LONDON, February 22 (Itar-Tass) — Any kind of confrontation between Russia and other member countries of the Arctic Council is ruled out, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt said on Tuesday. He spoke at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on the issues of security and climate change in the Arctic.
“I cannot imagine a situation in which events (in relations between the countries of the Council and Russia) would develop in a confrontational way. If such developments are possible within our organisation, then perhaps they could happen in the relationship between the United States and Canada on the issue of American ships’ navigation through the Northwest Passage. Because the Canadian authorities regard it as their territorial waters, and the US – consider it an international strait,” Bildt said.
As the Arctic region witnesses seasonal sea ice retreat due to global warming, new commercial and trade opportunities are opening up, increasing international interest in the region. This led to unprecedented levels of engagement and some competition among the littoral and Arctic Circle states. At the same time, resource exploitation is increasingly feasible, which is likely to have a direct effect on the unique environment and indigenous populations of the Arctic, according to the IISS.
The Swedish foreign minister with satisfaction drew attention to the fact that the Arctic, compared with the Cold War period, at the present time has become a much more peaceful region of the planet, as the number of the American and Russian military equipment units, prowling the Arctic waters - submarines and warships, has been considerably reduced, although not to the “zero level.” Therefore, there is still something to work on for detente.
According to Bildt, certain problems still remain regarding Russia’s compliance with environmental standards of production. He cited as an example the work of a number of enterprises located on the Kola Peninsula and also mentioned the state of the environment in Norilsk.
Carl Bildt also drew attention to the serious struggle for the development of natural, including energy resources in the Arctic. Among them he named the iron and ore reserves in Norway, but in the first place - the major oil and natural gas deposits under the ocean floor, mainly Russian.
“Russia has absolutely incredible gas reserves - 25 percent of the world’s total. And 95 percent of these reserves are located in the Arctic region. But it is impossible to get gas free at a distance of 550 km from Murmansk at a depth of several thousand metres. International cooperation is needed for efficient development of these fields, because the most modern technology is required for the development of the Arctic reserves,” Carl Bildt said.