On November 12, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a proposal set forth by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to transfer a significant array of responsibilities pertaining to Russia’s strategic Northern Sea Route (NSR) to state nuclear corporation, Rosatom. A letter of October 24 sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (and reportedly supported by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin) recommended that Rosatom be transferred “functions of rendering state services in the field of maritime activities and managing state property in the framework of the NSR and adjacent territories.”
Per the letter, the power and authority of Rosatom would be expanded to encompass a new “Arctic Division” that would take over certain NSR responsibilities currently housed under the Ministry of Transport. The state-owned company would be responsible for “ports, communications, navigation, and other scientific issues” related to the project. Putin has reportedly agreed with the proposed changes and has instructed his government to develop necessary amendments to the Federal Law that would effectively integrate Rosatom into the Kremlin’s governance of the Arctic.
Rosatom’s elevated role in the NSR could increase the likelihood of the Kremlin financing the powerful new Lider icebreaker, a nuclear vessel that has been an objective of the government for some time. The state nuclear corporation, which has reportedly been vying for an administrative role in the NSR in recent years, owns the majority of Russia’s fleet of nuclear icebreakers. The project is expected to cost an estimated $ 1.3 billion. This news may also tie into past reports of Kremlin ambitions to mass produce ship-based nuclear power stations, similar to the Academc Lomonsov (installed in April 2015). It is also worth noting Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic during this same timeframe.