Staunton, July 20 – In the past, Moscow’s actions in the Arctic Council have been directed as one would expect of its role in an international organization by the foreign ministry. But this week, the Russian government has handed that responsibility off to the Ministry for the Far East and Arctic Affairs.
That makes the ministry and its head Aleksey Chekunkov especially and unusually important given that for the next two years, Russia will occupy the chairmanship of that group which includes representatives from Arctic powers and observers who have interests in that region (indigenous-russia.com/archives/13298).
If the conference at which this change was declared, the ministry’s new role also means that representatives of the non-Russian republics of the North will play a larger role, something that will bring Russia into line with the other Arctic powers where representatives of ethnic minorities already play a major one.
And in an indication that the handoff of responsibility from the foreign ministry to the Ministry for the Far East and Arctic Affairs is not simply symbolic, the deputy minister for Far Eastern and Arctic affairs, Mikhail Pogodayev, has been named Russia’s special representative to the Arctic Council (indigenous-russia.com/archives/13398).
He and not a diplomat from the foreign ministry will thus be involved in the day-to-day activities of the Council and undoubtedly ensure that Chekunkov’s ministry will have a larger voice in decisions there than ever before. At the conference, it was stressed that these changes have the support of the Russian foreign ministry.