Chapter 22: Russia turns north, again: interests, policies and the search for coherence
Russia has clearly become more interested in the Arctic and more engaged in its development in recent years, especially since 2007, although the idea of harnessing the region’s vast resources to increase general prosperity is nothing new. The Russian government and parliament repeatedly proclaimed the importance of the Arctic in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, only recently have Russian interest and involvement increased systematically in the economic, political and military spheres. The Arctic has become a key priority in domestic and foreign policies, acknowledged as strategically important to future socio-economic development, and hence to Russia’s position in international affairs. The country views itself a leading Arctic power by virtue of its geographic location, the world’s longest Arctic coastline, strong military and economic interests, as well as extensive polar experience and the necessary capabilities. Russia’s renewed interest in the Arctic in recent years can be attributed to a number of factors, among which two stand out in particular. First, favourable political conditions and an improvement in state finances have made development projects in the north increasingly feasible. Second, the sharp increase in international attention to the Arctic since the turn of the millennium has convinced Russia that a stronger presence in the region is necessary.
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