Russia used to try to exclude China from the region, but increasing economic and diplomatic isolation is forcing the Kremlin to change its approach, says a new report.
Reeling under the financial and diplomatic impacts of its war in Ukraine, Russia has stepped up cooperation with China to expand its foothold in the Arctic, with significant implications for U.S. national security, according to a new private intelligence report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long prioritized military and economic expansion in the Arctic as a key facet of his geopolitical strategy and ambitions, and after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, he began cooperating with China in the region. But after it sought to limit the involvement of the People’s Republic, Russia recently has invited much greater Chinese participation, says the report by Strider Intelligence, a firm that focuses on open-source intelligence about China.
“Russia’s increasing willingness to allow the PRC in the Arctic demonstrates the realness of their ‘no-limits’ partnership and its potential counterbalance to U.S.-led alliances,” the report says.
For decades, the report adds, Russia actively excluded China and other non-Arctic countries from playing a role there, including denying Chinese scientists the opportunity to conduct research and refusing to help China build icebreakers or share designs.
The Strider report also found that Russian defense spending in the Arctic has stagnated, while private commercial investment has continued to increase.
“Moscow is also shifting conventional defense spending away from the region due to the war in Ukraine and is increasingly relying on state support mechanisms to attract private investment to maintain and expand Russia’s presence in the Arctic,” the report says.
In an interview, Strider co-founder Eric Levesque said the economic realities of Russia’s current situation have forced it to grant China much more access to the Arctic than it ever previously considered.
“They are very over-reliant on China for the purchasing of their oil, their technology. And this is what we’re seeing in the Arctic,” he said.
However, he added, Russia is far ahead of the U.S. in terms of Arctic investment and development.