China And Russia Are Planning A Polar Silk Road

The unprecedented melt of Arctic sea ice is sounding alarm bells around the globe, but it is also rejuvenating hopes of a shipping shortcut across the top of the world. It should not be," write Keith Johnson and Reid Standish in Foreign Policy.

China, they write, is "dreamy-eyed" about shipping goods to Europe via Russia, and have visions of an Arctic strategy that could change the transpolar shipping world. "Some specialised tankers are making headlines by crossing the Arctic alone - in the dead of winter, something that was almost impossible before."

At the same time, the melting Arctic bears good news for Russia as it can "open up a new economic frontier rich in oil, natural gas, and lucrative transport routes between the world's workshop & the world's consumers."

"The Northern Sea Route, which stretches roughly from murmansk in the west to the bering strait in the east, has become the focal point of both Russia and China's Arctic strategy. That's because it promises a route that's one-third quicker from Asia to Europe than going the long way around via the Suez Canal, and offers a way to rejuvenate a depressed part of Russia." "Today, thanks to billions in Russia  investment and runaway Arctic warming, it's opening up again - but that doesn't mean it is going to be a rival to traditional shipping routes anytime soon. While ice-free seas mean there's a longer shippng season than there used to be, and the route is thousands of mile shorter than the long way around, the economics of shipping through the Arctic don't make much sense today and likely won't for decades to come," write Johnson and Standish. "Beijing's vision for the Arctic - dubbed the "Polar Silk Road"-has now been lumped into its sprawling,trillion-dollar belt and road initiative, the signature foreign-policy project of preident Xi Jinping,"they write.