The Arctic and geopolitical competition in the ‘ice desert’

The Arctic and geopolitical competition in the ‘ice desert’


The Arctic is the northernmost region of the Earth that surrounds the North Pole and whose name derives from the Greek arktos – name for bear –, in reference to the boreal constellation of the Big Dipper.

This geographical space includes the northern areas of eight countries, that is, Canada –Labrador–, Denmark –Greenland–, the United States (USA) –Alaska–, Finland –Lapland–, Iceland –its northern area–, Norway –Svalbard archipelago –, Russia –northern Siberia– and Sweden –Västerbotten and Norrbotten–.

The past three decades of peaceful cooperation between all of these have ended. During those years, the Arctic region was exempt from the geopolitics of competition between great powers and was a paradise of international cooperation, which aroused little global interest.

The Issues of concern among Arctic countries were, in the past, positive in nature and included, among others, scientific research, the safeguarding of the natural environment or the protection of the indigenous populations of the area.

These tasks were assigned to the Arctic Council (AC), since its creation almost three decades ago, in 1996, which includes not only the eight Arctic countries, but also representative organizations of indigenous peoples and thirteen countries without geographical links to the Arctic. Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic Council is an organization that was established for a time different from the current one. He concept of Greater Europe is outdated economicallyas can be seen in the fields of technology, energy, transport corridors or financial and payment instruments.

Likewise, politically, the eight Arctic countries will be seven members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plus the Russian Federation, once Sweden accedes to this security structure.

The combination of these economic and political factors will make the transition from Greater Europe to Greater Eurasia directly impact the policy that Russia will deploy towards the Arctic region, now that his two years, 2021-2023, as president of the AC have concluded.

The competition for the Arctic region is growing with the emergence of geopolitical interests in the area by the great powers and the reason why this area will be the scene of said rivalry is twofold.

On the one hand, Russia has identified abundant natural resources and is developing its own northern maritime route, less expensive and faster to navigate than traditional navigation alternatives, all within its territorial waters.

The United States has already declared both its objective, given this reality, of challenging that naval route and its ambition to control those natural resources.

On the other hand, relations between the West and Russia will continue to deteriorate, while Russia’s ties with the East are improving day by day.

So, The US is increasing its military deployment in the Arctic region and diplomacy around it is being undermined.

This trend is not temporary, since it predates the beginning of the current conflict in Ukraine, and has its origins in a confrontational speech that Mike Pompeo, former US Secretary of State, gave at an AC meeting in 2019.

Arctic fever is spreading and the region will become a space for tough and intense competition between great powers in the coming years.

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