The results of an expert poll conducted by the Moscow-based Institute for Regional Problems in February 2015 at government agencies, in the business community, the media, NGOs and the scientific community to analyze the potential influence of oil and gas production on the Arctic shelf in the northern regions.
A roundtable discussion on The Outlook for Arctic Development during the Crisis has been held at the Rossiya Segodnya press center. The participants discussed the results of an expert poll conducted by the Moscow-based Institute for Regional Problems in February 2015 at government agencies, in the business community, the media, NGOs and the scientific community to analyze the potential influence of oil and gas production on the Arctic shelf in the northern regions. The survey aimed to study the regions’ requirements and expectations in the area of Arctic oil and gas production in the current economic situation.
The discussion was attended by Director of the EurAsEC Institute Vladimir Lepekhin and President of the National Strategy Institute Mikhail Remizov.
The participants share the opinion of the majority of regional experts that offshore oil production remains the main driving force of regional development in the Arctic, especially with respect to innovation companies and the transportation infrastructure, including the Northern Sea Route. The experts pointed to the strategic importance of offshore projects for Russia. Arctic offshore resources are part of the economic foundation that will help Russia compete with other countries.
The majority of survey respondents (72 percent) say that the development of the huge mineral potential on the Arctic shelf will become the development driver for remote and difficult-of-access Russian regions and their industries.
Vladimir Lepekhin pointed out that the majority of experts spoke in favor of the continued economic development of the Arctic. But the question is where to do this and how. A survey cannot answer this question. Lepekhin suggests that there are three options for Arctic development. The first is a maximum input scenario, which has been drafted and is being implemented. The second is a minimum input scenario, which takes into account two force majeure circumstances: the economic sanctions and the lack of funding and investment in the region. The second circumstance is the insufficiently discussed problem of infrastructure contradiction. And the third option includes exploration not only for oil and gas but also for tin, gold, platinum and other metals.
Mikhail Remizov said the best option for the Arctic should include not only exploration projects, which are underway, but also knowledge-based development. But the main issue in either case is funding.
On the one hand, Russia is implementing an import substitution policy and curtailing many expensive projects. But many experts have warned against the reduction of investment and efforts in the Arctic. Russia should not abandon such a highly promising area of development as the Arctic.
On the other hand, Russia needs to attract other Arctic Council countries to its projects, and its main Arctic Council partner is Norway. Despite the current tensions with the West, Russia should continue its close technological cooperation with the United States and Canada. These two countries have taken a harsh stand on Russia, but they will eventually see that they cannot abandon cooperative projects.
Vladimir Lepekhin believes that the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union must become Russia’s key partners considering that a common energy space is planned within EurAsEC in 2015. The expert said that the BRICS and SCO countries should also be involved in Russia’s projects, and that eventually the Arctic region would become similar to APEC. China is an attractive partner and would like to join the Arctic Council, but Russia believes that China should first participate in its projects and only then request a seat on the council.
Mikhail Remizov is convinced that the first step amid the crisis should be a clear determination of priorities and their gradual achievement. Russia must continue to explore the region for new offshore deposits, but this is a very big project. In the current situation, Russia cannot afford many such undertakings. It must analyze the situation and choose the key priorities.