Putin eyes new battleground as Nato expansion ramps up pressure
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Klaus Dodds, professor of geopolitics at Royal Holoway, told Times Radio that while Russia’s oil and gas interest in the Arctic could preclude a war in the region, but with Sweden and Finland seeking to join NATO it “is likely to become more tense” in the European areas of the Arctic. He said Russia has ”little to no incentive” to have a conflict in their own portions of the land, but it remains to be seen what happens in the rest of the territory. It comes as Russia looks to pass laws monopolising the transportation of energy from and within the region.
Professor Dodds said: “Russia has little to no incentive to have conflict in the Russian zone of the Arctic federation and the reason for that is very simple.
“President Putin has been very clear that the future of the Russian federation lies with the continued extraction of oil and gas in the Russian Arctic.
“And there’s an awful lot of it, frankly speaking, and that oil and gas needs to find markets.
“In the past, [Russia] would have been looking towards Europe, but really since those sanctions started to bite from 2014-2015 onwards, it’s had to look to China and other markets in Asia.
“So, it should not be a battleground for Russia. But on the other hand, of course, with Finland and Sweden looking to join NATO, it is also the case that the European Arctic is likely to become more tense and not less.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to pass a law banning foreign ships from transporting Russian oil in the Arctic, as well as making Russian pilotage a prerequisite of shipping in the area.
A report, entitled ‘The Next Front? Sino-Russian expansionism in the Arctic and a UK response’, detailed how Putin was looking to turn the Arctic into the next “geopolitical battleground”.
Published by the think tank Civitas today, the paper says the West needs to “wake up” to Russia’s militarisation of the area and its attempted monopolisation of energy extraction and transportation.
As the invasion of Ukraine and the corollary of EU sanctions begin to take effect on Russia, Putin is looking to control the high north and extract trillions of dollars worth of natural resources.
In the past decade, Moscow has opened 50 military facilities in the Arctic and, according to the report, is moving nuclear deterrents into the region.
Robert Clark, one of the paper’s authors, warned that the West must take “urgent action” to prevent Russian control.
He said: “The Arctic will soon become the geopolitical battleground of the future if western governments don’t take urgent action”.
It is estimated that a third of the world’s natural gas lies underneath the Arctic ice plains.
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As global warming melts the ice caps, shipping routes have emerged that could drastically cut the time it takes to transport goods, including energy, through the area.
But Russia is reportedly attempting to monopolise ice-breaking in the region and along its coastline to prevent foreign intervention.
It was estimated in the report that a journey from Shanghai to Rotterdam could be shortened by two weeks along the new routes.
Mr Clark warned the melting ice and new Russian laws could allow Putin to shift a considerable amount of supplies of oil and gas to China, circumventing the difficulties of building lengthy pipelines.
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