Mutually Beneficial Balance of Interests Is the Key to Peaceful Development of the Arctic

27.09.2017

A mutually beneficial balance of interests in the Arctic should be established not only between the circumpolar powers, but also include non-Arctic countries, Valdai Club experts believe. They took part in the discussion, titled "Competitive Space of the Arctic: From Geopolitical Tension to Balance of Interests", which was held on September 26 at the Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall. During the event the Valdai Paper “The Arctic in an Age of Geopolitical Change: Assessment and Recommendations,” written by Jeffrey Collins, Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Security and Development, Dalhousie University, Canada was presented.

According to experts, the relations in the Arctic region, which used to be one of the most stable places in the world, are beginning to escalate, and there is a possibility of collisions. The main question is whether the eight circumpolar countries, notably Russia, the USA, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden, reconcile not only their interests, but also take into account the requests of non-Arctic states, primarily China, India, Japan and South Korea.

For India, where millions of people live in areas below sea level, it is important to know the consequences of glaciers melting. China, in turn, is interested in new maritime routes to transport its products, which will emerge as a result of climate change.

The main reasons of the attention growth to the Arctic region from many states are, according to the experts, facilitating mining due to climate change and rising prices for natural resources. Experts estimate that up to 20% of the world's mineral resources are concentrated in the Arctic region.

According to Jeffrey Collins, the accumulation of positive experience of cooperation will help to avoid clashes in the region. Until now all problems and contradictions were resolved peacefully.

In particular, the Arctic Council plays an important role in solving regional issues. It is an intergovernmental forum created for the development of cooperation between the Arctic states, coordinating their actions in the interests of sustainable development of the region, protecting the environment, preserving the culture, traditions and languages of the indigenous peoples of the North. However, such issues as security are not among the topics for discussion within this organization.

In general, Russian experts expressed serious concern over the growing militarization of the Arctic. Jeffrey Collins denied the existence of such a tendency in Canada. According to him, the presence of Canadian military equipment in the region is low, it is more formal. This is confirmed by the fact that Canadian icebreakers are part of the civilian fleet, and not of the defense system of the country.

Experts also discussed another crucial issue, the delineation of borders between the Arctic countries. So, Canada has a number of territorial claims to Denmark, which have not been resolved for several decades. According to Jeffrey Collins, an international commission should be established to solve such problems. The idea of this initiative is that territorial problems can be resolved more effectively within the framework of a representative body.

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