India-Russia friendship too pragmatic to be ruined

Sreeram Chaulia

Sreeram Chaulia is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. His forthcoming book is ‘Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises’

Upon his return from India last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said he feels no wavering on New Delhi’s end of its defense cooperation with Moscow. Despite American pressure on anyone doing business with Russia.

The 19th century British statesman Lord Palmerston famously said “we have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual.” This maxim has been used to justify flexibility for a country to choose and discard partners. Depending on the changing times and circumstances.

Whether in defiance, or in support of this very pragmatic logic, one major relationship has persisted. India and Russia have sustained a robust partnership through the Cold War, the post-Cold War era, and now in the emerging multipolar order. The international system as a whole has changed beyond comprehension in the last fifty years, but what New Delhi and Moscow call ‘Druzhba-Dosti’ (friendship in Russian and Hindi) has remained intact.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar referred to this while hosting his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on April 7 by remarking that India and Russia have shown a “consistent ability to identify and update our shared interests.”

In spite of the US

While there is a perception of divergence between the two sides due to their respective global strategic compulsions, India needs Russia and vice-versa. The ‘special and privileged strategic partnership’ is not fading away. Defense cooperation is an obvious illustration of that. Lavrov’s comment in New Delhi that ‘prospects for additional production of Russian military equipment on India’s territory are under discussion’ caught attention in India because of the threat of American sanctions on any country that does ‘significant transactions’ with Russia.

New Delhi insists that the Russian-made S-400 anti-missile system is essential for India’s national security and that imposing sanctions on India for pursuing its core national interests would be a strategic blunder by the US. Russia is a touchstone for India to prove its ‘strategic autonomy’ in foreign policy. Moreover, Russia has been the most generous among the world’s military powers in offering co-production and technology transfer to India for defence manufacturing. Lavrov’s emphasis that ‘we are the only partner that indeed transfers to India cutting-edge military technology’ and that this is in ‘the national interests of both countries,’ conveys that the two sides are determined to plough ahead.

President Vladimir Putin’s commitment to enhancing India’s indigenous defence production capacities matches with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making India an exporter of ‘low-cost, high-quality’ weapons. Russia is keen to retain its share of the Indian defence market, which has historically been massive but lately has fallen to 49% of total Indian military imports. If Russia’s competition for a share of the Indian defence pie with France (18%), Israel (13%) and the US spurs more advanced co-development of weapons with India, it serves both New Delhi and Moscow.

Between China and India

Skeptics who contend that India and Russia are strategically drifting apart because of the former’s closeness to the US, the latter’s alignment with China, and intensifying tensions between India and China, should look at how Russia promptly supplied much-needed defence equipment to India in 2020 as New Delhi was engaged in a major national security crisis along its northern border. Jaishankar acknowledged in Lavrov’s presence that “our defence requirement in the past year was expeditiously addressed” by Russia.

Lavrov’s statement that “we are closely watching the process of normalisation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” between China and India was not unwelcome from an Indian point of view. Moscow’s good offices have been creatively used both in the 2017 Doklam standoff and during the LAC dispute that began in 2020. India and Russia serve as each other’s balancing factors that bring stability in relations with China.

Unlike the crude offers to ‘mediate’ or ‘arbitrate’ between China and India that the US made under President Donald Trump, Putin’s Russia has a proven record as a pragmatic interlocutor. Lavrov has assured New Delhi that “Russia has no plans to sign a military alliance with China”. Russia has been willing to hear out India’s geopolitical perspectives and dilemmas despite having a joint front with China in standing up to the West. The same open-mindedness has led to exploration of new avenues such as Japan-India-Russia trilateral economic cooperation in Russia’s Far East and India manufacturing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines for combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sticking points

One issue where differences have crept in between India and Russia is Afghanistan. Some in India have expressed worries of a ‘Russia-China-Pakistan axis’ emerging in South-Central Asia whose practical effect could be to sideline India from the settlement of Afghanistan’s future. Lavrov’s recent discussions with Jaishankar on Afghanistan, the former’s reiteration that India was very much a part of the ‘Moscow format’ for stabilising Afghanistan and an ‘important player in the settlement in Afghanistan’, should calm nerves in New Delhi.

Russia’s defence sales to Pakistan are much smaller in volume and scope than the India-Russia security cooperation. And in themselves are not major irritants. What is required in order to reduce disagreements on this front is for Russia and India to coordinate better on their commonly stated goal of an ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.’

Iran is another regional issue where India and Russia are looking more aligned now. The restart of talks involving the Europeans, Russia, China, the US and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement has India’s wholehearted backing. New Delhi’s investments and plans to integrate with Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran’s Chabahar port were stuck in limbo as long as Washington applied ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Tehran. India’s push to get Chabahar included in the agenda of the 13-nation International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) could connect Russia, Iran, India and Central Asia closer and help usher in balance in the Eurasian region.

In this context, it can be a good sign that Lavrov personally met the Joe Biden administration’s climate envoy and former US Secretary of State John Kerry. He had played a crucial role in the US-Iran thaw of 2015, while both happened to be in New Delhi.

With a lot still in common between India and Russia, the global dichotomies of Sino-US confrontation and Russia-US frostiness need not be insurmountable hurdles. In the current fluid multipolar world, there are no watertight or exclusive alliances. Countries have to forge one set of friends on one issue and another set on a second issue. India and Russia are mature enough to understand this dynamic.

Tianwan NPP – the largest object of economic cooperation between Russia and China

In the PRC, there are currently 50 operating industrial nuclear reactors with a total electrical capacity of 47.5 GW. According to this indicator, China is second only to the United States and France. Although, unlike the latter, where nuclear power accounts for over 70% of the country’s total electricity generation, China has only 5%; seven years ago, the figure was two times lower, and the capacity of all power units was 16 GW.

Russia has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the development of the PRC’s nuclear power industry. Through the efforts of Rosatom, the Tianwan nuclear power plant is being built. It is located in the area of ​​the same name in the Lianyungang city district of Jiangsu province. At the moment, its capacity is 5.5 GW. The facility is the largest within the framework of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation.

Start of construction

The construction of nuclear power plants in eastern China began in 1999. Then the operating capacity of nuclear power in the Asian country was only 2 GW. The Russian company had signed a general contract for the construction of the facility two years earlier with the newly formed JNPC ( Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation ).

© 风 之 清扬 / CC BY-SA 3.0 (Construction of the Tianwan NPP, 2010)

Atomstroyexport CJSC – Engineering Division of Rosatom State Corporation – according to the agreements, it was to complete the project of the future plant, supply the necessary materials and equipment, carry out construction and installation work and train Chinese personnel for the further operation of the nuclear power plant.

The AES-91 project, developed by specialists from the St. Petersburg Institute Atomenergoproekt ( now JSC Atomproekt ), was taken as a basis . On its basis, the detailed design of two power units with VVER-1000/320 reactors was carried out. They were put into operation as part of the first stage in the summer of 2007.

At the Tianwan NPP, Russian specialists for the first time used a system of passive protection that was new at that time. Called the Melt Localization Device. This tapered metal structure is installed under the reactor vessel. In the event of a severe accident, retains the melt and solid fragments of the destroyed core, providing insulation for the foundation under the vessel and the reactor building. Thanks to the introduction of the new technology, six years after the launch of the nuclear power plant, its first two power units were recognized as the safest in China. The station began to generate 15 billion kWh annually.

Second stage

Successful cooperation contributed to the continuation of joint work. Russia and China agreed on in the fall of 2009, and in March 2010 they signed a new contract worth $ 1.7 billion for the construction of the second stage. These are power units 3 and 4. According to official publication of Rosatom reported that the negotiations were not easy.

© Mihha2 / CC BY-SA 3.0 / wikimapia.org (Construction of the Tianwan NPP)

By this time, Beijing was cooperating with the Americans, Japanese and French in the field of nuclear energy. Their own projects were also developed. Therefore, the competition for the construction of the next two power units at the Tianwan NPP was serious. The Russian side hoped to sign the treaty back in 2008, but the discussions dragged on.

As a result, taking into account the level of safety and technical and economic indicators, the Chinese side still gave preference to the Russian project. Moreover, it was refined from the technical and operational sides, based on the experience of the accident that occurred in March 2011 at the Fukushima-1 NPP.

The second stage was launched in December 2012. Power unit No. 3 was commissioned at the beginning, and No. 4 at the end of 2018. Everything related to the operation of the nuclear reactor was designed by JSC Atomproekt, the construction, installation and commissioning works were carried out by the Chinese with the participation of specialists from Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the Tianwan NPP an exemplary cooperation project.

New stage

The third stage was implemented by China on its own. The ACPR1000 reactors were installed on the blocks No. 5 and No. 6, which are based on the French project of the M310 reactor.

In the year of completion of the second stage, another agreement was concluded with the Russian side. According to which Atomstroyexport will be engaged in the design of Units 7 and 8. Later, a general contract was signed for construction. These will be new power units with pressurized water power reactors of generation “3+” and with a capacity of 1150 MW each ( VVER-1200 ). Then it was reported that the pouring of the first concrete of power unit No. 7 will begin in 2021. In March of this year, the head of the State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” Alexei Likhachev confirmed that work on the construction of the fourth stage of the nuclear power plant should begin in late spring.

After the fourth stage is completed, the Tianwan NPP with a total capacity of 8.1 GW will become the largest nuclear power plant on the planet. Until 2011, this was the Japanese Kashiwazaki-kariva ( 8.2 GW ), but after the accident at Fukushima-1, all seven of its units were stopped for modernization. This year, the sixth and seventh are to be restarted, but the fate of units 1-5 is still unknown, it is quite possible that they will never resume work.

Arctic – What is “sectoral theory”?

What is “sectoral theory” and why are many countries unhappy with it?

Arctic is known to represent the northern polar region of the Earth. It includes the northern outskirts of Eurasia and North America, the Arctic Ocean, and the adjacent Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Although the place is rather harsh, it has long attracted people interest. For a long time, travelers have been attracted by these lifeless lands. 

It is clear that those countries that are washed by the Arctic Ocean had more opportunities for expeditions. The interest here was purely practical: the search for shorter sea routes. The Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage – these routes promised great economic benefits. And the faster the Arctic ice melts, the greater this interest. It is clear that the polar powers dreamed of seizing these routes.

Canada was the first. In 1909, Canada declared sovereignty in the territories located between the North Pole and its northern coast. Then, in 1926, the USSR declared its territory the areas bounded by the meridians 32 ° 4’35 “east longitude and 168 ° 49’30” west longitude. This is how the “sector theory” developed. It says that the Arctic sector is the space, the base of which is the coast of the state. The lateral lines are the meridians from the North Pole to the eastern and western borders of this state. 

Thus, the entire Arctic was divided among themselves by five states: Russia, Norway, USA, Canada, Denmark. Due to its geographical position, Russia was the luckiest of all – the huge length of borders from West to East helped in this. But the United States, for example, has a very small piece of the Arctic pie. Than they are very unhappy.

The “Arctic five” and the rest of the world

And if the “Arctic five” argues about the size of their northern possessions, other countries, generally deprived of the “right to the Arctic”, are extremely unhappy with the very formulation of the question. They consider the “sector theory” unfair, since the Arctic is the property of all mankind. As you might guess, they are not at all worried about the habitat of polar bears. The point here is completely different. 

Calculations show that the Arctic region contains colossal reserves of minerals, most of which are oil and gas. And this, as you know, is the bone of contention that can break the strongest agreements. Moreover, by and large, there are no agreements on the Arctic recognized by all countries. As there are no exact outlines of the boundaries of the Arctic itself.

The problem is complicated by the fact that the Arctic land and water areas have a different legal regime. This causes controversy – for example, about the ownership of the Lomonosov ridge.

The controversy gets hotter every year. This is greatly facilitated by the melting of the Arctic ice. More and more new players are intervening, and hotheads are voicing a variety of ideas. For example, it is no coincidence that the United States started talking about buying Greenland – this, by the way, is a direct path to an additional sector of the Arctic. New icebreakers are hastily being built, without which the development of the Arctic is impossible. Diplomats, and even the military, are preparing new steps. In general, today, the cold Arctic has become the subject of heated debate.

That is why many states refuse to recognize the “sectoral theory” that suited everyone earlier, demanding its revision, or even abolition.

Why world powers are fighting for influence in the Faroe Islands?

The world powers United States, Russia and China are showing interest in the Arctic archipelago, and Denmark is rebuilding a radar station there

Richard Orange

At the summit of Mount Sornfelli, towering over the capital of the Faroe Islands, Torshavn, round, golf-ball-like structures are still visible. But after the end of the Cold War, when the Danish military unit serving this radar was disbanded, Russian planes and submarines roam unnoticed along this strategic sea route leading to the Arctic Ocean.

Then a sharp rivalry began for influence in the Arctic. Now the situation in the Faroe Islands could change dramatically.

Last month, Danish political parties agreed to allocate £ 170 million to rebuild the radar complex. These premises are now used as the archipelago’s only prison. They also agreed to purchase new drones to explore Greenland.

For this reason, the Foreign Minister of the Faroe Islands, Jenis av Rana, expects to speak with Anthony Blinken in the coming weeks. This will be his second meeting with the US Secretary of State in less than a year.

“Climate change in the Arctic is putting the Faroe Islands at the center of events. That means that other countries such as the United States, China and Russia are paying more attention to us.”

“This is a good opportunity and we will use it. We have a small, very small country, but we want to be part of the big world. “

The Faroe Islands are the smallest of the three counties in the Danish kingdom. This windswept archipelago of high basalt cliffs and low snow-capped mountains lies in the middle of the Atlantic. 350 kilometers northwest of Scotland. It is located right in the middle of the Faroe-Icelandic border between Greenland and Britain. The Pentagon has declared it “a strategic corridor for naval operations between the Arctic and the North Atlantic.”

Natural resources and strategic position

President Trump, in response to the growing strategic importance of the region, inquired about the opportunity to buy Greenland. Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo in 2019 stunned the participants in the Arctic Council meeting, pompously proclaiming “a new era of strategic engagement in the Arctic, when new threats to the Arctic interests and wealth of this region “.

He pointed to the fact that in connection with the melting of the ice deposits of oil, gas, rare earth minerals and gold are becoming available. He also condemned China for its attempts to show up in the Arctic and Russia for its “aggressive” behavior in the region.

In November, the Americans signed a partnership agreement with these islands.

“The fact that the US secretary of state is spending time on such negotiations says a lot about what is happening,” said Mikkel Runge Olesen, an Arctic security expert at the Danish Institute of International Relations. – The Faroe Islands are back on the map. The value of the Faroe Islands is growing in geopolitical terms. “

Olesen explains this by the growing tension between Russia and NATO in general and the strengthening of Russian activity in the Arctic in particular. This increase has been happening since 2014. Then Moscow created a new Arctic strategic command based on the Northern Fleet.

Over the past five years, Russia has kept up with the Cold War in terms of activity in the North Atlantic. Its long-range nuclear submarines and long-range aircraft are constantly checking NATO detection equipment.

Gap in NATO radar coverage

British Navy intends to regularly be present in the Arctic. It is due to the fact that against the background of climate change and melting ice, Russia and China can use the new strategic sea routes emerging there.

When the radar system in the Faroe Islands is rebuilt and operational again, it will close the gap in the radar coverage that appeared after Britain reopened the radar station on Anst Island in the northern Shetland Islands in 2018.

“If we look at the radar coverage of NATO countries in the North Atlantic and the Arctic and plot it on a map, we will see large gaps over Greenland and the Faroe Islands,” explains Olesen.

According to him, the United States also “wondered if they could use the Faroe Islands as a kind of naval base.”

Washington isn’t alone in trying to influence this tiny country of 18 islands. In 2019, the Faroes opened a representative office in Beijing,. It began to deal with large-scale fish shipments for China. China declared itself a “near-Arctic state” and intended to pave the “Polar Silk Road” using new shipping routes.

At the same time, the Chinese began to put pressure on the Faroe Islands, urging them to agree to the construction of a 5G network by Huawei. The authorities of the islands are still dragging out a decision.

Memorandum of understanding with the Eurasian Economic Union

In 2018, the Faroe Islands signed a memorandum of understanding with the Eurasian Economic Union, which is headed by Moscow. The Faroese economy is completely dependent on fishing and salmon farming. Russia is the islands’ largest market. But the Faroe Islands do not want to get involved in the rivalry between the great powers.

“We don’t think it will be primarily a military facility,” says Dr. av Rana of the radar complex. “It’s a natural way for us to protect the Faroe Islands, and we need it. There were cases when foreign planes flew in the Faroes area, but radars in the surrounding countries did not detect them. “

He is against further steps to militarize the islands. “We do not need military activity in the Faroe Islands. The people of the Faroes will not allow this. We are talking about the creation of a sea transit hub. It will be intended for civilian ships. We have no intention of inviting warships. “

The North-South corridor and the Eurasia canal

From Russian point of view

The accident of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal, which blocked this important transport artery for almost a week, sparked discussions on alternative routes for the delivery of goods from Asia to Europe. One such alternative is the so-called North-South corridor and the associated Eurasia Canal project. They are able to connect the center of the continent and the Gulf region with the markets of Europe.

At the same time, the implementation of these logistics projects is impossible without Russia. Why are both routes interesting for world trade?

Nursultan, move the sea!

The agreements on the implementation of the North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC) project – from the Indian port of Mumbai (Bombay) through the Persian Gulf, Iran, the Caspian Sea and further through our country up to the ports of the Baltic Sea and western borders – were signed by Russia. India and Iran in St. Petersburg back in 2000. The 7200 km route avoids the passage of the Suez Canal and the roundabout route around all of Europe, transporting goods from India and the Persian Gulf countries through Russian territory directly to the markets of Northern and Western Europe.

In turn, the Eurasia canal adjoins the North-South corridor and brings it to the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe. This navigable canal should connect the Caspian and Azov Seas and pass through the bitter-salt lake Manych-Gudilo and the Manych depression. The maximum height of depression is only 20 meters above sea level.

The idea of ​​”Eurasia” arose much earlier, in the 1930s, even before the construction of the Volga-Don Canal. Such a deep-water channel would allow not only river-sea vessels to enter the Caspian, but also large sea-going ships. For the first time in modern times, the idea of ​​building a canal was returned at the interstate level in 2007. It was during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Both projects are not purely maritime transport routes. Rather, they are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which uses Eurasian connectivity across inland seas, roads, and railways. So-called “combined” transport corridors. Such corridors include not only port-to-port maritime transport. They also include significant land sections that complement maritime transport.

Benefits for Kazakhstan

In the usual comparison, of course, road and rail transport lose out to sea transport. In case of combined transport, direct comparison often does not work. Take Kazakhstan: this country is located in the very center of Eurasia – and in one way or another it is forced to rely on roads and railways to trade with the world. And the closer the conditional sea comes to the borders of Kazakhstan, the easier and cheaper it will be for Astana to send its goods for export and receive imported goods from abroad.

By itself, the Caspian Sea is unsuitable for this: it is an isolated seawater that does not communicate with the World Ocean by deep-water transport. But if you connect the Caspian with the Black Sea, which already has access to the ocean routes through the Bosphorus, and provide rail transportation to the Persian Gulf region, then Kazakhstan’s entry into the world market will be much easier.

Ukrainian rake

At first glance, Russia’s interest in the North-South corridor and the Eurasia channel is not so obvious. After all, let’s say, cargo from Central Asia, which today goes to Europe on our railways, will then be sent directly by sea vessels from the Caspian ports belonging to Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan. After that, the sea vessel will transport them either to the ports of Iran, or straight to Europe through “Eurasia”.

However, there is a certain flaw in this logic. The geographical advantage should not be abused. This is clearly shown by the example of Ukraine. Ukraine, being a practical monopoly on the transit of Russian gas to Europe in the mid-1990s, completely squandered this unique potential in less than 30 years. Russia simply built bypass routes around Ukraine.

The development of the future logistics of the Caspian region can follow the same logic. There is an alternative version of the shipping channel between the Caspian and the Black Sea. That should pass through Azerbaijan and Georgia, along the valleys of the Kura and Rioni rivers. The British even tried to dig such a canal in the early 1920s. However, the annexation of Menshevik Georgia to Russia closed the possibility for its construction. Today such plans are cherished by Turkey. Turkey wants to link Central Asia with its territory through Azerbaijan and Georgia, and in the future through Armenia.

Iran as counterweight to Turkey

If Russia retains control over important sections of the North-South corridor in cooperation with Iran and provides a deep-water sea route to the Caspian through its territory, this will not only reduce the cost of logistics for a number of Asian countries, but also reliably “tie” them to Russia. In addition, Iran is a natural counterweight to Turkey in the region, which was clearly demonstrated during the recent aggravation of the Karabakh conflict.

As for our railways, you don’t have to worry about them. There is quite enough work for Russian Railways within the framework of the increased trade turnover along the North-South corridor. The decrease in trade turnover due to sea vessels passing through Eurasia will be offset by canal fees collected from them.

The main effect of the implementation of both projects may be the creation of two Russian transport corridors at once. They will compete with all the “southern” routes from Asia to Europe. Including the route through the Suez Canal and around the Cape of Good Hope. Russia becomes not only a transport hub, but also a guarantor of stability for many countries of Eurasia. Such an intracontinental transport corridor is much less dependent on unexpected changes in the geopolitical situation. Or the West’s desire to grossly interfere in world trade through sanctions, embargoes and other restrictions.

Author: Alexey Anpilogov


On June 15, 2007, at the 17th Foreign Investors’ Council Meeting in Ust-Kamenogorsk, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan proposed the Eurasia Canal project to build a canal connecting the Caspian and Black Seas. The project was estimated to cost US$6 billion and take 10 years to complete.[7][8]

Wikipedia

If built, the nearly 700 km (430 mi) Eurasia Canal would be four times longer than the Suez Canal and eight times longer than the Panama Canal. President Nazarbayev stated that the canal would make Kazakhstan a maritime power and benefit many other Central Asian nations as well.[7] Russia has proposed an alternative plan to upgrade the existing Volga-Don Canal.

Wikipedia

Russia promotes Arctic sea route as alternative to blocked Suez Canal

The Arctic – Northern Sea Route could become an effective alternative to the Suez Canal. The canal has been completely shut down since Tuesday, state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom said in a series of half-joking tweets.

The proposal comes days after a 400-meter container ship got stuck in the crucial marine passage for global trade. The incident has sparked fears over rising shipping costs. It also evoked deep concerns about the interruption of supply chains linking Europe and Asia.

In a Twitter thread, Rosatom listed three reasons to view Russia’s strategic Arctic shipping route as a viable alternative. The first one stemmed from tracking data that showed the ship drew a giant phallus in the Red Sea before it got jammed. The state-run corporation cheekily pointed out that the Northern Sea Route offers much more space for drawing naughty pictures with the help of a giant cargo ship.

The company also said that its nuclear icebreaker fleet. The largest in the world, would be easily able to free any ice-bound vessel. The tweet was illustrated with an image showing Rosatom icebreakers rescuing a cargo ship trapped in the ice this winter.

Rosatom’s Arctic fleet, which includes five nuclear-powered icebreakers, a container ship, and four service vessels, is operated by Rosatomflot, based in the Russian port city of Murmansk. The icebreakers are used for navigation and rescue operations along the Northern Sea Route.

In the third tweet, Rosatom posted a waggish gif featuring the lead character from the 1997 American spy comedy ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’, showing Powers stuck in a shuttle carriage that’s moving back and forth in a narrow tunnel, the image of a bulk carrier stuffed with containers photoshopped on top. 

The Russian authorities have recently turned the development of the Northern Sea Route into one of the key strategic priorities for the state.

In January, Minister of National Resources and Environment Dmitry Kobylkin said cargo shipping in Russia’s northernmost territorial waters would top 80 million tons as early as 2024.

Russia’s Arctic provides the shortest maritime route linking Europe and Asia. The ice waterway passes through several seas of the Arctic Ocean, including the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Chukchi Sea, and partially the Bering Sea in the Pacific Ocean.

Rosatom said in a separate tweet that a “Trip from Murmansk to Japan on the Northern Sea Route is 5770 miles & 12 840 miles through the Suez Canal,” adding that the Egyptian route may be blocked for days.

Russia looks to replace Australian coal exports to China

Russia’s coal miners could boost exports to China. Beijing slapped tariffs on Australian imports amid a growing trade rift.

Chinese authorities completely halted supplies of coal from Australia in late 2020. Triggered by Canberra voiced its support for an international inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

However, China’s appetite for energy imports steadily increasing. Russia is looking to fill the void by boosting coal exports to its neighbor.

“As imports of coal from Australia to China are expected to decline, Russia has a chance to replace at least part of it with its own coal,” said TS Lombard analyst Madina Khrustaleva, as quoted by SCMP, a Hong Kong-based English-language news outlet.

The expert noted that Russia has several large coal deposits ready to begin supplying China. Transport being the only hurdle.

Mutual trade between Russia and China has been growing since 2014, and China has since become Russia’s biggest trade partner.

Russia is in pole position to substitute imports from Australia

“Russia is clearly in pole position to substitute imports from Australia. The increase in oil prices is also helping Russia. All in all there are really tailwinds for Russia,” Alicia García-Herrero, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at Natixis, told the media.

Over the past year, a political rift between China and Australia has spilled over into the economic world. Chinese authorities applied import duties on a wide range of Australian produce, including wine, lobster, meat, barley, timber, and coal. Canberra hit back with tariffs on Chinese aluminum, paper, and steel.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for boosting coal exports to Asia by at least 30 percent over the next three years. Putin also approved financing for expanding the country’s rail routes for transporting coal to the continent from the Kuzbass region, Russia’s key mining area.

Russia has invested in modernizing the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian railway networks, the nation’s key rail routes. The expert also said that Russian coal companies are developing joint ventures with Chinese firms to boost coal trade.

In December, Elgaugol, the company behind the Elga coal project in the Russian Far East, agreed to launch a joint venture with China’s Fujian Guohang Ocean Shipping Group that will export metallurgical coal to China. The Elga project aims to ship 30 million tons of coal to China in 2023, almost doubling Russia’s total coal exports to China, which stood at around 33 million tons in 2019.


Here is the view from Australia by ABC News (Australian Public Broadcast Service)