On March 5, 2020, President Vladimir Putin approved the Basic Principles of Russian Federation State Policy in the Arctic to 2035. This document, prepared by the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic, defines Russia’s national interests in the Arctic, as well as its long-term goals and main areas of activity in the region for the next fifteen years.
The Basic Principles define Russia’s ten priorities in the Arctic.
1. The first is to stimulate economic development and create new high-paying jobs in the Arctic for Russian citizens. To date, economic activity in the Arctic is hindered by high natural costs and risks, and lack of infrastructure. Large-scale projects, such as Yamal LNG for liquefied natural gas, are developing only due to state support. To make this support universal, the Russian government has prepared a package of bills on state support for entrepreneurial activities in the Arctic. One of them was already approved and signed by the Head of State on March 18: investors who plan new projects in the field of extraction and processing of hydrocarbons in the Arctic zone of Russia will be able to benefit from preferential tax treatment. The bill defines five categories of projects, each with its own tax remissions from twelve to seventeen years. As estimated by the Ministry of Energy, these benefits alone will provide an inflow of $200 billion in private investment in the Russian Arctic.
Three more bills from the package are currently under consideration at the lower house of parliament. They propose that any legal entity or individual entrepreneur starting a new business in the Arctic will be able to apply for a status of the Arctic zone resident. This includes any kind of economic activity not prohibited in Russia. In the initial version of the bill, the minimum threshold for investment in a new project was set at $130,000, but in a later version the sum was lowered to $13,000 to support small and medium-sized enterprises. The Arctic zone residents will be able to rely on both tax and non-tax benefits. According to plans, the measures proposed in the package of bills to support business in the Arctic should be launched in 2020.
2. The second direction is the intensification of research and development of the Arctic shelf. To do this, we need to develop competitive environment and technology. The Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic stands out for making unallocated shelf areas more accessible to private companies. We have already prepared a corresponding bill, and we believe it will create a competitive model in line with the best international practices for implementation of shelf projects.
3. Due to the active development of mineral resource centers, freight traffic along the Northern Sea Route will grow rapidly. This will stimulate the development of its infrastructure and shipbuilding. The freight volume along the Northern Sea Route is estimated to reach 80 million tons in 2024, and 150 million tons by 2035. Moreover, in the next decade this volume will be almost completely formed by Russian shippers. Meeting their needs for icebreakers, navigation, communications and security will help create the basis for year-round passage of vessels at an operational speed. Our goal is to make the Northern Sea Route a globally competitive transport corridor and, starting in the 2030s, to increase the volume of international traffic.
4. An increase in demand for the Northern Sea Route will lead to the development of other infrastructure in the Arctic zone, in particular rail mainlines which can be used to deliver goods to ports along the Northern Sea Route. Special focus will be placed on rivers. Over the course of fifteen years, the river fleet will have to be renewed completely for navigation on northern rivers. In addition, in the coming years we should successfully close the issue of access to high-speed cheap Internet in the Arctic zone, and solve the energy supply problem by 2035, giving up old diesel power.
5. The growth of economic activity in the Arctic and the ongoing global climate change create a special demand for the development of science and technology. Together with the Russian Academy of Sciences, we will prepare a separate program for the development of fundamental and applied research in the interests of the development of the Arctic. We will also increase the number of international expeditions. Equally important is the focus on preserving human health in harsh Arctic conditions. Together with the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, we agreed to establish a federal centre for health in the Arctic at the premises of the Northern State Medical University.
6. We expect the launch of several hundred small, medium and large-scale projects in the Arctic, which will create up to 200,000 jobs for Russian citizens. In order to provide new enterprises with personnel, we must again make working in the North popular among the young, and attract people from all over the country to the Arctic. This will be the duty of the Agency for Human Capital Development in the Far East and the Arctic. It will analyze the staffing needs in the Arctic territories and adjust the education system to these needs.
7. We will improve the quality of life in the Arctic zone of Russia. It is primarily determined by the availability of quality health care, education, sports and recreation, inexpensive and comfortable housing, cheap food, pharmaceuticals, and air travel. We intend to formalize all these provisions in the Development Strategy for the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation until 2035. The work on this document is in its final stage.
8. We will launch a program of state support for indigenous peoples’ economic projects. We will increase the availability of health care, education, public services, and sports for indigenous population. Together with the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, we are resuming the “Children of the Arctic” international project. It is aimed at creating conditions for comprehensive development of the young generation of the indigenous peoples of the North. This project will be one of our key initiatives in the Arctic Council.
9. Our absolute priority is the preservation of the Arctic natural environment. The increase in economic activities in our Arctic zone will be accompanied by strict environmental controls, as well as by introduction of modern standards of rational nature management. We will continue to develop the network of protected natural areas, the full-scale cleaning of the Arctic, the clean-up of past environmental damage, and we will support the initiatives of eco-activists.
10. The Arctic in our opinion is a territory of dialogue, peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation. We will uphold this value everywhere and always. We will continue to consider the Arctic Council as the key regional format for cooperation in the Arctic. The chairmanship will pass to Russia in 2021, and already, we are intensifying our work. We intend to offer the Arctic a very substantive agenda related to sustainable development and implementation of large international economic and social projects.