Kennesaw state researcher examines Russian economic expansion in the Arctic

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KENNESAW, Georgia (June 24, 2021) – Research conducted this summer by Kennesaw State University political science Professor Thomas Rotnem could shape the way the United States and other countries conduct foreign policy with Russia.

As a summer research fellow at the Kennan Institute, Rotnem examines Russia’s ambitious economic development plans in the Arctic, including the development of the Northern Sea Route across the Arctic Ocean. The Washington, DC-based institute, an integral part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has been a leading research center on Russia and the former Soviet Union since 1968.

Following President Biden’s one-day summit last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rotnem said rival nations have a history of cooperation in the Arctic, which could help countries improve their strained relations. now.

“The Arctic has been an area of ​​cooperation on many levels,” said Rotnem, Associate Director of Kennesaw State. School of Government and International Affairs. “In fact, the United States has just signed an agreement with Russia on maritime transport and transit in the Bering and Beaufort seas. It is proven that both parties can talk about important things and find a solution.

The survey by the Kennan Institute of Rotnem focuses on Russia’s economic development plans – partly funded by China – to develop the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean, a key to increasing exports natural resources. Russia is working to increase the sale of liquefied natural gas, oil and other resources and is building rail, road and river projects in Siberia to make this possible. The effort is part of a 15-year plan presented last October. China has become an investment partner in the Arctic because it is overflowing with liquidity, while Russia is much weaker economically, Rotnem said.

Thomas rotnem
Thomas rotnem

Rotnem’s research examines the impact of widespread economic development on indigenous peoples and others already living in northern Russia, as well as on the environment. While there are many sources of information on the Northern Sea Route plans and power transportation networks, the challenge is to find adverse local reactions to these monumental development efforts.

“Even in the regional newspapers there is not a trace of opposition,” Rotnem said. “So I had to resort to social media – especially Russian-language sources using the Telegram app – to follow channels related to the Arctic and indigenous peoples. I see a lot more criticism there than in the official media. ”

When the two-month research project is completed, Rotnem will present its findings in August, both to WWICS and through various outlets at the Kennan Institute.

Rotnem’s research continues in the context of Biden’s engagement with Putin. Both sides, Rotnem said, have made public statements on the importance of tackling climate change. The melting permafrost is having effects on both countries, and the two countries could cooperate to slow or reverse the effects of climate change.

Another area where the two countries can become more cooperative in the Arctic is military communications, Rotnem said. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 – a move strongly opposed by the United States and its Western allies – military-to-military communications that were once routine between the two nations have been cut off.

“There is so much military activity on both sides in the Arctic now that they really need to talk and have communications established,” Rotnem said. “Otherwise, there could be an unfortunate incident that could have unintended consequences. ”

-Gary Tanner


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two Atlanta metro campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the Georgia university system. The university’s vibrant culture, diverse population, strong global ties, and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and around the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral (R2) research institute, which places it among an elite group of just 6% of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information visit kennesaw.edu.


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