May 13, 2017

12.05.2017 Arctic, Whose Will You Be?


Its regular event — the conference “Russian activeness in the Arctic: Goals, Trends and Security Challenges” — the Center for Russian Studies (CRS) traditionally devoted to Russia's current policy, in particular, its plans for “development of the Arctic”. Why did I write the phrase in quotation marks? On purpose. Because the topic itself deserves attention. After all, whatever our eastern neighbor undertakes today (well, in the past it was the same) — it will impact the interests not only of the region close to him, but also of the whole world. And the issue in question is so delicate — development of the Arctic, — of its natural resources to be exact (oil, gas, precious metals), once conserved by the prudent hostess-nature, and now seducing with great profits from successful selling! A sort of once sung by science fiction writers “Sannikov's Land”...

So who and how will “unseal” these deposits, to whom and for what will they be sold, how will this activity affect the environment and who, eventually, will have to be responsible for the consequences of the next large-scale step of the human civilization?

Traditionally, the leadership of the Center on the 12th of May invited well-known politicians, diplomats, scientists, journalists and analysts and asked them to answer these questions. The conference took place in the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine. Running ahead, we should tell that the questions were answered, and quite loudly at that.

The present were greeted by the leader of the Center for Russian Studies, Ambassador Volodymyr Ohryzko, he was supported and supplemented by First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Vadym Prystayko.


The main work was divided into two so-called panels. The first one was “The Russian Strategy in the Arctic” — led by former RF State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, and the second — “The Arctic: a Region of Peace or Rivalry?” — by President of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” Victor Hvozd.

The moderators gave the floor to the speakers, if necessary commented on or clarified some facts, determined the vector of the discussion by the participants of the event. The organizers will publish reports in a separate edition a bit later, so there is no need to retell them in detail here. But it is worthwhile to name the speakers and topics of their reports.


For example, Doctor of Law, Professor Leonid Tymchenko, in his speech “International Legal Instruments Regulating Interstate Relations in the Arctic Region” told the audience who and why is interested in further development of the Arctic, what has already been done in the legal field for determining the rights to develop it and what is going to be done, and how some countries bordering on the North are trying to prove their right to the territory of the Arctic and its underwater shelves.


”Russia's Policy in the Arctic: Goals, Directions, Practice” — this is the theme of the report made by Andrei Churakov, who arrived from Russia at the invitation of the leadership of the Center. And I should point out that he should be thanked for his participation in the conference, as he literally swept the audience with an interesting and useful invoice concerning the future plans of the Russian Federation to explore the vast expanses of the North. Among other things, he told about the military preparations of the Russians. After all, they methodically keep trying to deploy their aircraft units, equip them with missile defense systems, equip ports, bases, food and technical warehouses just in case. Russia's national security strategy provides for a thorough development of the Arctic, A. Churakov said, reporting on the measures taken by the Russian leadership both on the political arena and on the military one. How professional are the approaches to the implementation of strategic tasks — this is the topic of a separate conversation, because this seems to be a great problem for Russians. Of the 145 projects for the development of the Arctic zone, the reporter pointed out, only 17 work so to speak, and not at full capacity: there are not enough funds, mainly because of their very inefficient use (due to corruption already familiar to us).


Of course, those present at the conference spoke about the possibility of using the Northern Sea Route, which has long been attracting attention of the countries of the Far Eastern region, first of all, China's. In the opinion of analyst Mykhaylo Honchar, the PRC is quite naturally showing interest in this route, since it would benefit from establishing trade links with Europe not only through the new, so-called Silk Road. Not to mention China's interests in the Siberia, which in case of climate change also attracts attention as potentially useful territory for future effective economic projects...


Let's not forget that the development of the northern territories requires advanced technologies, of which Russia has few. What do Russia's Western neighbors think about this, they will not stay off this great northern “development”? — the moderator of Panel 2 V. Hvozd asked Dr. Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, who arrived in Kyiv from Finland with a prepared report “Environmental Risks Associated with Russia's Activities in the Arctic, and Possible Mechanisms for Their Minimization”. Judging by the speech of the Finnish guest, the international community is seriously concerned about this problem, because the mining in the northern latitudes is times more complicated as compared with the already known and traditional ones. And if something goes wrong, it is practically impossible to eliminate consequences. Therefore, mining technologies used there should be absolutely reliable.


The Finnish expert was complemented by a guest from Norway, Dr. Kristian Atland, who described Russia's attempts to build up the military potential in the Arctic region, possible consequences of this build-up and, of course, the methods to contain Russians, whose imprudence has often brought great problems to mankind, let alone irreplaceable losses.


Agreeing with the guest and supplementing his speech, the President of NACSI “Borysfen Intel” Victor Hvozd invited the audience to get acquainted with the studies on special-task forces and the means that Russia plans to deploy or have already deployed in its northern territories. The Center “Borysfen Intel” has prepared and published such data in the journal version.

”The fact is significant,” the panel's leader stressed, “Russia spares no resources for propaganda and imposing its ideas, including on the Arctic, the notorious “Russia Today” alone, was allocated the funds an order of magnitude more than the funds received from the Ukrainian budget by all Ukrainian Security structures responsible for state security.

In their speeches, the participants of the conference raised questions about Ukraine's interests in the Arctic, its opportunities in developing the northern expanses, and mentioned examples of technical cooperation with some states, for example, in the fulfillment of orders for cargo transportation by our aviators. They also recalled an icebreaker built at the Ukrainian plant for the People's Republic of China, ready to make the way for the Chinese merchant fleet to Europe.

We hoped that our event would help satisfy our curiosity about the development of the Arctic, but it only expanded the range of questions, — Volodymyr Ohryzko said summing up. — We have come to the conclusion that the world does not have a strategy of restraining Russia, which is openly going to the offensive. The world seems frozen in some kind of expectation. Therefore, we need to persistently “dig” on this topic and offer ideas, ways and methods to defend our, Ukrainian interests.

Oleh Makhno

The photo-report by Volodymyr Rayevskyi