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Arcitc Yearbook 2012
settlements Vorkuta and Sosnogorsk, respectively (Barents Observer, 2010b). These ports are being
targeted as potential cargo checkpoints for future shipping along the Northern Sea Route. Together
with plans to expand Russia’s fleet of nuclear icebreakers (Barents Observer, 2008; 2009), this plan
signals Russia’s recognition that its 40,000 km-long Arctic coastline, occupying the full extent of the
NSR, is one of its most invaluable strategic assets. These investments are effectively transforming
what was for centuries a treacherous oceanic frontier into a transcontinental trade corridor. A well-
developed northern transit system can only increase the competitiveness of Russia’s oil and gas
reserves on the global market: larger and more frequent shipments will lead to greater trade volumes,
and insurance costs will fall as icebreaker, disaster response, and ice monitoring services are
In the Western Arctic, Canada’s proposed Arctic Gateway may be one of the most ambitious
Northern plans to meet the transportation requirements of a global economy. The Arctic Gateway is
the latest in a series of ‘Gateway’ initiatives already guiding development and trade policy in the
Atlantic, Asia-Pacific, and central Ontario/Québec regions (Transport Canada, 2009a; PPM, 2010).
The National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and Trade Corridors aims to promote long-
term economic development through direct government investment in physical infrastructure, such
as increasing the number and capacity of deepwater ports (such as at Churchill), and by promoting
partnerships with the private sector to pursue projects jointly. Among other things, the Framework
will direct the spending of a $33 billion US allocation to Building Canada, the federal government’s
long-term plan for infrastructure, committed in the 2006 and 2007 budgets. The Arctic Gateway
differs from previous Gateway Frameworks in its effort to fuse state economic development goals
with national sovereignty, environmental stewardship, and indigenous empowerment. This is borne
out of the recognition that infrastructural investment alone is insufficient to secure livelihoods:
economic policies must also recognize the governance needs of local populations in order to
promote sustainable development (DiFrancesco, 2000).
The future Arctic infrastructural landscape will look very different from today. The economic
potential of the Arctic is being realized on increasingly large scales, necessitating unprecedented
imports of equipment and expertise. These infrastructural requirements represent critical
opportunities for interstate cooperation, as I argue in the next section.