The Northern Sea Route: A state priority in Russia’s strategy of delivering Arctic hydrocarbons to global markets
The Northern Sea Route (NSR) – the Arctic shortcut between Europe and Asia – has emerged as a new strategic opportunity for unlocking and monetizing Russia’s vast oil and gas reserves in the Arctic. The NSR is an important element of Russia’s Arctic strategy, that now incorporates active development of the hydrocarbon riches, development of the Arctic ports and other infrastructure. It also relies on expanding domestic shipbuilding capabilities for Arctic-class tankers and a new generation of nuclear icebreakers as these are seen as important engines of economic growth and job creation in Russia. Russia has formulated ambitious goals for increasing NSR transportation turnover by 2035, relying primarily on a handful of oil and LNG projects by Gazpromneft, Novatek, and Rosneft. From a geo-political standpoint, the NSR provides a new avenue for developing international relations with new and existing customers for Russian hydrocarbons, while also allowing Russia to compete with key rivals in a rapidly globalizing market. This Insight reviews Russia’s NSR, assessing how Russia’s overall NSR strategy is set to develop. It highlights the preeminent role of the current and future Arctic oil and gas projects in achieving Russian goals for the NSR traffic, while also addressing some of the challenges the NSR faces in its quest to become an international shipping route.