SPIEF Considers Outlook for International Cooperation in the Arctic
Participants of the ‘International Cooperation for Sustainable Development in the Arctic’ session of the Think Arctic project, which is being implemented as part of the programme of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023 with the assistance of the Roscongress Foundation, discussed how to carry out joint Arctic projects of various kinds and maintain multilateral interaction. The event was held at the 25th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which has been taking place from 15–18 June 2022.
According to Nikolay Korchunov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials at the Arctic Council, the Arctic is gaining global importance in world politics. The reasons for this transformation stem from climate change and the Arctic’s role in this process, the emergence of new transport routes, and the increasing economic importance of the Arctic region amid the current energy transition. This comes with an increased demand in the strategic and critical materials that are available in the Arctic.
“I would like to adopt our analytical project ‘Think Arctic – Think Global’ as a motto,” Korchunov said. “We welcome the creation of a broad international partnership involving our respected foreign colleagues, including non-Arctic states, for the sustainable development of the Arctic region, a development that would be able to incorporate environmental, social, and economic components harmoniously.”
At the same time, Korchunov commented on the decision of other countries in the Arctic Council to partially resume organization project activities without the participation of Russia, expressing a belief that the current situation was temporary in nature. “We hope and assume that the situation will be resolved and we will return to full cooperation,” he said.
According to Dmitry Kobylkin, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Ecology, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, no other country was more familiar with the problems of the Arctic than Russia. “The Arctic is not a communal flat, you can’t just move out,” Kobylkin said. He also stressed the importance of considering the views of those living in the Arctic before setting about developing the region. “It is very important that we preserve the traditional way of life of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic. Everything that we create in the Arctic, including industry, must be done with an eye to the wisdom and knowledge of the aboriginal inhabitants of the polar regions.”
Zhou Liqun, President of the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs in Russia, talked about the current state of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic and the outlook for future cooperation and noted that Beijing attached particular importance to the Northern Sea Route as a faster and more profitable route for shipping goods from Asia. At the same time, the President of the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs expressed a belief that it would be preferable to realise the potential of the Arctic region in international cooperation rather than in a spirit of rivalry.
For his part, Vice Admiral Satish Soni, a retired Indian Navy officer and former Commandant of the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Commander-in-Chief of the Southern and Eastern Commands, suggested cooperating in maritime shipping, particularly in the waters of the Northern Sea Route. He also spoke of India’s considerable experience in dealing with climate change and reclaiming new areas suitable for agriculture as it is freed up from the ice. Other areas of potential cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi in the Arctic include combating carbon dioxide emissions and constructing roads.
According to Mads Frederiksen, Executive Director of the Arctic Economic Council, an organization that represents companies working in the Arctic region, a number of partners, including companies from France, Switzerland, and Greece, have expressed their interest in working together in the Arctic. He also invited companies from India and China to take part.
“The Arctic region is enormous, and a great part of it is in Russia, so cooperation needs to continue. We all face the same challenges: climate change, jobs for the people living there. Many companies, such as Novatek, continue to do their work. A lot of jobs in the region depend on them. Yes, there are difficulties to be dealt with, but you can’t just stop working. This applies to companies and to cooperation in the Arctic,” Frederiksen said.
The ‘International Cooperation for Sustainable Development in the Arctic’ session was the fourth Think Arctic project event to take place. It was jointly implemented by the Roscongress Foundation and the Centre for Integrated European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics as part of the programme of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023. The event was attended by Alexander Makarov, Director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Alla Pozdnakova, Professor at the University of Oslo, Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway, Kapoor Nivedita, Post-doctoral Fellow, International Laboratory on World Order Studies and the New Regionalism, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, and Venkatesh Varma Datla Bala, Former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Indian Republic in the Russian Federation among others.
The comprehensive programme of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council aims to promote cooperation to improve the well-being and quality of life of those living in the Arctic, including the indigenous peoples of the North, to facilitate their adaptation to the effects of climate change, preserve Arctic biodiversity and unique ecosystems, ensure social and economic development, find solutions to questions of global energy and transport security, promote scientific cooperation in the polar regions, and strengthen Arctic cooperation.
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