Saturday, October 06, 2007

Russia’s year round seaport

For more than a century the western powers, mainly the British in the nineteenth century and the Americans in the twentieth, have taken comfort that Russia (and the Soviet Union) had no year-round seaport, a limitation that some geopolitical experts took to be reason for a Russian urge to the sea – one reason for Jimmy Carter’s worry about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

But the situation seems to be changing. If, as they say, the warming of the earth will dissipate the Arctic ice-cap, then Russia will at last have its year-round port on the open sea, maybe several -- through the Arctic Sea, of course, where many ports could be developed if the Sea warms up. (However, it can be argued that, even then, the Arctic Sea is itself enclosed, with few outlets.)

This emerging opportunity comes along with Russia’s strategic position, for it lies between the great population centers of the east (China) and west (Europe), both starving for fossil fuels, of which Russia and its Central Asian neighbors are abundantly supplied. Strategic location in Eurasia, better access to the sea -- Russia seems likely to have an even more dominant position in the world later in this century. The world’s geostrategic configuration may look very different a few decades from now.

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