No strife for the Arctic – Putin
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin named comfort of living, attraction of investment and nature preservation as the basics of his Arctic program, speaking at the Arctic: Territory of Dialogue international forum.
“I am familiar with various futuristic predictions on the upcoming strife for the Arctic. But we are carefully monitoring the situation in the region, and it is obvious that most of those scenarios have no real grounds whatsoever,” Putin said.
He noted that Russian explorers reached the North Sea back in the 11th Century, and “both history and geography have put the mission of cultivating the region on our people.”
“First of all,” Putin specified, “we are talking about making the conditions of living in the Arctic of good quality and comfortable. This includes careful approach to the traditions of the indigenous people of the Arctic and their economic set-up, while developing the social sphere, the educational and healthcare systems, and forming of the informational environment.”
The second state priority in the Arctic will be supporting new points of economic growth in the region, attracting large investment from Russia and abroad.
“At the same time, I’d like to stress: not a single industrial Arctic project will be realized without considering the toughest ecological requirements. That is a basic principle which we will apply, while cultivating the north of Krasnoyar Region, Yakutia, the Yamal Peninsula and the Shtokman gas field,” Putin stated.
He expects the arctic to become one of the main sources of energy and a key transport hub in 50 years.
“But the price of the ‘Arctic question’ is much higher that the billions of barrels of polar oil everyone loves to dwell upon. If we adopt an irresponsible position on the Arctic today, tomorrow we will get new global problems, instead of global opportunities. That is why the first mission for all the Arctic countries today is the wide introduction of resource-saving, smart, cutting-edge technology that is able to operate in harmony with the environment,” Putin said.
Another priority, according to Putin, is the attraction of serious investment to the nature-preserving infrastructure: “We plan a real clear-out of our Arctic territories. We plan to – literally – clear out the landfills that have been made around the transpolar settlements, deposits, military bases, ports, and airports in tundra and on the islands in the North Sea. Simultaneously, the number of national parks and reserves will grow. Last year we created the 1.5-million-hectare-long Russian Arctic park and we are discussing opening another park in Chukotka and Alaska with our American colleagues.”
“Russia calls on everyone to start an active exchange of ideas, innovations and practical experience. It will help us to find efficient technological solutions to be applied in the Far North,” Putin said, with the very Arctic Forum he was speaking at a platform created specifically for that kind of exchange.
Speaking to RT, Priscilla Wohl, executive director of the Northern Forum, echoed Prime Minister Putin’s sentiments about the importance of co-reliance and collaboration between the stakeholders.
“Prime Minister Putin mentioned today in his speech that we rely on our neighbors for survival in the Arctic,” Wohl said. “And if you were to start some kind of a major dispute, you’d jeopardize the trust and the ability to survive in the Arctic.”
Morten Anker, an analyst in the field of Russian politics and economics, says he does see the potential for conflict over the region.
“Definitely, there is a potential for conflict,” Anker said. “But I agree with Mr. Putin – I don’t think we will see any armed conflict over the resources in the Arctic.”
Government officials, prominent scientists, and businessmen from Russia and other Arctic countries took part in the forum. The honored guests of the event also include Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and Monaco’s Prince Albert II.
President of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimsson promotes a cautious approach to the Arctic environment, especially the melting of the Arctic ice.
“There is a strong, a very honest, concern that the environment is of great importance, the melting of the ice will create an environmental condition that we all have to deal with,” Grimsson told RT.
Finland’s senior Arctic official Hannu Halinen is keen to put the Finnish experience of living in the severe conditions of the North to good use in dealing with the Arctic.
“We are looking to help in terms of environment, the economy and infrastructure, institutions – we are all for strengthening the Arctic council, and as an EU member, we try to help to make a coherent EU Arctic policy,” Halinen told RT.