Russia’s ‘Yamal’ icebreaker cruising through the Arctic in 2009. Pink floyd88 a photo via Wikimedia commons

This Is What Russia Wants in the Arctic

Podcast — resources, control and power projection


In the summer of 2007, Russia planted a flag on the seabed of the North Pole. Russian state television covered the event as a submersible packed with explorers and Kremlin officials descended to the depths of the Arctic and laid claim over its potential resources for Russia.

Canada complained, but at the time it seemed ridiculous. The Arctic is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Temperatures regularly drop so far below freezing it’s incomprehensible.

But things are changing. Climate change is heating up the planet and the once bitter wasteland is now a growing hot-spot — literally — for global conflict.

As temperatures have risen, the icy expanse has started melting away, revealing previously unexploited resources. Moscow wants that territory for itself and it’s done a lot in the past decade to make its claim.

Moscow has at least six military bases in the region, bolstered by 16 deep-water ports and 13 airfields, moved surface-to-air missiles into its new territory and deployed hundreds of troops to the region. In summer 2016, the Kremlin launched the Arktika, a nuclear powered icebreaker it thinks will help make headway in previously unexploited tracts of land.

This week on War College, naval war expert Iain Ballantyne walks us through what Russia wants in the Arctic and what it’s doing to make it happen. For Ballantyne, Moscow’s rush to the North Pole is about more than just resources, it’s about power projection and gaining new access to the world’s oceans.

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