Staunton, June 23 – Russian analysts have long argued that East-West conflicts in the Arctic and Antarctic are deeply intertwined (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/east-west-conflicts-in-arctic-and.html). Now, with Moscow under increasing pressure in the north, one analyst says that to win there, Moscow must focus more attention on the Antarctic.
In a commentary for the Rex news agency, Bogdan Bezpalko is explicit: “in order to win in the Artic, Russia must struggle for the Antarctic” not only because of the enormous resources in both places but also because it has more potential allies in the southern polar regions than it now has in the north (iarex.ru/articles/86148.html).
To make a comeback in the Arctic and to expand its position in the Antarctic, Russia should promote a “Polar Summit,” one that would include many countries not in the Arctic Council but also many more who have interests in the Antarctic and its natural resources but not in the Arctic Ocean.
Among the countries in this category, Bezpalko lists Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and inevitably “others” as well.
(Other Russian commentators have suggested something similar but limited their proposals to coming up with an alternative to the Council in the north rather than expanding it to include the Antarctic (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/06/moscow-may-create-alternative-arctic.html).
Bezpalko’s proposal suggests that Moscow may very soon launch a diplomatic or at least propagandistic effort in this direction. And two of his comments suggest why the Kremlin is likely to be interested in pursuing efforts to form a Polar Summit.
On the one hand, he says that Antarctica’s enormous resources are far more accessible than those in the Arctic. And on the other – and this will be especially intriguing to Putin – Bezpalko notes that the southern continent is “the last space open for colonization and not divided among the leading countries.”
Under the 1959 international agreement, it is supposed to be open to all countries; but Bezpalko argues that that accord is now “a dead letter” and that Moscow should take advantage of that to win not only there but in the Arctic as well.