Thursday, March 24, 2022

Putin’s War in Ukraine Kills Off Moscow’s Ambitious Plans for Its Chairmanship of Arctic Council

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 18 – In response to Putin’s war in Ukraine, all seven other members of the Arctic Council have suspended their cooperation with Russia that currently is chairman of that body, thus at a minimum postponing and more likely killing off the ambitious plans that Moscow had made for its time as chairman in office.

            Even before it assumed the chairmanship in 2021, the Russian government had signaled its intention to expand the Council’s secretariat to cement its influence there, to seek Western aid to recover nuclear waste left by the Soviets, and to add a security component to that body’s deliberations (

            And when Russia became chairman, Russian officials further indicated that Moscow wanted to reduce the role of NGOs in the work of the Council, including those which represent the indigenous populations of the Far North, while boosting that of governments (

            But in the wake of Putin’s massive invasion of Ukraine, all seven other members of the Council have denounced Moscow for the war and announced said that they will not send representatives to any meeting of that body in Russia in the future (           

In a joint declaration, the seven have “condemned Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and note the grave impediments to international cooperation, including in the Arctic that Russia’s actions have caused” and that they are suspending their participation in all meetings of the council for the time being.

            This is only one of the ways in which Putin’s war has “put in jeopardy” Moscow’s expansive aspirations in the Arctic – others include sanctions against Russian banks and shipping companies – and made it very unlikely that the Russian government will be able to realize its goals in that area (

            It is even possible that the United Nations won’t approve the Kremlin’s demand for recognition of large parts of the Arctic Ocean as being part of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation, something Moscow has been seeking and thought it was close to achieving ( and

            Even before Putin’s new invasion, Russian officials had suggested that in the event the UN did not approve Russia’s claim, Moscow should act unilaterally; and that has become more rather than less likely (

            At the same time, Russian experts and officials are considering how to work around sanctions against Moscow in the Arctic and even how to end run the Arctic Council’s protest ( But it is unclear how effective such efforts will be even with the help of China, which is not a member of the Council.

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