Russia’s Climate Gamble

The Pursuit and Contradiction of Its Arctic Ambitions

The Russian government has positioned itself as a beneficiary of climate change and has welcomed a rapidly transforming Arctic that is warming three times faster than the rest of the world and becoming increasingly accessible. It has had extraordinary success with its Yamal LNG megaproject and seeks to build on this with new projects like Vostok Oil and ambitious plans for the Northern Sea Route. At the same time, it expands and deepens its Arctic military footprint with new bases and capabilities and an uptick in exercises and missile tests. This study attempts to identify the most significant climate impacts across the Russian Arctic to understand the broader implications for Russia’s economy, internal political dynamics, and security posture. With this information, this study sought to predict whether Russia’s considerable economic and military ambitions in the Arctic would succeed and, based on this analysis, tease out meaningful geostrategic implications. This research determined that the impacts of climate change—coupled with global, especially European, momentum toward decarbonization and energy transition—makes prospects for Russian success in the Arctic increasingly unfavorable. Key decisionmakers in Moscow are unlikely to be deterred by this fact, however, and Russia’s economic and military development of the region will continue in the near term.

This publication was funded by the Russia Strategic Initiative, U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Opinions, arguments, viewpoints, and conclusions expressed in this work do not represent those of RSI, U.S. EUCOM, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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Colin Wall

Colin Wall

Former Associate Fellow, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program
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Ben Cahill
Senior Fellow, Energy Security and Climate Change Program

Heather A. Conley

Nikos Tsafos

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Cyrus Newlin

Cyrus Newlin

Former Adjunct Fellow (Non-resident), Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program

Andrew Lohsen