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Russian strategy in the Arctic
Material posted: Medvedev DmitryPublication date: 11-04-2013

The Arctic region is an intersection of vital interests of Russia and other Arctic States. At the same time, the Arctic attracts attention and some reactionsa countries interested in its resources, mainly hydrocarbons.

Accordingly, the continuing deprovincialization of the Arctic requires the creation of a new platform for international cooperation. The so-called "Arctic question" are constantly discussed in Russia.

Russia in these days faces the need of determining its strategy in relation to the Arctic, find the tools for its implementation and assuming the possible consequences in its relations with other partners, which are also represented in the region.


From the perspective of Russia

From the point of view of Russia, the Arctic region has one exceptional feature. For Russia, the Arctic applies both to the internal and external dimension of its policy.

Any foreign policy activities in this field automatically becomes the issue of internal political life of Russia. Given this fragility, it should be noted that the main reason for a long period of marginalization of the Arctic in Russian political life, as well as the lack of effectiveness of its strategy towards the region was the absence of a driving force of the policy, which could be the state.

Russia's policy in the Arctic should be considered as the plethora of functions of the Central government, specialized Federal agencies, regional authorities and business. This activity is not coordinated, chaotic and often contradictory. Given the wide range of actors, it is hardly possible to identify a single complete and coherent strategy. Therefore, it is more appropriate to characterize the activity of Russia in the Arctic region as prostrategy or metastrategy.

Factors that spur the activity of Russia towards the Arctic can be divided into two groups: objective and subjective. The first is the result of geographical location and cannot be changed or caused by the state itself. The second group – the result of a consciously chosen policy and as such is the result of a strategic choice made by the Russian government and other actors able to influence him.


The growth of international interest

The increasing international interest in the Arctic was largely rehashed the publication of results of climate research in the polar regions, which clearly indicate the intensification of the melting process. As a result, the ice area of the Arctic ocean is steadily declining, and economic activity in the region is becoming more attractive and potentially profitable.

Interaction with other States and non-state actors have shown that there is a possibility of implementation of one of two possible scenarios: cooperative or confrontational.

In the case of implementing cooperative scenario, it may be based on a format such as "cooperation North" or "Northern dimension", cooperation within the Arctic Council, or the five Arctic coastal States, subregional forums or bilateral consultations. Russia considers the results of cooperation with partners on "Northern dimension" as very positive, especially the implementation of projects concerning nature protection, disposal of nuclear waste, remediation of former military bases and their utilization for commercial and scientific purposes.

Russia hopes for rapprochement with North European States, first of all, the realization of common projects in the framework of the Council of the Barents sea, including joint management of the Northern sea route, as well as to increase the level of technical cooperation with the possibility of extending it to other areas (economic, strategic) and other regions.

It is important to see positive side effects of international cooperation for the Russian North, the development of transport, the revival of towns and villages. It gives a chance to attract immigrants in order to discourage the abandonment of these regions by population. But to make it real, we need to develop a new quality partnership and advanced formats of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Although confrontational scenario of international cooperation for Russia is undesirable, its implementation cannot be ruled out. Russia is very concerned about the increasing influence of non-Arctic countries, especially the British position in favour of Canada, as well as the growing activity of China building its own icebreaker fleet. Russia's concerns also relate to potential policy Iceland, Sweden and Finland are members of the Arctic Council – as well as providing Denmark government of Greenland, and potentially more assertive engagement in the region.

Russia is alarmed by the declarations of the EU and NATO on the revitalization in the Arctic region, their respective policies. Russia expresses grave concern at the declarations of the representatives of NATO that the organization intends to become a negotiating platform for all Arctic countries, transport safety, and also organization of emergency care and rescue. NATO ready to ensure security of Maritime traffic in Arctic waterways. The most profound concern is that the Alliance is ready to ensure energy security of the Arctic region that has been widely discussed since the Bucharest summit in 2009.

In addition, Russia fears an intensification of NATO activity in the region and tend to consider the block as part of the ongoing United States ' activity, which ignores Russian interests.


Competition for resources

Strong concerns Russia raises the prospect of the race for resources with the European Union, which transforms its external activity in a more sustained action. From the point of view of Russia, a more active EU policy in the Arctic gives the impression of breaking the logic of its previous rate in the region, and she views this as a breach of contractual obligations between EU and Russia within the framework of the Northern dimension.

The EU can Express the interests of their Nearctic but not in the way influential members and thereby weaken Russia's position. Russia was confused as the growing ambitions voiced by the European Commission in 2008, and practical tools, such as the construction of the research icebreaker "Aurora Borealis" or the use of space-based navigation systems Galileo for observing the surface of the Arctic, as well as financial support to Greenland.

Other concerns are caused by the attempt [of the EU] to play the role of arbitrator on the issue of the exploitation of natural resources, especially in accordance with widespread instruments in the EU "sustainable use of energy resources" and "environmentally friendly" standards, which may create grounds for accusing Russia of non-observance. In addition, Russia is concerned about the requirement of the European Union of "free and equal access" to resources, in what it sees an attempt to claim resources outside the exclusive economic zones of member countries of the EU.

The most controversial and likely subject of controversy due to the position of the EU on the facilitation of the internationalization of the Arctic, which directly denies the point of view of Russia and undermining its national interests. Russia tends to influence the EU, encouraging the position of its Arctic members, and wants the Arctic strategy of the European Union more attention was paid to cooperation with Russia, while developing a common foreign policy more of the voting rights was provided to the Arctic EU member States.


Fruitful cooperation

Thus, productive cooperation with partners requires overcoming Russia "complex continental powers" and turning to the seas surrounding the Russian land masses. The lack of effective Maritime presence and lack of development of the coastal infrastructure, Russia will not be able to compete and to exercise control over the sector, which it stated their claims, as well as on the use of its resources. The growing weight of the EU and NATO in decision-making and more effective instruments of projection of force in the Arctic put Russia facing possible exclusion.

The lack of consensus with its partners in the political and the military sphere threatens economic cooperation and cause image losses, hanging the label of obstructionist. This suggests that the Russian Arctic strategy will go through a phase of transformation and adaptation to new geopolitical conditions. In General, this means to develop a universally applicable modus vivendi, its policy in solving the most acute problems will continue to be based on the pragmatic principle of selective cooperation on a bilateral basis.


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