In 2021 Russia has assumed chairmanship of the Arctic Council – a major platform for international cooperation in the North. However, the international dialogue is being built under conditions of tensions: thus, all member countries of the Arctic Dialogue have introduced economic sanctions against Russia, and four states of the "Arctic five", except for our country, are members of NATO. Is it possible to preserve efficient cooperation in the Arctic region in the current global environment? This question united all discussions during the first day of research and educational program "The Arctic Dialogue – 2021", which opened on October 12 in the capital of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District – Salekhard.
Panel discussions of the Arctic Dialogue are available to watch live online and as a recording on the YouTube channel of the Gorchakov Fund.
The discussions were opened by an expert analysis of prospects of the Russia's chairmanship in the Arctic Council in 2021-2023. Alexander Sergunin, Professor at the Faculty of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University, provided an assessment of the chairmanship strategy.
However, according to the professor, despite certain inconsistencies between the concept of the chairmanship and the external program on its priorities, the Russia's strategy can be, indeed, implemented. The main advantage of it is that Russia gives priority to international projects, which are related to all the Arctic and not just to national issues. "That is why the concept of the chairmanship will be full of specific and useful events, which will positively affect not only the life of the Russian North, but the whole Arctic region", added the expert.
"The moment when the Iceland's chairmanship in the Arctic Council ended coincided with the change of the government in the U.S.: the Joe Biden's Administration gave the green light to approval of the Strategic Plan of the Arctic Council. And Russia had to change the agenda of its chairmanship along the way in accordance with that document", said Alexander Sergunin.
The program of the first day ended with discussion "Security in the Arctic: the last region of peace?" Should issues of hard security be included in the agenda of the Arctic Council? And why, despite absence of obvious reasons for a conflict in the North, there are concerns on western and Russian sides regarding the current militarization of the region?
"What can China do for cooperation with Russia in the Arctic? Participate in development of the energy complex, infrastructure and science. China can play its role in that region, but its involvement in the Arctic will be defined to a large degree by the policy of Russia, its desire and readiness to develop the Russian-Chinese cooperation. If Moscow does not actively welcome participation of Beijing in the life of that region, it will be hard for us to be present in the Arctic."
In addition to the discussion part of the program, the attendees of the Arctic Dialogue visited tourist attractions of Salekhard. They took part in the ceremony of laying flowers to the Eternal Flame in Park Pobedy. The day ended with an unofficial meeting between the participants of the program of the Gorchakov Fund and members of the Club of Young Diplomats of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. During that meeting, the school students met young experts in international relations, economics and other areas from different countries – the United States, Norway, Sweden, India, and Belarus.
"A certain increase in tensions in the Arctic has occurred due to a number of reasons, – believes speaker of the Arctic Dialogue Andrea Charron, Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies and Associate Professor in Political Studies at the University of Manitoba (Canada). – First of all, climate changes result in intensification of activities in the region. Secondly, broad geopolitical context, the U.S.-Chinese confrontation, economic and military growth of certain countries are present. The current growing interest to events in the Arctic is explained by what is happening. However, not everything depends on how decisions of the Northern countries in the field of security should be interpreted – as a threat of a conflict or as a political decision aimed at strengthening the Arctic borders."