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Wednesday, 07 August 2013 18:49

Partnerships around the 180th meridian

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Six years have passed since the Russian researchers have set up their national flag near the North Pole. Since that fateful day in discussions about the Arctic is dominated by themes of possible conflict over energy resources, new transport links, the environment and biological resources. News about the accomplishments of the region come every year.

In 2011, The navigation along the Northern Sea Route has almost doubled, set a new record in terms of tonnage of cargo. Both the United States and Russia began to drill wells on the seabed in search fields. Photos lonely polar bears on small ice floes drifting in the middle of expanding the sea, aggravated the realization that the change in the Arctic - a threat rather than opportunity.

Important as were the economic benefits or environmental hazards, genuine prospects are in the new political relationships that are formed around the Arctic. Geopolitical changes in this part of the world offer hope for radical renewal of relations between Russia and the West. In contrast to the US-Russian "reset" in the center of which are issues of arms control and international trade, new arctic connection can be the basis of a regional partnership between the Russian Far East, Alaska and the northern Canadian territories.

This new partnership will mean cooperation between regional governments, indigenous peoples, business and civil society in different countries as part of a broad interpretation of national sovereignty, based on international law and international organizations.

The Changing Geopolitics of the Arctic and the emerging regime

During the XX century geostrategists draw the line between the center of Eurasia, which at various times was dominated by the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, and the periphery of Eurasia, dominated by the maritime powers, to establish this part of the world brisk trade. In 1900, Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Maha, the father of the U.S. strategy as a maritime power, said that Russia's access to the oceans through the Black and Baltic seas can be closed, and the same can be said of the waters of the Pacific, while the Northern Sea Route is blocked ice. Not having easy access to the open ocean, Russia could threaten commercial and military interests of Great Britain, and later the United States. Halford Mackinder identified Russia as a "key area" through which Asian troops threatened Europe since the Mongol invasion.

Yale University professor Nicholas Spaykmen, whose work on the geography and geopolitics, formed the basis of the strategy of deterrence during the Cold War, wrote: "The geography - the most fundamental factor in foreign policy, because it is the most constant factor." Back in the 1990's. former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said that Russia is surrounded by c west, south and east, without mentioning, however, about the potential change in that the barrier to the north, as the sea ice tightened. Their persistence in the Arctic proved illusory, and the strategy of containment and the environment has become invalid.

During the XX century, all American politicians from Maha to Brzezinski agreed with Mackinder that the central or "key Eurasian territory" is closely linked to the Russian expansion. But after the icebound sea opened in the north, there have been significant changes. Northern sea routes and the great Siberian rivers provide the Russian transport corridors for the development of derelict inner lands. Vast expanses of land in the Asian part of Russia today can not become a base for expansion as fertile ground for the internal development and communication with global trade by sea transport system.

What is happening in the Arctic - the result of the impact of technology, economics, climate change and policies. In the breakthrough technology from the icebreaker with an iron nose in a coal-powered by the third generation of heavy icebreakers. New Ways to oil and gas production in coastal waters have made available hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic continental shelf. Economic transformation contributed to the wide entry of Russian energy resources and minerals on the world market. Sensational climate change have greatly extend the navigation. Finally, the political changes strengthen cooperation on a variety of topics from the navigation on the new sea routes to develop guidelines for the construction of ships and various facilities to respond to emergencies, protect the environment and the protection of biological resources.

The emerging Arctic mode is based on the balance between the powers of coastal States and the freedoms of navigation, enshrined in international law and the principles of agreements such as the Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992), which recognizes the right of States to exploit their natural resources, their responsibility for the safety of the surrounding environment and the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions that affect their culture, environment and lifestyle.

Where the meridians converge

The smallest of the oceans, the Arctic is naturally divided into two bodies of water. The first, limited coastlines Russia, Norway, Greenland, and northern water area of the Atlantic Ocean - a much more populated part of the Arctic, the economic development which is already more than a century. Another area of water that stretches along the 180th meridian, the coasts of the Russian Far East, Alaska and the Canadian North, separated from the developed part of the centuries-old Arctic ice hummocks that are not melting, despite global warming. In this region, stretching from the North Pole to the Bering Strait, the three coastal states have a common interest in the security of maritime, mining, transportation and environmental protection.

As long as the U.S. and Russia are large stockpiles of nuclear weapons, bombers will patrol the airspace and submarines will continue to play hide and seek under the ice. However, these actions do not have a significant impact on life in the Arctic. The quest for survival and development in the harsh environment will encourage the people to join forces and work together. Both the United States and Russia, and Canada understands that nowadays the concept of national security included a strong national economy, the development of which the Arctic could make an important contribution. They also understand that the continued presence in the Arctic and the protection of the Arctic borders - the necessary and important steps to strengthen sovereignty. Each of these three countries have different priorities, natural resources and opportunities, but there are common interests. For the Russian Arctic climate change meant the end of XX century, when it was given the role of continental giant, which can be securely locked from all sides. Location of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, the largest cities in the Arctic, allows them to make the nodal points of the transport network, which includes stretching inland road, rail, and sea routes connecting all the ports of the Arctic coast and leading to Europe, North America and East Asia. Russia is developing offshore energy resources to supply to world markets and will soon begin to use the river for trade routes between their domestic territories and world markets through the Northeast Passage.

The northern areas of Canada depend on mining. This not only generates income but also creates jobs. And the expansion of transportation of goods by sea between the islands of the Canadian archipelago opportunities. Alaska, in turn, hopes to receive economic benefits from the development of coastal oil and transshipment of goods intended for delivery through the Arctic. All three countries are interested in the development of fisheries based on fish migration north through the Bering Strait to the warm waters and the open sea. And they should work together with the states leading fishing in distant waters, to ensure responsible management of Arctic fisheries on the basis of international agreements and charters. In the waters of the common border and each of the three countries may suffer from the actions of its neighbors in terms of resources and environmental protection, which further enhances the value of cooperation and exchange of information.

Elements of Partnership

All Arctic states agreed with the principles and responsibilities of sustainable development and are prepared to act in the Arctic Ocean and adjoining seas in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This will entail the harmonization of the three principles of sustainable development: the right of people to develop their resources, duty to protect the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples to participate in decisions that affect their lives and culture (the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, June 1992; See Principles 2, 3 and 22). Three states have also adopted a common legal regime, taking on obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as part of the international law applicable to navigation in the Arctic. The United States has not ratified the Convention, which limits the ability of their leadership, as well as in the future interpretation or modification of maritime law for the Arctic region.

In partnership Arctic countries around the 180th meridian, already have the foundation. In addition to global agreements on the Law of the Sea and Sustainable Development, the Arctic states and peoples to solve their problems through the work of the Arctic Council and other international organizations. Alaska and the Russian Far East border build a relationship with the 1980s., And Eskimos in North America restored relations and contacts with Russian compatriots and other indigenous peoples of the North. Division U.S. Coast Guard, Canada and Russia cooperate over the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum units. Russia and the United States are at an early stage of development of traffic management systems in the Bering Strait.

In the Arctic, there is already a model of regional cooperation, particularly in the Barents Sea. Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the EU have created the Barents / Euro-Arctic, so the issues related to the Barents Sea could be addressed at all levels of governance. Similarly, the United States, Russia and Canada, as well as the indigenous peoples of the eastern Arctic can and should work together for common development and protecting the environment, sharing all costs, responsibilities and benefits of joint efforts. However, there are significant differences between the relatively developed and densely populated coast of the Barents Sea and the undeveloped land in the sparsely populated area of the 180th meridian, and therefore the mechanisms of cooperation may vary significantly.

Arctic partnership must overcome cultural, linguistic and political differences. Regional cooperation will benefit from the ease of crossing the border, as it has done for the Eskimos Russia and the United States without a visa to travel to visit each other. Partners can benefit from the exchange of such expensive equipment as ice-breakers and space satellites for navigation, communication and monitoring of the surface. Security in the Arctic seas would require data on weather and ice conditions, as well as emergency situations at sea or accidents at work sites. The region is still poorly understood, and the monitoring system is expensive and not widely available, because the exchange of information and technology - an important measure of support for regional planning, especially in an era of strict financial discipline. Regional agreements are urgently needed to control the high seas, outside territorial waters, and to benefit from the migration of fish, regulate navigation in ice-covered areas of special economic zones, and to resolve border issues, including the US-Canadian border in the Beaufort Sea, Moscow to ratify the US-Russian agreement on the maritime boundary and the United States to join the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

For the regulation of economic and other activities, and to provide security at the borders need icebreakers, ships and aircraft of the polar class and unmanned vehicles adapted to polar conditions. In an economy where the conversion of a single icebreaker - a serious challenge to the state budget, the allocation of resources for the safe and prudent use of the Arctic should be a shared responsibility of the riparian countries.

Scientific understanding and technological capability must be developed in order to solve the problems of climate change and intensification of human activity. All residents of the region could benefit from a new look at the Arctic projects designed to solve problems such as the warming of permafrost engineering work at low temperatures, the technology of remote sensing of soil, sea and ice, as well as the introduction of information technology to link people in sparsely populated regions. E-network interaction with the world-class educational institutions and university campuses in all the countries of the Arctic region is necessary for distance learning with a focus on overcoming language and cultural differences.


The changes taking place in the Arctic, mark the beginning of a promising, but full of risks era. Access to the Arctic ports and watersheds put an end to the old strategy of containment and encirclement, opened the era of mineral development and access to global markets. But, though the main focus is on the economic benefits of a real prospect of change in the Arctic - it is an opportunity to develop new relationships in the area of the 180th meridian, the partnership, which brings together national and regional governments, indigenous peoples of the North, the business community, environmentalists and scientists.

State and supranational bodies need to work together and to cooperate with the Arctic Council and other international bodies such as the International Organization for navigation and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The Barents / Euro-Arctic and North Pacific Coast Guard Forum units may become a model for the development of effective cooperation regions of North America and the Russian Far East. It is also necessary to involve the interaction of non-Arctic states, which can use neutral water and resources in the Arctic.

The geographic isolation of the Arctic regions from regions with a temperate climate means that people living around the 180th meridian, a lot of common interests, which are not shared by the majority of their fellow citizens. Much of the remoteness of the regions of the central authorities in Moscow, Ottawa and Washington restricts their role in the national debate, but provides an opportunity to experiment in regional governance and international cooperation.

Advantageous geographical and political situation of Alaska, is historically connected with Russia and the culture of indigenous peoples of the North of Canada and the North-Eastern Russia, allows her to promote the establishment of partnerships in the area of the 180th meridian. Alaskans can not wait to become pioneers in the regional consultation and cooperation. United States, Canada and Russia it is time to encourage and support people and organizations in the development of the Arctic policy that is compatible with international law and national policy, which at the same time would correspond to the interests of the people living in the region, and contribute to their mutually beneficial cooperation.

Caitlyn Antrim

Source: http://www.globalaffairs.ru/number/Partnerstvo-vokrug-180-go-meridiana-16044

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