Russia makes big cuts in Arctic spending

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) holds an ice pick next to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) as they visit an ice cavern in the remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land on March 29, 2017. (Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)
The country’s Ministry of Economic Development wanted 209 billion rubles (€3.1 billion) for the new national Arctic Program. It might get only 12 billion (€177 million).

The revised funding scheme for the Arctic program, which is to cover the period until year 2020, is 17 times lower than the original sum, RBC reports.

That is a serious blow to Russia’s ambitious development plans for the region.

The Ministry of Economic Development originally wanted to include a number of grand investment projects in the program, among them the development of the new class of nuclear-powered icebreakers, the «Lider», as well as a fleet of vessels for Arctic environmental protection and shelf research. As much as 80 billion (€1.2 billion) was to be spent on the «Lider» alone.

None of that will come, for now. The increasingly strained Russian economy does not allow for the previously announced Arctic super-projects.

Needed Arctic research platform

The key investment object in the revised program is the development and building of an ice-class drifting platform for Arctic research. The platform, which will get the name «North Pole», is to be used by the State Hydrometeorology Service for Arctic studies and ice measurements.

The platform has a preliminary price tag of seven billion rubles and will consequently consume more than half of the program budget.

The platform is increasingly needed by researchers as Arctic ice layers are getting thinner and traditional drifting ice stations can no longer be applied, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources says.

Ministry of Defence and anti-terrorism spending

Another one billion rubles of the revised program is reported to be spent on regional anti-terrorist measures managed by the Russian National Guard.

In addition to the funding included in the Arctic Program, there will, however, be other money flowing towards the Russian high north. Among them will be 34 billion rubles (€502 million) to be spent by the Ministry of Defence, RBC informs.

The cuts in the Arctic Program come after a recent meeting in Russian Arctic Commission and a subsequent government session. That follows signals from the government summit in Murmansk in May. During that meeting, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also indicated that financing for the Murmansk Transport Hub is insufficient.

The program is to be adopted by government in the course of summer.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s new budget thin on Arctic policy substance: expert, Radio Canada International

China: China’s Belt and Road initiative moves into Arctic, blog by Mia Bennett

Finland: Finland looks to put education, environment at top of Arctic agenda, Yle News

Norway: Norway doubles Arctic oil estimates, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Our future lays in the Arctic, says Putin in annual press conference, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Northern Sweden cities on shortlist for battery gigafactory, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: With Trump administration intentions unclear, Alaskans might have to fill the void on Arctic policy, Alaska Dispatch News

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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