The Arctic: a territory for non-politicized dialogue for the benefit of mankind (by Ambassador Yakovenko)

The Arctic region has always been very important to Russia. At present, our country is implementing a strategy for a full-scale, balanced and complex development of the Arctic, including research, technology and the protection of the environment. Quite a lot has already been done. Navigation over the Northern Sea Route has been improved, a systematic modernization of the Arctic ice-breaker fleet has been launched, systems of GLONASS space monitoring of the ice situation have been developed, the land infrastructure has been improved, etc. As a result, by 2020 the volume of transit shipment can reach 50 million tons.
Russia has adopted the State Programme of Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation for the Period of up to 2020. Its priorities include developing a feasible economic model of the Northern Sea Route modernisation, providing reliable protection for the fragile Arctic eco-system, including constant monitoring of the environment and reduction of ecological risks.
An effective development of the Arctic is impossible without expanding and strengthening international cooperation within the framework of the Arctic Council. Achievements of the Arctic Council are significant. Agreements have been signed on cooperation in sea search and rescue, measures to strengthen cooperation in scientific and humanitarian development of the region have been taken. The five littoral states are in agreement that they bear a special responsibility for this region.
Today, we witness a growing interest of the world community towards the Arctic. National interests of Arctic and non-Arctic states may clash in this part of the world. Mineral resources of the Arctic, first of all hydrocarbons, determine an intensified competition for the right to their exploration and exploitation. The same goes for the rights to use transit sea routes.
Sometimes this objective and understandable trend coupled with the current tense diplomatic atmosphere between Russia and the West expresses itself in a troubling way. Some Western leaders have called on NATO to expand the area of its responsibility in the Arctic direction, something that contradicts the current trend of keeping the Arctic free of military competition, completely disregards Russia’s huge contribution to the economic development and maintenance of security in the Arctic, and, unfortunately, is used as a tool of propaganda against Russia.
Russia insists that there is no potential for conflict in this peaceful region: the international legal regime of maritime spaces defines the rights of both littoral and non-littoral states, practically all of the proven oil and gas reserves in the Arctic are located within exclusive economic zones and continental shelf of littoral states, efficient mechanisms of regional cooperation cover the issues of Arctic biological resources development.
We hope that the significant achievements of the Arctic Council will remain the basis for global cooperation on development of the Arctic region as a unique natural zone in a peaceful, non-politicized fashion and for the benefit of all mankind.