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Putin’s two-level policy in the Arctic has become self-destructive.

Putin used the fifth sponsored by Russia, the international forum “the Arctic: territory of dialogue”, to showcase “your special interest” to the problems affecting the region. He was joined by the Prime Ministers of the four Northern European countries — Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden with the aim to resolve the tense situation in the far North. But do not care much about Putin’s global challenges such as the melting of Arctic ice and pollution to the pristine natural habitats — problems, priority is now for Finland, temporarily chairing the Arctic Council. No, Putin’s interests are focused on the future (2021-2022) the Russian management of this Council as a means of restoring the Russian enviable status of the “great Arctic power.

The usual topic of discussion would be economic cooperation between the two countries, but the prospect of such relations is limited by Western sanctions against Russia. Statement by the Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä that the sanctions will remain as long as the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine has caused irritation of Putin. The Kremlin leader has noticed that the Crimea has no relation to the Arctic, and Europe to the same extent suffering from sanctions, like Russia. To confirm his words difficult. And whether you want. Even the Minister of economic development of Russia Maxim Oreshkin was left confused after Putin called the figures for Russian investments in import substitution. Then the head of the Kremlin and is dispersed, denying the spectacular growth of shale oil and natural gas in the United States.

Such baseless statements provoke questions about the sources of information for the Russian leader, tried to convince foreign buyers that the Northern sea route (from the North coast of the country) was opened for commercial transit. Travel on this difficult to navigate sea route has actually increased significantly after NOVATEK began to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Yamal Peninsula, mainly for the Chinese market. However, Western investors are still afraid to be under political pressure and in the grip of corrupt Russian energy business. Last week, Shell withdrew from a joint project with Gazprom Baltic LNG.

As regards transit traffic in the Northern seas, he is certainly not conducive to new requirements and regulations annually put forward by Moscow. The chain modernized military bases from Chukotka and from the Land of Franz Josef, to ensure compliance with these rules, even if China is not happy about the militarization of the Arctic. The Russian elite is particularly concerned about the intention of the naval forces of the United States to conduct exercises in the far North in order to restore the norms of freedom of navigation.

Therefore, the demonstration of preparedness to confront the challenge in Russia was more of a priority than the development of cooperation with its Arctic neighbors. While Putin tried to lure Western investors by lowering taxes on joint projects in the Arctic, the Northern fleet conducted exercises off the coast of Norway. Exercises included the launch of missiles from nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great and was much bigger than last fall.

As for Russia, it is an important addition to the combat part of the Northern fleet last year was the icebreaker “Ilya Muromets”. So this summer, the amphibious ships will be able to visit distant Arctic bases, without requesting support from the civil fleet of icebreakers. But the main advantage of Moscow in the Northern seas are still their nuclear submarines. This year will be released several new submarines, including the fourth, built by the project of “Borey”, the strategic submarine “Prince Vladimir”. Putin boasted recently developed nuclear unmanned vehicle “Poseidon.” Another of his brainchild, hypersonic anti-ship missile “Zircon” has been successfully tested with launchers land-based. Its launch is planned with a new nuclear submarine “Kazan” constructed under the project “Ash” in the coming months.

This massive program of construction of submarines require high-priority funding. The inevitable result is the reduction of budget funds intended for social programs. And this is especially painful for the distressed regions such as the far North. The accumulated discontent manifests itself in unexpected outbursts, such as the outcry in Arkhangelsk against the dumping of garbage in the Moscow region. Corruption in the military-industrial complex can be classified, but it directly affects a high social inequality: 3% of Russia’s population controlling 89% of all financial resources. The Arctic still holds a special place in Russian national identity, but the attempts of the authorities to establish the sovereignty of Russia in the region, increasing military presence, not cause.

New submarines and missiles, is likely to create a good geopolitical prospects for the Kremlin. But this military show of force does not bring any political dividends. Neighbors to the North are not afraid. This reinforcement also has no particular strategic meaning: Russia’s security is not threatened from the far North. Putin’s two-level policy in the Arctic has become self-destructive. Strong militarization cuts opportunities for the development of international cooperation and at the same time, it gives results in terms of the potential show of force. The Kremlin leader may still Harbor some strong feelings for the Arctic, but it has not visited the region at least the past two years, and hardly has a clear idea of the living conditions of the majority of the local population. Waving of magical missiles — a poor substitute for a sober reduction of irrational ambition.

Pavel Baev, “the New time”