It’s never enough – when you want what you can’t get27.05.2021
On 17 May, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who is rumored to meet with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Reykjavik, warned Western countries against staking claims in the Arctic.
“It has been absolutely clear for everyone for a long time that this is our territory, this is our land,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow, adding that Russia is responsible for ensuring security on the Arctic coast.
In recent years, Putin has deemed the Arctic region a strategic priority and increased funding for building military infrastructure and extracting minerals. Russia also intends to employ new icebreakers so that it’s possible to navigate the Arctic all year round.
The fact that Russia takes the Arctic issue very seriously is evidenced by its measures taken to further its military capabilities in the region. These measures include modifying military equipment for use in arctic conditions, as well as building military infrastructure and stationing personnel.
Clearly, there is a reason for these activities.
As global warming increases, ice is melting and waters become more navigable.
In recent years, this territory characterized by extreme conditions has become the battleground of geopolitical competition among countries. There are four main reasons for this. First, the Arctic shelf is full of mineral resources. Second, this is where the Northern Sea Route is located, which is the shortest navigable route from Asia to Europe. Third, the impact of pollution and melting ice on the economy and human lives. Lastly, the shortest route for the US’ and Russia’s missiles to the enemy’s strategic, political and economic objects crosses the North Pole.
We should consider Lavrov’s words, i.e. “to not stake claims in the Arctic”.
Lavrov has no justification for saying this, as the Arctic is the Earth’s northernmost polar region. It consists of the Arctic Ocean, its seas and the northern parts of Eurasia (Russia, Iceland, Norway and Finland) and North America (Alaska, Canada, Greenland). The Arctic is an international territory which is regulated by international law – it doesn’t belong to any country (except the parts of the aforementioned countries) and can be used by any country.
Therefore, Russia’s self-proclaimed rights to the Arctic should be viewed along with the rest of its impudent statements. Of course, a country can do whatever it wishes in its own territory, but this doesn’t apply to territories that are owned by no one.
The international community must once again decide – either to be diplomatically silent about Lavrov’s statements, or to state clearly that the Arctic belongs to everyone, and if some country will attempt to take what’s not theirs, there will be consequences. However, if Western countries, especially those part of the Arctic Council, decide to be silent Russia will interpret it as the West approving its ambitions.
It’s good to have ambitions, but one should also remember the possibilities of fulfilling them.
If we look at Russia’s combative rhetoric, “beating up everyone” is as always more of a bluff than anything else. For instance, due to the prolonged sanctions Russia has problems with acquiring or developing some materials and commodities. An important role is also played by Russia sticking to Soviet-type economic planning. All this leads to a situation where Russia looks great and even powerful on paper, but in reality…
The same goes for the Arctic issue – Russia has taken loud steps to show the international community that it is an able player, but the reality is that it’s nothing more than a mere bluff. Like painting your lawn: it looks great from distance, but once you get closer or it starts to rain – everything turns to slush.