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Russia’s Reimagined Arctic

Courtesy of Tom Simpson\Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by World Policy on 15 March 2017.

In this text, Arctic Yearbook managing editor Heather Exner-Pirot interviews George Soroka, lecturer at Harvard University and author of “The Political Economy of Russia’s Reimagined Arctic,” to better understand Russia’s motivations in its Arctic. These include not only economic ambitions focused on resource development, but also a resumption of its great-power status in the international system, buoyed by its demonstration of pre-eminence in the Arctic region. 

Heather Exner-Pirot: There’s been a lot of speculation in the media and elsewhere about Russia’s motivations in the Arctic. They’re often described as nefarious. How would you describe them?

George Soroka: In general, I think Russia’s motivations in the Arctic are what Russia tells us they are, even if we are not always ready to believe them. Moscow has three main priorities in the region and they are all interrelated: (1) fostering Russia’s socio-economic development by exploiting the Arctic’s natural resources and the Northern Sea Route; (2) stemming demographic decline in its peripheral territories and better integrating them with the federal center; and (3) projecting power in the High North, where Russia continues to regard itself as the pre-eminent state actor.

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The Challenge of Arctic Cooperation

Image: flickr/NASA Goddard Space program

This article was originally published on the World Policy Blog on 13 May 2015.

Today, the global community is devoting unprecedented attention to the Arctic. Most people are primarily concerned with the effects of climate change, as the media often attributes the frequency of recent natural disasters to the significant warming of the Arctic. Meanwhile, businessmen are exploring new profit-making avenues through the extraction of the region’s rich natural resources, along with the development of the Northern Sea Route. Military officials are spending time and resources estimating emerging threats to regional security, while seeking appropriate ways to prevent them. Politicians of both Arctic and non-Arctic states are eager to participate in its exploration, weighing the pros and cons of their further involvement in Arctic affairs, as well as the expected gains and losses from cooperation or confrontation with other states. Finally, the residents of the Far North humbly are hoping that the new international spotlight their home has acquired will not negatively impact their lives.

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Arctic Oil On Life Support

Mars Ice island, Beaufort Sea Alaska. A 60 day exploratory well built offshore, 8 km off Cape Halkut near NPR-A. Image: SonicR/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Oilprice.com on 1 February, 2015.

Oil companies have eyed the Arctic for years. With an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil lying north of the Arctic Circle, the circumpolar north is arguably the last corner of the globe that is still almost entirely unexplored.

As drilling technology advances, conventional oil reserves become harder to find, and climate change contributes to melting sea ice, the Arctic has moved up on the list of priorities in oil company board rooms.

That had companies moving north – Royal Dutch Shell off the coast of Alaska, Statoil in the Norwegian Arctic, and ExxonMobil in conjunction with Russia’s Rosneft in the Russian far north. » More

Designing an Effective European Arctic Strategy

Photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The promise of new shipping routes and access to natural resources continues to attract external players to the Arctic. While states such as Singapore have successfully acquired permanent observer status in the Arctic Council (AC), the European Union (EU) has historically been far less successful in contributing to or securing a voice in Arctic governance. This problem is eroding away, however. All Brussels has to do is play to its strengths and continue focusing on ‘small target’ goals that can be achieved through existing political structures.

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Arctic Rhetoric

Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 conducting Arctic training. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/flickr.

This article was originally published on the World Policy blog on 17 January 2014.

Despite ongoing cooperation between Arctic nations – Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States– mainstream rhetoric often implies Arctic stakeholders are teetering on the brink of conflict. To a great extent, this sentiment is reflected in mass media and political banter, inflaming the passions of audiences. This is true, not only in the U.S. but also elsewhere, evidenced in the mass media reporting of other Arctic nations and beyond.

Consider, for instance, the impact of headlines pronouncing a “New Cold War” or a “Rush for Riches,” headlines not uncommon in U.S. media. Some reactions may be visceral– insidiously implanting notions of fear, lust, or chaos into the very core of society. Similarly, political banter suggesting belligerent rivalries reminiscent of bygone years may well influence public opinion to the detriment of strengthened Arctic relations. » More

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