ISSN 2330-717X

Climate May Yet Represent A Bigger Obstacle To Northern Sea Route Than Western Sanctions – OpEd


Global warming has given Moscow confidence that it will be able to radically expand shipping on the Northern Sea Route and has led Russian officials to believe that Western sanctions against their country are a far larger obstacle to the development of the route than climatic conditions, Aleksandr Yulin says.


But they are wrong, the head of projections at the Moscow Institute for Research on the Arctic and Antarctic says, both because there has been “a pause” in warming along the route and because the warming of the air is leading to more icebergs being blown into shipping lanes (

The climate is warming, Yulin says. But the rate of change in the North is slowing. Indeed, one must now speak about “a climatic pause,” given that rates of change are far lower now than they were a decade or more ago. And at the same time, warming has meant that winds have become stronger and these are pushing more icebergs into the shipping lanes.

That can lead to disaster with ships being trapped far from ports where they can take refuge or be repaired and means that Moscow must build far more icebreakers than it currently is doing if it is to ensure safe passage and any large increase in the amount of traffic the Northern Sea Route can carry.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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