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Russia’s Nuclear Icebreakers

Context:

Recently, Russian President virtually presided over the launch and flag raising ceremony of two nuclear-powered icebreakers at St. Petersburg and said such icebreakers were of “strategic importance”.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why are the Russian icebreakers significant?
  2. Why are countries racing towards the Arctic?
  3. India’s stand with respect to the Arctic

Why are the Russian icebreakers significant?

  • Both icebreakers were laid down as part of their large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia’s status as a “great Arctic power.”
  • The 173.3-metre-long‘Yakutia’, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tonnes, was launched into water and can break through three metres of ice.
  • The flag was raised on another vessel Ural, which is expected to become operational in December, while the Yakutia will join service by end-2024.
  • There are two already similar vessels in service, Arktika and Sibir.
  • Much more powerful 209-metre-long nuclear icebreaker “Rossiya,” displacing up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027.
  • In the last two decades, Russia has reactivated several Soviet era Arctic military bases and upgraded its capabilities.

Why are countries racing towards the Arctic?

  • There has been a race among Arctic states and near-Arctic states to augment their capabilities in a bid to be ready to capitalise on the melting Arctic.
  • Russian military modernisation in the Arctic has prompted other Arctic states to join the band wagon.
  • Unlike Antarctica, the Arctic is not a global common accentuating the problem.
  • For instance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has been conducting regular exercises in the region while partner countries are investing in upgrading military capabilities.
  • At the same time, China, which calls itself to be a near-Arctic state, has also announced ambitious plans for a ‘polar silk route’ to connect to Europe as well building massive icebreakers.

India’s stand with respect to the Arctic

  • Since 2007, India has an Arctic research programme with as many as 13 expeditions undertaken till date.
  • In March 2022,India unveiled its first Arctic policy titled: ‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’.
  • India is also one of the 13 Observersin the Arctic Council, the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation in the Arctic.
  • As the earth further heats up, which is more profound at the poles, the race for the Arctic is set to accelerate which makes the Arctic the next geopolitical hotspot with all interests converging on it – environmental, economic, political and military.

-Source: The Hindu


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