Elena Panina: the EU’s attempts to contain Russia in the Arctic will hit Europe itself

MOSCOW, 25 Oct 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

The new EU strategy adopted a few days ago regarding the Arctic region is anti-Russian in nature and is aimed at limiting our sovereignty in the Arctic. Brussels, following Washington, joined the fight for the Arctic, but, unlike the American bet on the militarisation of the region, decided to play the environmental card. In both cases, the true goals are the same — to get their hands on the colossal raw materials of the Arctic Ocean and weaken Russia in the most important strategic direction.

What immediately catches the eye in the EU’s “Arctic” strategy? Its peremptory tone. Brussels proclaims itself a key player in the region and declares that its full involvement in Arctic affairs is now a “geopolitical necessity”. But why on earth? At best, the EU could politely ask permission to involve in the Arctic affairs its three members which have possessions beyond the Arctic Circle – Denmark, Finland and Sweden. It has neither the strength nor the authority to influence the entire region.

It should be noted that the European Union has not yet even received observer status in the Arctic Council— a recognized international organisation uniting eight circumpolar states, including Russia. Now Brussels has decided not to stand on ceremony and act as if there is no Council at all. And immediately began to set conditions for sovereign states.

The first and main demand of the EU is a complete ban on the development of hydrocarbon reserves in the Arctic and … “adjacent regions”. Let’s note that the drafters of the strategy decided to not decipher this important addition, and it can be interpreted as one would like. If desired, for example, the Yamal Peninsula can be declared as the “adjacent region”, in the area of which our large gas reserves are concentrated. The second demand – a ban on the purchase of Arctic oil, gas and coal, if such deposits will still be developed – looks like an anti-market directive in some totalitarian state.

Such a dictate on the part of the EU, together with the build-up of NATO’s military presence in the region, is turning into a real challenge to Russia. After all, for our country, the Arctic is an extremely sensitive topic and a sphere of vital interests. Neither Brussels nor Washington can say that about it in this way.

What does the Arctic mean for Russia? This is the richest resource storeroom that needs to be preserved for future generations of Russians. This is a zone of strategic communications of the Northern Sea Route, which provides connectivity of the country and access to the inner regions of the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. The Northern Sea Route also acts as a transit alternative to traditional sea routes connecting Europe and the Asia-Pacific region — and this does not suit many in the West. And most importantly, the Arctic direction is key from the point of view of the national security of the Russian Federation: in the framework of the scenario of a possible nuclear conflict with NATO, it is precisely through the North Pole that intercontinental ballistic missiles will fly in both directions.

Therefore, for Russia, any foreign interference in the issues of our arrangement of the Arctic  Circle is unacceptable, including attempts to teach us what we have the right to do in our northern seas and what not. It is high time for the West to learn that at least half of the Arctic is an internal matter of Russia. This is exactly what Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club on October 21.

At the same time, attention is drawn to the cynical use of the climate agenda by the European Union in its claims to the region. It is going to “restrain Russia” in the Arctic, hiding behind environmental rhetoric.

It would be better if it took care of its coal generation, which is still higher in some EU countries than in Russia. Or the acceleration of the transition of the Old World to “carbon neutrality”, the real pace of which does not stand up to criticism. Or American plans to deploy military bases in the Arctic for a new army group — that’s who is, indeed capable of causing irreparable harm to the ecology of the region.

By the way, the EU’s peremptoriness may cause rejection not only in Moscow, but also, for example, in Oslo or Ottawa. I would like to remind you that Canada at one time blocked the attempts of the European Union to join the Arctic Council because of its ban on the import of products of indigenous peoples of the Arctic. And the Norwegians are unlikely to like the plans of the European Commission. All this brings the positions of Russia and a number of Council members closer together.

As for the EU’s threat to ban its countries from buying Arctic hydrocarbons, this will only lead to a new energy crisis in Europe – with shut downs of entreprises, closures of institutions, and children and the elderly freezing in unheated apartments. At the same time, officials from Brussels forget that the European market has not been premium for a long time and that there are enough potential buyers of Russian fuel in the world.

Thus, the adopted EU strategy in regard to the Arctic not only encroaches on Russia’s national interests, but also creates prerequisites for new economic crises in the West, which will then be felt by the whole planet.

Director of the RUSSTRAT Institute, Elena Panina

 

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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