What is the Purpose of Russia’s New Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker?

In a time when Russia’s economy is struggling mightily, it is hard to believe when they announce that they have added yet another nuclear-powered icebreaker to their already-enormous icebreaking fleet. When one takes a closer look at the situation though, it makes it a little easier to understand why Russia might make this type of investment – even when economic times are tough there. No matter what the motive is for building another icebreaker, it is something the USA should not only take notice of but be concerned about as well.

There are few areas, when it comes to comparing the US and Russian Navy, that the United States does not have dominance over our Russian counterparts – but when it comes to both domestic and military ice breaking vessels we lag far behind. Sure, some of that can be due to the fact that 25,000 miles of the Russian coastline has the possibility of being iced in, while only 1,000 miles of the American coastline does, but that does not tell the whole story.

How dominant is Russia in this area versus the USA? This newest icebreaker will be the 6th nuclear icebreaker in their fleet and they also have 33 other icebreakers too. By comparison, the USA has 2 active icebreakers (none of which are nuclear powered) and 1 vessel that is described as an “ice capable” research vessel. That is a huge disparity when it comes to being able to traverse the polar regions of the world.

The newest Russian icebreaker - named Arktika.
The newest Russian icebreaker – named Arktika.

This newest Russian icebreaker, the Arktika, had its hull floated on June 16 of this year and is slotted to be in service at the same time next year. It is an enormous vessel that is almost two football fields long and boasts twin nuclear reactors to power it. This vessel will theoretically be able to take on icebreaking jobs at depths that were previously thought to be too thick for any ship to plow through.

So, why should America be concerned with all of this Russian icebreaker activity? The reasons are threefold. For one, unlike America, the Russians have long viewed the North Pole and the Arctic region as part of their strategic defense against the USA. It is the shortest path for a ballistic missile to travel to the USA and they even have been thought to have plans for some of their nuclear powered subs to launch missiles from areas that have been cleared of ice.

Another concern is that Russia will exploit the area for its vast amount of natural resources. There are thought to be huge amounts of oil and other mineral riches that remain locked under the ice in the northern polar region. There is also the factor that if the Russians could establish a sea route from eastern Asia to Europe, it would be a corridor that is some 3,000 miles shorter than the next longest-route found today. This could pay huge economic dividends for them.

Whatever Russia’s intentions are, it would stand to reason that the Unites States would want to be a little more proactive in upping the number of icebreakers at its disposal so it could keep its options open in the arctic region.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

Craig has been writing for several years but just recently made freelance writing a full time profession after leaving behind 26 years working in the swimming pool construction industry. He served four years in the US Air Force as an Imagery Interpreter Specialist in Okinawa, Japan and at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. As a staunch supporter of law enforcement personnel, emergency medical technicians, firemen, search and rescue personnel and those who serve in the military, Craig is proud to contribute to the US Patriot blog on their behalf.
Craig Smith
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