Saturday, June 10, 2023

Will Rare Environmentalist Victory on Wrangel Island Survive Demise of Greenpeace Russia?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – Earlier this year, Russian environmentalists led by Greenpeace Russia won an important victory when their protests prompted the Russian natural resources ministry to back away from plans to drop restrictions on expanded military and commercial activities on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Sea.

            Activists warned that if the Arctic island were to lose its protected status, that would put at risk the survival of various rare species, including polar bears, who have long made their home there (

            But because both the Russian military and Russian commercial interests want to expand their presence on the Wrangel Island, it is now an open question as to whether the ministry’s  decision will be allowed to stand. Indeed, it is even possible that it was that decision and Greenpeace’s role in it that prompted the Kremlin to move against the organization.

            For many pro-Kremlin Russians, militarizing the Wrangel Island is an important goal both because they want to reverse the 1990 US-Soviet understanding on sea borders in the Arctic and also because they fear the US, all of Washington’s denials notwithstanding, wants to seize this territory.

            At the end of last year, those fears were stoked by an article in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the US should seek the return of Wrangel Island ( and


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