Opinions

Belarus Steps Forward In The Arctic

 
Arctic

With the recent news about the Belorussian plans to build a port in Murmansk region, interest towards the country's Arctic strategy ceaselessly grows. 

Both parties have already signed an agreement to construct a shipping terminal on the western bank of the Kola Bay. The expected date of launch is 2028, and the cargo turnover is estimated at around 25-30 million tonnes per year.

Seemingly, the Belorussian expansion is done in a rather incremental way. As of now, the most interested party is the private sector; however, we might take into account some statements by President Lukashenko made in 2022 and 2023 in which he emphasized the importance of the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to the ports in Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia. The following bilateral agreement about the use of Russian ports for trade was signed in 2022. It is worth noting that, according to the Belorussian private sector, the current model of maritime cooperation between the Murmansk region and Belarus may advance to the ‘private + state’ framework.

The ports in Russia, then, are expected to promote Belorussian trade with the Russian Far East, with the main export and import items being agricultural production and potash fertilizers from Belarus and fish from the Far East. 

Belarus is determined to pursue a long-term strategy in the region, and considers opportunities suggested by Russian ports one of the key parts of its maritime policy. At the moment, even the issue of investment in nuclear-powered vessels is being considered.

As for Russia, the main winner is, by and large, Murmansk. The project is one of a large scale. Murmansk officials say that the port will generally increase the number of workplaces and attract further investment in the development of the region. Apropos, close cooperation with Belarus allows for the cheaper import of Belaz machinery which can further promote the development of Russian mining companies.
The intentions are backed up by the ever-growing interest of both countries in joint Arctic research. Although Belarus has just recently started to invest itself in Arctic projects, its academic experience in polar studies in the Antarctic and an apparent economic incentive may be the ones to promote further collaborations. Both parties, it seems, are inclined to advance bilateral cooperation in the region, with the main focus of Belarus being on the extensive use of the North Sea route and Russia’s ice-free ports, while for Russia, the key concern is developing inner Arctic regions.

The Editorial Board of the Arctic Century

 
29.05.2024