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The NSR looks fine but it isn’t mine

07.05.2019 15:47

Dennis Saksonov

The claims that the Northern Sea Route (NSR) will act as a global thoroughfare are less and less disputed. In spite of the attempts of the West to discredit the the northern route value skepticism is dissolving and giving way to a cold calculation of future gains and losses. It must be noted that it comes to losses for the United States and benefits for the Russian Federation, which is traditionally unacceptable for Washington.

 Currently, about 10 percent of global seaborne trade (over 1 billion tons of cargo) is carried out through the narrow American-controlled Suez Canal. On average 48 ships pass through the canal per day (up to 97 ships taking into account the New Suez Canal), while the passage cost is about $250,000. Moreover, the additional insurance premium due to piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea is another $120,000. At the mean while, the transition from Europe to China takes 35 days and spends about 875 tons of fuel oil. Against all odds and high cost, carriers have to use this route, since there is no alternative to it. Actually, not yet.

The reduction of the ​​Arctic ice area makes the development of shipping in the Russian northern seas probable. Cutting time for the goods delivery from Europe to Asia to 25 days with the fuel oil consumption of 625 tons and safety of the route are absolutely indisputable advantages of the NSR. The fact that the Northern Sea Route will be cheaper, faster and safer makes it not just an alternative route, but a key competitor in global freight.

Washington cannot allow that to happen. American ambitions and fear of losing control in the backbone issue of regulating world trade for them because of the banal "matter of price" push them for the extreme measures.

So, according to The Wall Street Journal, this summer a certain American ship will make its way through the NSR without asking Russian permission. The United States speak in terms of international transport route importance, where international, and not national, norms should operate.

Americans have similar claims to Canadians, demanding they should recognize the the Northwest Passage extraterritorial status. There global warming does not proceed so quickly and the pack ice still lies all year round, which is not always possible to break through even with a nuclear-powered icebreaker. But to obtain "freedom" where it is beneficial (or would be beneficial in the long term) is a matter of principle for the United States.

If the United States decides at its own risk to navigate between the ice floes in the Arctic, then Russia will have no choice but to take measures to protect its own interests. The precedent took place in 1964, when the Soviet authorities detained two American warships followed by an exchange of protest notes. The question is, what do they count on today, taking such measures? Another provocation? Time will tell, but it will be ridiculous if the Americans ask the Russian for an icebreaker to help them ensure freedom of navigation on the Northern Sea Route.