries Arctic Council By ceasing cooperation with Russia, it forced him to seek a partnership with China that Strider would have previously considered unthinkable.
An analysis of Strider’s publicly available business data found:
- 123 new Chinese-owned companies registered to operate in the Arctic between January and July 2023, compared to 111 in 2022, 77 in 2021 and 48 in 2020.
- The data also show that since 2013, Russian-Chinese cooperation has increased in a number of Arctic and Far Eastern projects, particularly in the areas of liquefied natural gas, mineral extraction and infrastructure.
- Russian-Chinese trade is carried out through the Arctic Ocean Northern Sea Route There is also a rise between Europe and Asia. In 2023, at least 11 ships transported Russian crude oil via the route to China; In 2022, only one “test” visit was made to China.
The Strider report also found that Russian defense spending in the Arctic has stagnated, while private commercial investment continues to grow.
“Moscow is also shifting traditional defense spending away from the region due to the war in Ukraine, and is increasingly relying on state-backed mechanisms to attract private investment to maintain and expand Russia’s presence in the Arctic,” the report said.
In an interview, Strider co-founder Eric Levesque said that the economic realities of Russia’s current situation have forced it to give China more access to the Arctic than previously thought.
“They are too dependent on China to buy their oil and technology. This is what we see in the Arctic,” he said.
However, he added that Russia is far ahead of the United States in terms of investment and development in the Arctic.
“For the US, the Arctic is consistently an afterthought,” he said. “The US does not prefer it. Russia is probably 10 years or more ahead of the US. “We have one functional icebreaker and it was built in the 70s.”
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee expressed similar concerns, as did expert witnesses hearing In November, he explored the implications of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic on US national security.
“We must respond by strengthening both our military and civilian presence to make sure we can protect our national security interests, our economic security interests, our energy security interests, and our environmental security interests,” Senator Dan said. Sullivan, R-Alaska, testified as a witness.
While Russia continues to maintain strategic nuclear forces in the Arctic, Strider found that spending in the Arctic by four of Russia’s five major state defense organizations has decreased significantly. Compared to their peak spending in 2019, the combined spending of these five organizations fell by nearly 90% in 2021, the report says – likely due to the Ukraine war.
According to Strider’s data, the budget of the Russian Ministry of Far East and Arctic Development, the government body responsible for the socio-economic development of the Arctic, has increased by almost 300% since 2016. The participation of private sector companies and individual entrepreneurs in special economic zones supported by the Kremlin in the region increased from about 230 subjects in 2016 to more than 4,000 last year.
“These changes show that the Arctic is still a priority for Russia’s geopolitical strategy and ambition,” the report said. “As Russia adjusts and balances both a large-scale invasion of Ukraine and pursues its Arctic ambitions, the West, NATO and other Arctic stakeholders must similarly adjust and balance the fight against Russia in both Ukraine and the Arctic. Failure to do so will result in the West falling further behind and risking Arctic security and losing economic benefits to Russia and the PRC.”