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Russia Prepares To Develop the Arctic As Earth’s Next Great Project

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by William C. Jones

The Russian government under President Vladimir Putin has laid out an ambitious program for the development of its extensive Arctic region, in what should be an object of collaboration with the United States, anan object of collaboration with the United States, anan object of collaboration with the United States, anacross the Bering Strait between Chukotka and Alaska, which would be a natural extension of Arctic development for both these nations. The failure of the Obama Administration to grasp this opportunity, indeed, its push to foment, via its policy in the Middle East, a push to foment, via its policy in the Middle East, a criminal in nature.

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Shown: the Russian nuclear powered icebreaker Yamal.

The direction taken by the Putin government in attempting to develop its Arctic domain, and, in cooperation with the other Arctic nations, to develop the region as a whole, resents a clear trajectory away from the type of confrontational policies launched by the Obama White House.

A number of develop ments of the last few years have helped precipitate that process. The increased temperatures in the Arctic region, more pronounced in the Russian Arctic than anywhere else, and the discovery of extensive oil and gas resources in the Arctic region, have made Arctic development a prime focus of Putin’s long-term vision for Russia. Oil and gas exports are presently a mainstay of Russian economic development.

The Vision of Peter the Great

Russia, however, has been active in the Arctic for a long time. Indeed, the history of Russia as a modern nation, and particularly the history of Russian science, is intricately linked with Russia’s exploration and development of its Arctic region ever since the meeting in 1711 between German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and Tsar Peter the Great, in which Leibniz encouraged the Tsar to send an expedition to the far northeast of Siberia to determine if there were a land-bridge to the North America continent.

Even before that time, Russian explorers had been as far as the Arctic region of Novaya Zemlya, and had expanded the territories of old Muscovy to the White and Barents Seas, providing Russia with its first access to a seacoast. Tsar Peter organized several expeditions to the East, the Great Kamchatka Command of 1716-20, the First Kamchatka Expedition, 1725-30, and then, the large Great Northern Expedition, 1733-43. ...

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