Lecture by Thomas Hedegard "Russia in the Arctic: Politics, Commerce & Identity-Building"
On September 9th, Thomas Hedegard gave a lecture entitled "Russia in the Arctic: Politics, Commerce & Identity-Building".
Thomas Hedegard is the lead analyst at Lloyd's List Intelligence, a leading advisory company based in London offering business intelligence to major energy and shipping firms worldwide. He is reading for a PhD on political risk in the Russian Arctic at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), University College London, having completed an MSc in Russian and East European Studies at St Antony's College, Oxford and a BSc in Politics at SSEES. He previously held a lecturing position at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and a mentor position at the University of Greenwich.
At the beginning of the lecture, Thomas Hedegard outlined the Russian government's plans to develop the region and raise its economic contribution from about 20% of Russia's GDP and 22% of the country's exports. The main tasks are developing offshore Arctic deposits, boosting total Arctic gas output to 1.0tcm by 2030 – double 2010's figures in part by developing Yamal LNG – ‘the future of Russian gas’ and one of the largest industrial undertakings in the Arctic. Thomas Hedegard also presented the major problems and significant challenges of developing the Arctic region's vast resources such as soft energy prices, which need to rise to around USD80-100 per barrel to make offshore projects viable, US and EU sanctions prohibiting the export of technologies to Russian firms to develop hydrocarbons, the lack of domestic technologies, significant political and operational risks, the evacuation of oil and gas and the future demand of the global market.
Thomas Hedegard underlined the rising use of the Northern Sea Route as climate change makes it much more accessible to international and Russian tonnage and is considerably shorter than the traditional Europe-Asia route through the Suez Canal. He commented on the main problems that may hinder further development of the route such as operational risks and cost.
He also focused on the military developments in the region. Russia for a long time has had a strong military presence in the Arctic but in the last few years this presence has increased dramatically in a bid to protect the country's economic interests in the area and project itself as an Arctic power amid ongoing geopolitical tensions. Russia’s new Arctic security posture includes a sharp rise in military activity and modernization of Arctic capabilities in recent years to protect the northern vector. Thomas Hedegard concluded the lecture by looking at Russia's changing policy towards the region in recent years more broadly bearing in mind recent events in Ukraine, which have stoked tensions between Russia and the West, including over the Arctic space.