The status quo reached by polar countries (Russia, Canada, USA, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland) partly restrains their initiative and does not allow them to take unilateral steps. However, the institution of “observer countries” in the Arctic Council today can be used by geopolitical centers to strengthen the struggle in the Arctic region. This conclusion was made by experts of the Center for Strategic Estimates and Forecasts, analyzing the positions and motives of the activity of the observer countries of the Arctic Council. A REGNUM correspondent read the report.
Today, the observer countries under the Arctic Council include the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Spain, Italy, China, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, France, South Korea and Japan. These countries, having their own ambitions and aspirations in the region, do not formally have the right to vote on Arctic issues, but they may well assist leading players in the struggle to defend their interests; this is the bet, the report says.
According to experts, of the eight Arctic countries, Norway pays the most attention to the potential of observer countries. This country conducts an active dialogue with such states as Singapore, China, South Korea, trying to involve them in solving a number of issues including in their own interests.
Singapore expects to get a result from the "sale" of its own achievements to other participants of the Arctic race. That is why Singapore today is a profitable ally for many other Arctic states. First of all, they are interested in the experience and recognition of this country in the international law of the sea. Significant are also the experience and achievements of Singapore in the creation, management and development of marine and coastal infrastructure, as well as in shipbuilding, concluded the Center for Strategic Evaluations and Forecasts.
South Korea among the observer countries is one of the most active players in Arctic issues, according to the authors of the study. From the point of view of Seoul, the development of the Northern Sea Route will allow the country not only to increase the production of ships of the Arctic class, but also to increase the trade turnover of Korean ports with ports in Western Europe. Experts note that Seoul in the Arctic policy relies on cooperation with the polar states. “Seoul’s closest relationship is with Russia,” the report says.
Motives of China’s behavior in solving Arctic issues are based on the thesis that the problems of the Arctic are not regional, but global in nature. “It is understood that if the decisions made in discussing Arctic issues have global implications, then China as a growing world power should have a say in them,” experts explain. Based on the analysis of the diplomatic steps of the Middle Kingdom over the past 30 years, the researchers also suggest that pragmatic considerations will be the main factors of Chinese policy in the Arctic. Today, according to the report, in order to protect its interests in the Arctic, China is focusing its efforts on achieving a number of goals. First, to get a deeper understanding of the negative consequences of how climate change in the Arctic will affect the environment in China, its climatic conditions and agriculture. Secondly, to ensure their participation in the Arctic Council in order to gradually increase the influence on decision-making concerning governance in the Arctic. Thirdly, one of the strategic goals of China, the study notes, is to ensure the security of routes for the supply of strategic raw materials to the country from the possible impact on them by the US Navy. On the whole, the Celestial Empire is already steadily integrated into the system for solving Arctic problems: from ecology to economics. “Expanding investment projects in the Arctic states, China lays the foundation of its influence in the region. Already today, through a number of major projects, China has formed the basis for building mechanisms of economic pressure on the countries of the region to ensure their own interests in the Arctic, ”experts conclude.
There are interests in the northern latitudes and the Land of the Rising Sun. For Japan, as well as for Singapore, the Arctic is a platform where Japanese innovation and technology can find a place. The Northern Sea Route has considerable economic attractiveness for the Japanese: its use will increase the flow of goods between the Japanese and Western European ports, as well as provide Japan with supremacy in shipbuilding. “Russia is viewed by the Japanese government as one of the main partners in the development of Arctic resources and shipping along the Northern Sea Route,” the study authors say. Despite this, experts make the remark that the prospect of year-round navigation along the NSR increases the value of the Kuril Islands (ports, warehouse infrastructure, objects of security systems, etc.), which will give new impetus to disputes around the islands. Experts note that Russian-Japanese relations in the Arctic region are commercial in nature. In matters of security, Japan will definitely cooperate with Washington.
As for India, it is also interested in participating in the affairs of the Arctic region. Being much more constrained in finances (12 million dollars to study the Arctic over the next five years), however, India has a number of vectors in its Arctic policy. According to the report, first of all, Indians are interested in the Arctic commercially (development of hydrocarbon reserves and participation in the development of the Northern Sea Route) and in matters of environmental safety (possible dependence of the monsoon intensity in India on climatic changes in the Arctic). Strategic partners of India, according to the study, Russia (in the economic sphere) and Norway (in science).
Russian Arctic neighbors from the West also lay out their Arctic solitaire games. First of all, it is worth paying attention to the UK as a gatekeeper to the Northern Sea Route. Analyzing the steps taken by the UK in the Arctic issue, researchers at the Center for Strategic Assessment and Forecasting suggested that London’s Arctic policy will consist of three directions. First, the UK will build a direct dialogue with the United States with the goal of dividing control over the Northern Sea Route (for two) (London from the North Atlantic, Washington - from the North Pacific). “The United Kingdom, as the“ strategic gatekeeper ”in the North Atlantic and the foundation of Atlantic dominance in Europe, is ideally suited as the“ key state ”in the upcoming new geopolitical game,” the authors of the report say. Secondly, London, relying on its own imperial experience, will not initiate politics directly, but using the potential of the British Commonwealth of Nations (4 observer countries out of 12 - Canada, Great Britain, India, Singapore are members of the Commonwealth). And thirdly, Britain will use third countries to coordinate its own policy in the Arctic. First of all, this is Poland. Given Polish activity in Arctic matters in recent years, as well as historical relations between Poland and the UK, it can be assumed, according to experts, that behind it - Poland - there is a certain plan that was not formed in Warsaw.
Another important partner is not so much the UK, but Poland in the Arctic - France. Regarding her, experts assume that, recognizing the insufficiency of their instruments of direct influence, France relies on other regional organizations, for example, the Barents Sea community. In addition, Paris is actively using the potential of "soft power", attracting non-profit organizations and public structures to form a favorable course of international politics in the Arctic region. In the analysis of the French Arctic policy, the authors of the report state that France has one of the most aggressive Arctic strategies. The country's key interests in the northern latitudes are concentrated around the extraction of hydrocarbons (operating in the Arctic TOTAL and Gaz de France) and the seafood industry. The key players in the region for France are Russia and Norway.
Another European player whose economic interests are concentrated in the Arctic is Italy. Experts note that the Arctic for Italy, as well as for Asian countries, and for Poland, for example, is an opportunity for the development of the national shipbuilding industry. In addition, Eni today plays a key role in the development of the Arctic, including in partnership with Russian companies. “Although relations between Rome and Moscow in the Arctic over the past 5-7 years have acquired the character of strategic cooperation, the Italian leadership leaves no hope for the internationalization of hydrocarbon deposits in the region,” the report says. For pressure on Russia, the Italian government does not hesitate to use the informational influence and the world public condemnation of Moscow’s activity following it. ” Indicative in this respect is the reaction of the Italian government to the position of Moscow in relation to the vessel Arctic Sunrise. In addition, according to the report, Italy is actively using the humanitarian agenda for political pressure, primarily on the Russian Federation. Experts describe Italy’s policy on Arctic issues as “proactive, but not aggressive.”
Shows the initiative and Spain. Madrid today is one of the most consistent guides of the Arctic policy for the EU. Despite the mutually beneficial economic Spanish-Russian partnership, this policy is contrary to Russian interests in the region, the report says. The characteristic for the Spaniards argument - environmental safety - has quite understandable motives, experts of the Center for Strategic Estimates and Forecasts believe: economic development of the Arctic transport routes will reduce the economic attractiveness of the Atlantic and Mediterranean ports of Spain.
The Netherlands is an interested observer country in the development of the Arctic region. “Holland is extremely interested in the development of the infrastructure of the Northern Sea Route due to the fact that it has significant experience in logistics operations, which can be useful in the development of the Arctic territories,” the study notes. As the specifics of the Dutch Arctic strategy, analysts call the emphasis on the environmental consequences of industrial development of the Arctic. “The main goal is to form a sharply negative attitude towards the world community to any attempts to exploit the resources of the Arctic without using special“ green ”technologies, the authors of the study are sure. Through attempts to secure high standards for ensuring environmental safety as international standards, Amsterdam strives to achieve favorable conditions for its companies to expand into the Arctic. ” To the extent unfriendly towards Russia, according to a study, Germany’s Arctic policy appears. “Despite close cooperation in the research area, Germany still stands as a strategic geopolitical opponent of Russia in the struggle for the resources of the polar territories,” analysts say. Nevertheless, despite this, experts from the Center for Strategic Assessment and Forecasts are confident that Germany will stop in its ambitions for the extraction of renewable resources (fish and seafood), as well as the exploitation of the Northern Sea Route. Access to the energy resources of the region will be left to Berlin for development by its partners, Norway and Russia. Experts are sure that the role of the distributor of Russian raw materials on the world market is quite satisfactory.
Summing up the Arctic policy of the states, the experts of the Center for Strategic Estimates and Forecasts distinguish a number of ambiguous and potentially dangerous trends in the rhetoric of countries. First, this is the topic of global climate change and the role of the polar regions in them. “Climate change and the role of the Arctic in them is an almost win-win topic when it is necessary to decide on the issue of access to governance structures in the region,” experts explain.
Secondly, the issue of environmental safety in the region arising from the first topic. "Ecology today allows you to take the most radical steps in case you need to protect or promote your own interests," the study says. The main objective of such activities is to achieve the adoption of strict standards that allow the operation in the Arctic only of ships created using special "green" technologies available to a limited number of countries in the region. This allows us to solve competition issues quite effectively, experts believe.
Thirdly, the issue of ensuring international access to the operation of the Northern Sea Route. This means the coming need to divide the interests of the Arctic states (mainly Russia and Canada) and the rest of the international community.
Fourth, the preservation of the ecosystems of the indigenous peoples of the North. This topic is conditional, although effective, analysts say, it affects people's interests and allows you to bring to the discussion the whole practice of diplomatic struggle and propaganda on the topic of human rights violations.
And fifth, the question of international law in the Arctic region. According to the study, the modernization of international law in the Arctic region makes it possible to effectively promote the interests of the states owning the main resource, which allows influencing the formation of new structures and relations in the field of international law. First of all, it is profitable and able to do the United States, as well as Singapore and the UK. The question of protecting one’s own interests in this case will be decided by international pressure on a country that somehow violated the established procedure.
To protect the national interests of Russia in the Arctic, experts at the Center for Strategic Estimates and Forecasts call for using the full potential of observer countries in the Arctic Council and building new configurations of foreign policy associations and unions that are beneficial for the country.
The study “Observer Countries in the Arctic Council: Positions and Motives for Action” was carried out by the Center for Strategic Evaluations and Predictions with the assistance of the A.K. Gorchakova.