The Northern Sea Route should be an international transport artery, and the United States claims to conduct exercises to ensure freedom of navigation. Such a position of Washington on the NSR will be unpleasant to Moscow, said the US admiral, commander of the US Coast Guard. What did he mean and what is the US's interest in the Russian Northern Sea Route?
The United States believes that the Northern Sea Route should be a transport artery open to the entire world community. This was announced by the commander of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, reports TACC.
"There is currently no pressure to conduct exercises to ensure freedom of navigation in the Arctic. However ... the US approach is that the Northern Sea Route should be open as an international water corridor for, if you will, a transit passage - as we see this site being released from the ice, "the US military commander said.
Zukunft acknowledged that such a position of Washington, concerning the Northern Sea Route, would inevitably come across the rejection of Moscow. "This will require a substantial dialogue in the future," said the head of the US Coast Guard, which is one of five types of the US Armed Forces, along with ground forces, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps.
It may seem that the American admiral hints at the fact that Russia allegedly restricts passage of ships on the NSR for foreigners. But this is not true - the Northern Sea Route is open to all countries since the end of the Cold War. However, lawmakers last year prepared a bill "On Amendments to the Code of Merchant Shipping of the Russian Federation" to support the SMP transportation and towing of hydrocarbons by vessels under the Russian flag. They are encouraged to give preemptive rights within the continental shelf. This is done to support the Russian shipyard Zvezda. However, this bill does not at all mean prohibition of transportation by vessels flying the flags of foreign states. Nobody gave an exclusive right to Russian courts.
Moreover, the very development of the Northern Sea Route is impossible without the growth of transit of goods by foreigners, and not only by Russian oil workers. And the Chinese, as well as the Americans themselves, are quietly using this route to transport cargo. Simply, while the possibilities of the NSR are limited due to the lack of year-round navigation, although from the point of view of supplies from Asia to Europe and back in the summer, this is, of course, the shortest path.
Zukunft, on the contrary, does honor to the Russian Arctic way, believing in its rapid development as the ice melts. When there is sufficient melting, it is not clear exactly, the scientists' estimates differ. But in general, we are talking about the period after 2030 year. Some say that year-round navigation on the NSR will be possible with 2050 year.
"You should not take Mr. Zukunft's words as a kind of threat to take Russia's NSR from Russia. The addressees of these words are not in Moscow, but in Washington,
- said the director of the expert group Veta Dmitry Zharskiy.
What, then, should Russia be dissatisfied with, according to the American admiral? Maybe, military exercises? In fact, the US Coast Guard is only legally a military department, but in fact they are not. It does not obey the US Defense Ministry and has nothing to do with, for example, the exercises of the North Atlantic Alliance and even the navy in principle, says Zharsky.
This is a kind of rescue service (at least in peacetime, during the war, Coast Guard ships are subordinated to the US Navy). The Coast Guard conducts search and rescue operations, has some law enforcement functions, as it ensures the safety of sea lanes (from pirates or poachers) and monitors the implementation of maritime law, and also combats illegal migration. "The US Coast Guard works in all the seas and oceans washing the US, as well as in some other countries that agree with this state of affairs. In some regions, the Coast Guard is quite effective in fighting, for example, pirates, but, frankly, after the Second World War, the Arctic is represented only by polar bears and icebergs, and there is absolutely no one to fight the Coast Guard here, "Zharskiy says.
Therefore, speaking of exercises to ensure freedom of navigation, Zukunft hardly has in mind military exercises. It is more about joint rescue exercises, for example, stuck in the ice of civil vessels or to eliminate the consequences of a fuel spill. Considering that the ships with oil products are actively operating along the Northern Sea Route, such exercises are theoretically not meaningless.
In addition, perhaps, the admiral decided to take advantage of geopolitical tension and beat out for his service more money. "Since the US Coast Guard is at least a de jure military structure, it can claim the budgets blown up now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, and for this it is necessary at least to recall its existence and about finding and carrying out service in close proximity to a potential enemy" , - says Zharskiy.
It is possible that the US Coast Guard is unhappy that Russia, being a state along the coast of which passes the Northern Sea Route, is solely engaged in the protection and control of the way. "After the US lifted the ban on the export of energy resources and became one of the largest suppliers of LNG to Asia, ships under the American flag began to walk through the NSR. They carry valuable cargo, and they are guarded by their Russian ships, that is, vessels of a potential enemy. Although there is no one to protect in the Arctic by and large. Obviously, the service still expects to increase funding, and the general anti-Russian rhetoric plays into its favor, "the source said. Although this is not a violation, it is Russia that is in charge of international maritime law and should guard the sea route near its shores.
The Northern Sea Route attracts the attention of different countries more and more. The traffic on it grows every year. If 1998 million tons of cargo were transported by the NSR in 1,8, last year it was 10,6 million tons. And the volume of traffic in the western sector of the NSR - from Murmansk to the port of Sabetta - is already comparable with the European one. By 2022, the volume of traffic will grow to 40 million tons, and by 2025 to 65 million tons of hydrocarbons, predicted the vice president of the Arctic Economic Council, Yevgeny Ambrosov.
Work for the development of the SMP is carried out on all fronts, beginning with the construction of an icebreaking fleet and ending with the reduction of trade and administrative barriers.