I once met a bear while hiking in the Rocky Mountains. A big bear, who squinted at me and sniffed the air. When I backed away, he followed me, muscles rippling beneath a grizzled hump.
With no trees to climb, I began to talk. “Good morning, Mr. Bear,” I said, and asked about his health. I commented on the weather, told him of my plans and, after a minute of idle chatter, he shrugged and wandered off the path.
I was reminded of this encounter when, last month, Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion announced a shift in foreign policy. From now on, Canada will seek to actively co-operate with Russia in the Arctic.
After a week of meetings in Portland, Arctic officials have put the final touches on an agreement to collaborate on research.
Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald, 8 October 2016
The Arctic Council is preparing a treaty to be signed in the spring to promote scientific cooperation among the eight Arctic nations, a move that would benefit Maine scientists who need access to Russian territory and research for their work on topics ranging from climate change to how oil changes when it’s exposed to severe cold.
David Balton, the United States’ ambassador to the council and the chairman of the council’s senior Arctic officials, hailed it as a groundbreaking agreement. The officials have been meeting all week in Portland to discuss policy issues that affect Arctic nations.
“We are trying to allow Arctic science to be science without borders,” Balton said Friday, the final day of the conference. “Not all science proceeds as smoothly in the Arctic as we might like yet. There are restrictions, particularly in Russia, about entry and exit of scientists from other nations, and their material and data. With this, all the nations in the Arctic will allow much more freedom to conduct science.”
Speech written by Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, marking the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council
September 29, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario
As we gather today at Carleton University to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council, let us take stock of what the North means to Canadians.
The North, covering 40 percent of our territory and home to more than 100,000 inhabitants, of whom more than half are Indigenous, is at the heart of our identity.
Yes, we have a northern soul: “The true north strong and free.” Few places on earth evoke more glorious images than the North. It is the land of the aurora, where the northern lights dance across the darkened sky at nightfall, and the land of the midnight sun and of polar days that go on forever under light that never fades.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is committed to maintaining peaceful relations with Arctic nations while exploring the Arctic's largely untapped resources.
"The Arctic must be regarded as a space for an open and equitable dialogue...where there will be no place for geopolitical games by military blocs, backstage deals, or struggle for spheres of influence," Putin said in a message read to Arctic Council members on August 30 by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
Russia is hosting a council meeting onboard a Russian nuclear icebreaker crossing the Arctic Ocean to the port of Pevek.
"Russia will remain committed to the peaceful development of the region, provided its own national interests are observed and the interests of all other countries unconditionally respected," Putin said. Stable development of the Arctic is becoming especially important, he said.
"As a matter of fact, the prosperity not only of the Arctic states but a number of other states depends on it," he said.
Patrushev said some differences have emerged over development of the continental shelves that extend beyond Russia, Canada, Alaska, and other areas into the sea, but these differences can be resolved peacefully.
In 1969, the SS Manhattan sailed through the Northwest Passage to test whether oil could be shipped from the north coast of Alaska to Texas. The voyage of the U.S.-owned supertanker tested then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau because it raised the spectre of many more such voyages and, at some point, a major oil spill.
On Aug. 16, the Crystal Serenity begins a month-long voyage through the passage. The Chinese-owned cruise ship is the first large passenger vessel to take advantage of melting sea ice in Canada’s Arctic. Its voyage will test Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, because it raises the spectre of many more such voyages and, with them, serious safety, environmental and security concerns.
Given Putin’s threat, the Obama-Trudeau talks need to address the U.S.-Canada Northwest Passage dispute.
By Scott Borgerson & Michael Byers
Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in Washington Wednesday for a state visit with President Obama. Much has been made of Mr. Trudeau’s “movie star” good looks and liberal credentials. But top on the two men’s list of priorities should be a far less attractive subject: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his pivot toward the Arctic.
In addition to Mr. Putin’s military intervention in Syria’s civil war and his 2014 “annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimea region, he sees global warming as a benefit along Russia’s northern frontier and is realigning his country’s strategic priorities toward the Arctic.
Tensions with Russia provide a new reason for the U.S. to resolve the Northwest Passage dispute with Canada. Canada claims the channels between its Arctic islands that connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska are the country’s “internal waters.” The U.S. maintains that the waterway is an “international strait” through which ships and aircraft from all countries have a right of uninterrupted “transit passage.”
With the U.S. becoming more engaged on Arctic issues as a result of its chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council, and the Obama administration’s focus on climate change, this is an opportune time to address what has become a shared vulnerability to naval vessels from Russia and other unfriendly nations passing through the Northwest Passage, or terrorists and smugglers seeking to enter North America from there.
Jeannette Lee Falsey, Alaska Dispatch News, October 23, 2015
The only international forum devoted exclusively to the Arctic met in Anchorage this week to discuss everything from research drones to ocean acidification.
The meeting was the council's first under the current U.S. chairmanship and brought together representatives from eight Arctic nations as well as indigenous communities and observers with interests in the region.
The hype over the Arctic recedes, along with the summer ice
The Economist, January 31, 2015
THE Arctic is hot,” joked a Swedish diplomat in 2012. Not any more. In the past six months, the trends that had made it a centre of global attention have changed. It still matters, mainly for environmental reasons. But a surge of interest in its economy and politics has ebbed.
A faded, wind-torn Danish flag is mounted on the wall in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Raised on Hans Island by Danish troops, the flag was later taken down by Canadian soldiers — and mailed back to Copenhagen.