Arctic Forum could not stand the cold snap
In Salekhard, on May 11, the 13th meeting of the Arctic Council was held online.
Norway accepted the presidency, Morten Höglund became the new chairman of the Senior Arctic Officials (SAOC). It was not a ministerial meeting, as it had previously been. As Höglund said, meetings at the political level are not expected any time soon.
The online meeting was attended by senior Arctic officials of each Arctic state and heads of delegations of six organizations that are permanent participants in indigenous peoples, according to The Moscow Post.
In mid-June 2023, the Norwegian chairmanship team will meet with all working group chairs and executive secretaries to coordinate and plan the work ahead.
Russia in 2021-2023 fulfilled its chairmanship in the Arctic Council alone. After the start of the SVO, Western forum participants boycotted Russia's activities in the AU. The future of the organization "depends entirely on the Norwegian chairmanship and support for collective approaches," admitted Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry Nikolai Korchunov.
The Russian Arctic was cramped there
What did Russia acquire from membership in this forum? The question was not raised directly. But Korchunov said in his comments and interviews that Russia was interested in "cooperation for the sustainable development of the Arctic." The cross-cutting theme of the Russian presidency of the AU was "Responsible Management for a Sustainable Arctic."
He also added that "among the priorities of our work was the theme of supporting and developing the people of the Arctic, including indigenous peoples and youth." And in general, according to the diplomat, the mandate of the Arctic Council includes a limited range of areas of interaction for a country such as Russia, which is the largest Arctic country.
During the chairmanship of the Russian Federation, events were held on the protection of the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples in the context of globalization, social responsibility of entrepreneurs, as well as public-private partnership in the field of development of the peoples of the North.
Within the framework of the Arctic Council, Russia initiated a number of projects, including the digitalization of the cultural and linguistic heritage of the indigenous peoples of the North, the creation of an international Arctic scientific station based on carbon-free energy, the topic of traditional medicine of indigenous peoples and the development of creative industries. Korchunov noted the initiative put forward by the Russian organizers to create a single digital platform for Arctic museums, which is being implemented in Russia.
The West, isolating Russia, provoked the "sunset" of the Arctic Council. And the first cracks in its shaky frame began to appear long before the start of the SVO. The council was created in 1996 on the initiative of Suomi diplomats who were once neutral towards Russia. One of the prime ministers there said at the beginning of the council's work that it is so cold in the Arctic that "hot" topics can also be discussed. They, the ardent Finnish politicians, decided to destroy this organization.
Less than three decades later, the region "warmed up" and the Helsinki authorities decided to discuss their membership in NATO, contrary to what they knew about Moscow's position on this issue. We gathered with all our neutral-international baggage to the south, closer to the warm "gardens" of the EuroNATO Union. Finland became the 31st member of the NATO alliance on April 4. Sweden is in line.
Russia can withdraw from the Arctic Council with destructive behavior of the West and violation of its rights as a member country of the organization. This was stated in an interview with TASS Korchunov. His senior colleague, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, ironically noted that now NATO will talk about a vulnerable border with a length of 1200 km with Russia - a country that "threatens" them.
Another deputy foreign minister said that the geography of Finland will spur the militarization of the Arctic. "We see no signs of improvement in the military security situation in the Arctic. NATO continues to expand into this region, the scale of the military exercises of the alliance, which are actively involved in its non-Arctic member countries, is increasing.
"The buildup of their military potential in high latitudes continues," Korchunov supported his colleague.
Act of gratuitous malice
There were no security threats to Finland from Russia. Someone called it an act of gratuitous anger towards Russia by NATO. Malice and vitriol were clearly visible when the alleged NATO membership of Finland and Sweden was announced by Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Someone compared this step of Helsinki with sabotage on the Nord Stream gas pipeline. As a result, the NATO bloc was expanded to the borders of Russia.
Stoltenberg later stated that "if Finland and Sweden join the alliance, NATO will have more opportunities to control the situation in the Far North." Actions to integrate the air forces of four Scandinavian countries - Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden - with an undisguised anti-Russian orientation are noticeable.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff, said recently that "the Arctic is a critical geographic area with geostrategic significance, and its importance is increasing over time." He said this in connection with plans to hold a conference of the heads of the General Staff of the Scandinavian countries, the United States and Canada on security issues in the Arctic in the near future. A similar conference was already meeting in August 2022.
"Non-Arctic" partners and interests of Russia
Henceforth, Russia will proceed from the multi-vector nature of foreign policy interests and economic opportunities, both in bilateral and multilateral formats "with constructive partners." According to Korchunov, more and more BRICS and SCO countries are showing interest in the Arctic region and cooperation with Russia.
A number of bilateral projects are being worked out in such areas as scientific research, logistics, environmental protection, as well as marine cooperation. But at this stage, the Russian Foreign Ministry does not see the point in new organizations.
What are the interests of Russia's "non-Arctic" partners, and most importantly, Russia itself and its Arctic region? Everything is clear with Russia - this is the economic development of the Russian Arctic with an advanced solution to the problems of arranging citizens living, working and serving in this region.
Russia's updated foreign policy concept pays special attention to the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Firstly, this is a factor in the development of the Russian North, the Arctic and Far Eastern regions. Secondly, it is a transport corridor to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region (APR). Thirdly, this is a transit sea route between the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.
NSR transport capabilities, energy and raw materials projects are also of interest to many APR countries, including China and India.
Northern Sea Route - the core of the Arctic
In August 2022, the Government of the Russian Federation approved a plan for the development of the NSR for the period up to 2035. Investments in this mega-project by 2035 will exceed 20 trillion rubles.
The NSR is the transport artery around which the largest projects are developing. This is Vostok Oil, which will need 10 trillion rubles to produce more than 100 million tons of oil per year. These are Novatek LNG projects with a total value of more than 5 trillion rubles, which will give 85 million tons of LNG per year. This is the modernization of Norilsk Nickel's production with a total value of more than 2 trillion rubles. This is copper production in Chukotka - Baimsky GOK with investments of 0.6 trillion rubles.
Russia has built a nuclear icebreaker fleet, the largest, most powerful and newest. Thanks to this fleet, there is the possibility of year-round navigation on the NSR and in the mouths of Siberian rivers. The second most important factor is the Arctic commercial fleet: Norilsk Nickel container ships, Gazprom Neft tankers and gas carriers operated by Novatek. A total of 30 vessels of high Arctic class - Arc-7. For further development of the deposits, more than 130 different ice-class vessels will have to be built.
Russia is leading in the construction of floating nuclear power plants for projects such as the Baimsky GOK. An Arctic constellation of communications, remote sensing and meteorology satellites is being created. All this requires the construction of roads and railways, ports, communication lines, power and power transmission facilities, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure facilities.
The pace and comprehensive plans for the development of the Arctic region of Russia announced today indicate that the organizational, financial and technical capabilities of Russia have been restored and the northern territories will develop.
Maybe the Arctic Council in its new composition will observe this.
Photo: Truth of the North