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21.11.2018 13:03

Stasy Dementieff

On November 21, the United States Audit Chamber reported on threats to the United States in the Arctic region. The emphasis in the document is placed on the “need to strengthen the American military presence” in the Arctic. And the greatest threat to the United States, as expected, is Russia.

At the same time, the agency refers to the National Defense Strategy of the United States, updated this year. It says, in particular, that Washington “must prevent aggression” that comes from Russia and China. The latter, by the way, “fell into disgrace” to Washinton, because it can be one of Moscow’s main allies in the development of the Northern Sea Route.

Americans are not interested in this key artery of the Arctic. The United States (as well as the rest of the Arctic states) is haunted by the energy resources of the region. Especially in connection with global warming, which the environmentalists have long been “predicting” the world community. However, their fears are by no means groundless. According to the National Snow and Ice Information Center (NSIDC), since 1981, the sea-ice area in the Arctic has decreased significantly - today the region has lost about 22% of its ice cover. This means that mineral-rich Arctic shelves are becoming more accessible for development.

The North Sea Route is considered by Americans as the most profitable “springboard” for their own energy investments. That is why any attempts to develop the highway, especially Russia (under whose jurisdiction, by the way, it is located), cause a strong rejection of Washington. “The increase in traffic in the subarctic zone, combined with extreme Arctic conditions and limited infrastructure in the area, increases the likelihood of sea incidents affecting people's lives, natural resources, economic security and the environment,” the US Accounting Chamber quoted the RT. Politicians also refer to the opinion of representatives of the Coast Guard, who believe that such actions by Russia increase "the likelihood of marine incidents in the region."

However, Oleg Alexandrov, associate professor of the Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of the MGIMO of Russia, notes the far-fetchedness of such statements. “Although environmental risks in the exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic exist, they equally apply to both Russian projects and similar American plans for Alaska. The concern of the American department about the exploitation of the Northern Sea Route is not caused by concern for the ecology or safety of navigation, but by the refusal to admit that Russia is ahead of America in developing the Arctic on all fronts, ”the expert believes.

Indeed, so far the States are far from gaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic region. This conclusion was made even by analysts of the aforementioned report of the US Audit Office. The purpose of the report, as specified, was risk prediction for Americans in the Arctic region, in particular for the US Navy. So, analysts have found out that the American fleet can “face constraints” during the use of surface ships, as they are “poorly adapted” for patrolling in polar latitudes. In particular, such characteristics of vessels as speed and range of the course leave “much to be desired”, which “extremely complicates their movement in the Arctic ice”. At the same time, the authors of the document stated that it would take at least 20 years to develop and build new ships that can maneuver in the waters of the Arctic Ocean. In addition, the report notes that shipbuilders do not have enough experience to create such combat vessels. Employees of the Navy also "admitted" that the cost of building the last 11 ships that were part of the American fleet exceeded the planned amount by $ 8 (!) Billion.

At the same time, Russia itself feels very confident in the waters of the Arctic Ocean. One of the main advantages of Russia is the presence of an atomic icebreaking fleet. Moreover, ships of this class still do not exist in any state other than the Russian Federation. Currently, a total of 40 vessels of various classes are part of the country's icebreaking fleet. In the Arctic itself, four ships are currently being actively exploited: Yamal, 50 Years of Victory, Taimyr and Vaigach. The vessels that have exhausted their potential are replaced by the newest high-tech machines. In 2016, the head nuclear-powered icebreaker "Arktika" of project 22220 was launched, and two more vessels of this class, which will become the largest and most powerful in the world, will be next in line. In addition, the design of the giant icebreaker “Leader” continues, which will be able to carry out year-round pilotage of large-tonnage transport vessels with a deadweight of more than 100 thousand tons and a width of more than 50 meters throughout the Northern Sea Route. At the same time, the ship will be able to break four-meter ices. Fully upgrade the nuclear icebreaking fleet panirue