"Inclusion of military security issues into the agenda of the Arctic Council has no chances of success. Under conditions of the global political crisis and mutual mistrust, the format of the Arctic Council, as an international forum, is more flexible and preferable for finding an agreement on standpoints and cooperation", this is how Dr. Maria Lagutina, Professor at the Department of World Politics of the Faculty of International Relations at St. Petersburg State University characterized activities of the Council of the "Arctic 8" member states. Today, on May 20, the "Expert's Opinion" show focused on the analysis of prospects of Russia's chairmanship in the Arctic Council, which officially began at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Arctic states in Reykjavik.
Russia has been calling for active international cooperation in the Arctic region during the whole modern history of the country. However, the crisis of 2014 in the relations between Russia and the West also affected cooperation in the Arctic. According to Maria Lagutina, the biggest damage was done to military security, energy projects, which had been frozen due to the sanctions, and activities of international non-governmental organizations. "At the same time, the Arctic has remained a region where the dialogue is a possibility", emphasized the expert.
"In spite of the fact that cooperation between Russia and majority of the Western countries has been frozen on the global political arena, it was possible to avoid that in the Arctic. The crisis phase had been lasting until 2017, after that the statements were made by the colleagues about importance of Russia as a player in the region."Maria Lagutina also discussed Russian-Chinese realtions in the Arctic. She thinks that despite cooperation in various areas, positions of the countries are different in many aspects.
The first face-to-face meeting of heads of the Foreign Service of Russia and the U.S. – Sergey Lavrov and Antony Blinken – took place on the sidelines of the event in Reykjavik. Though both parties characterized the dialogue as constructive, the countries still cannot call each other allies in the Arctic region, believes Maria Lagutina:
"In particular, Russia considers the Northern Sea Route a national transportation artery. While China has included the Northern Route into its project of the "ice Silk Road". Such disagreements can result in confrontations in the future. We should not idealize the Russian-Chinese relations. Both countries strive for diversification of partner ties in the Arctic region. We are not the only ones for each other."
"Unfortunately, the Arctic still remains an area for potential confrontation between Russia and the U.S. Rhetorics of the American colleagues starting from the times of the Trump administration have not been constructive, and it is a paradox considering the fact that we do not have unresolved disputes with the U.S. in the Arctic, but common interests. We have been regularly emphasizing that we are ready for cooperation, but only based on mutual respect."A recording of the show with the expert is available in the YouTube channel of the Gorchakov Fund.