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It is impossible to prevent an arms race in the Arctic
Material posted: -Publication date: 29-08-2014

The escalation of tensions in the Arctic today is a mirror of the General tension in the world — said General Director of the Center for strategic estimations and forecasts, doctor of technical Sciences Sergei Grinyaev.

— The other day the Minister of foreign Affairs of Canada John Baird said that "Canada is ready to go for confrontation with Russia in order to protect its interests in the Arctic." Tell me, what the interests are of priority and strategic for Canada in the Arctic region, and how far Ottawa is prepared to go in defending them?

— Note that Canada has always paid much attention to the development of the Arctic. Canada sees its interest in the Arctic is mainly in the extraction of renewable resources, primarily fish. Of course, Ottawa also attracts the prospect of mining in the polar latitudes.

I must admit that in recent years, Ottawa has taken some serious steps to strengthen its own influence in the region. So, Canada has blocked the application of the European Union on the observer status in the Arctic Council since Canada has a number of outstanding issues with the EU in the field of fisheries in the polar latitudes. Special "love" — the Northwest passage – a sea route from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean, passing through the canadian Straits. It is a competitor of the Russian Northern sea route, and then Ottawa seeks to define for the world economy the benefits of the registered version of its wire goods from Europe to Asia through the Arctic.

A characteristic feature of the canadian "Arctic strategy" was the statement by Ottawa's intention to place in the area of special military icebreakers (probably to combat piracy in these latitudes), which provoked negative reactions even in Washington.

However, for me, marked the position of the canadian foreign Minister was a surprise. Until that time, Canada has been a constructive partner of Russia in the issues of cooperation in the Arctic. Our countries have a number of questions that are easier to solve in the partnership.

That the situation in bilateral relations is complicated, it became clear after in April of this year, Canada refused to participate in the meeting of the Arctic Council in Moscow, citing Russia's position on Ukraine. Canada's many years of lobbying the interests of Ukraine, in particular, the question of its membership in NATO, it was clear before. But the fact that the Ukrainian lobby in Canada, as it turns out, has such an impact on the policies of this North American country that the events in the South-East of Ukraine the echo swept even in the Arctic, and the will of canadian politicians were so weak that threatened the interests of many other peoples of Canada (not only Ukrainians), in my opinion, not tenable.

Speaking about how far Canada can go in its belligerent rhetoric on the Arctic, it should be remembered that until recently, the Arctic was the only region in the world, where contentious issues have been resolved in a peaceful way through communication on "ice" of the Arctic Council. The apparent aggressive nature of some of the Arctic States in respect to the other can be put on the agenda of a new round of escalation of tensions in the region, until the formation of the military bloc structure in the Arctic and the competition "Arctic arms" that, no doubt, will break the status quo and impede the achievement of the world community ten years ago.

I believe that Ottawa is not as belligerent to destroy the structure of international dialogue in the Arctic that works effectively, including, and in the best interests of the Ottawa.

— How the Ukrainian crisis has complicated the cooperation between Russia and other Arctic States?

— The Ukrainian crisis has complicated the cooperation between Russia and most Western countries. Both Arctic and non-Arctic States. However, it is important to remember that today the interests in the Arctic have of the countries situated far from the Arctic circle. So, observer countries of the Arctic Council are China, India, South Korea, Japan and even Singapore. But with Asian countries today, Russia has developed quite a friendly relationship. This is especially true of China and India.

Japan, however, today is leaning towards the us position and sanctions against Russia, but it is just a "reverence" for Washington in the matter of regional security. In fact, today Japan and Russia share the tasks (and not only in the Arctic).

It is quite clear that the sanctions and loss of dialogue only put us in addressing other pressing and important issues. In particular, deteriorates and international cooperation to discuss the development of such a complex region as the Arctic. It is known that many climate changes in the modern world originate in the polar regions, and the study of climate, glaciers and currents in the Arctic is one of the important issues of understanding the future of our civilization. For this reason, to make the prospects of some projects, working on long-term future of the planet, from the military-political situation in one single country (e.g., Ukraine), counter-productive.

— John Baird also stated that canadian authorities are deeply concerned with the growing military potential of Russia in the Arctic. However, since 2008, Canada also conducts regular military exercises in the region. In your opinion, whether to increase the value of the military dimension in the Arctic?

Unfortunately, it is. The Arctic plays an increasing role in the strategy of development of modern civilization, and over time its value will only increase. The escalation of tensions in the Arctic today is a mirror of the General tension in the world. Modern civilization is at a crossroads in its development: a cost-effective oil fields ends as a breakthrough in thermonuclear sources not yet in sight. So the next hundred years we will still be dependent on hydrocarbons, though this dependence is shifting today from oil towards natural gas, but to get rid of it will not succeed even after a century.

— Do you see the possibility that the territorial issues in the Arctic will be resolved in the coming years?

— I believe that the issue of international cooperation in the Arctic today, it is necessary to adhere to the structure, which is based on the Arctic Council. Around it today is formed and the legal framework in settling disputes in the Arctic.

Also we must remember that today's open disputes and territorial claims in the Arctic no one state that, by the way, is a unique specificity of this region. The same applies to the proven hydrocarbon reserves that lie in the economic zones of the Arctic States do not allow issues of contention.

Given the aggravation of the international situation in the world today great importance is the preservation of dialogue even in contradiction to the official positions of States. This is very important to support non-state actors, which brings together experts, scholars, journalists and students, and which allows to establish horizontal ties in social communities even in difficult times.

So, in October in St. Petersburg, with the support of the Foundation.And.M. Gorchakova, we will hold the next meeting of the International expert Council on cooperation in the Arctic. Objectives of the event was to keep those "horizontal communication" in the expert community, to understand the causes and possible consequences of the aggravation of international relations in the Arctic.

Unfortunately, today in preparation of the event we are faced with the reluctance of representatives of the Western expert community to participate in such meetings under any pretext, the experts reject the invitation. Given the current problems with democracy in the West, with the next wave of "witch hunt", it is possible that they fear the consequences for themselves and their career in the case of participation in the Russian event today, when the official position of most Western States is aimed at confrontation with Russia. However I want to note high activity of our Asian partners in the event we are waiting for representatives from India, Singapore, China.

Interviewed By Tatiana Khruleva


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