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Good neighborhood rules
"The Arctic is our common interest with Iceland"
- Anton Vsevolodovich, did you get the impression that this year at the Arctic Circle forum the climate has changed: the participants talked more about the problems of global warming, avoiding economic issues affecting sanctions against Russia?
The countries located in the Arctic zone have common tasks: ensuring the sovereignty of states, finding the right balance of interests between the economic development of the Arctic and the preservation of unique ecological systems, as well as the interests of the indigenous people who live there. We are interested in scientific cooperation. We have a common understanding that, on its own, on a market basis, the Arctic will not develop, it will definitely need the support of central governments. Such things are reflected in the strategies of all the Arctic states, as well as the fact that each of these countries can achieve their goals in the Arctic only in close cooperation with partners in the region. That is why the difficulties that arise in other regions of the world have practically no effect on the Arctic.
- You have long been engaged in international arctic cooperation, representing Russia in the Arctic Council. What international projects in the Arctic have been implemented in recent years?
- At the initiative of Russia, two pan-arctic agreements were signed (and implemented): “Agreement on cooperation in aviation and maritime search and rescue in the Arctic”, “Agreement on cooperation in the field of readiness and response to oil pollution in the Arctic”. These are two major projects. We are currently negotiating the development of methods to strengthen scientific cooperation in the Arctic, to create methods for preventing oil spills. The Arctic Council is mainly engaged in research and practical projects. In this regard, a lot of work has been done since its inception. In 2004, perhaps the most important Arctic project “Assessing Climate Change in the Arctic” was developed - a comprehensive scientific report in which Russia took an active part. It contained an analysis, trends, and, most importantly, an impact assessment, as well as a number of practical recommendations. The activities of the Arctic Council are still based on joint developments in the areas of oil and gas development, transportation, and the preservation of flora and fauna. Recently, the Arctic Economic Council was created under the auspices of the Arctic Council. All our work is reflected on the website of the Arctic Council.
- Why are the Arctic states actively cooperating with each other, and the Arctic divisions between the regions have not yet been defined?
- In the pursuit of the reader in the press, it is often written that the Arctic is a zone of conflict of interests. In fact, it is in the Arctic that problems become less and less. I mean the problems of territorial delimitation between states. We have positive examples of solving these issues. Thus, the Treaty between Russia and Norway on the delimitation of maritime areas and cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, signed in 2010, determined after 40 years of negotiations the line of delineation of maritime areas in the Barents Sea and further to the North Pole. Canada and the USA 1,5 years ago agreed on the line of the border between them in the Lincoln Sea - between Greenland and Canada - and further to the North Pole. They have only the question of the ownership of the island of Hans. For the time being, the dispute between Canada and the USA about delineations in the Beaufort Sea remains unresolved. But this is also a matter of time.
- Now they talk a lot about Russia's arms buildup in the Arctic. Why do we need to arm?
In addition, stations for electronic surveillance of the Arctic expanses and entire military towns were abandoned since Soviet times. And it's great that, for example, now life on the Novosibirsk islands begins to boil. Aerodromes are being restored. This is vitally important for us, because we are going to the Arctic seriously and for a long time.
- At the forum, we saw that the Chinese are interested in the Arctic, as well as the Singaporeans. Are they also going to dictate the rules of the game?
- In the Arctic, we assume that all the basic rules of the game should be established by the Arctic states. If they are observed by other non-Arctic countries, we are naturally interested in cooperating with them, because in the Arctic there are harsh climatic conditions and it is difficult and expensive to master it alone (for example, to extract minerals). They objectively need the cooperation of many states: we conclude contracts with the Americans, the French, and the Chinese. This is the call of time, and economic and technological necessity.
- The countries of the Asia-Pacific region are probably interested primarily in the Northern Sea Route (NSR)?
- Of course. We are also interested in SMPs in order to receive direct and indirect income from its use. This year, however, was an exception when there was a decline in transit traffic, but the general trend is to increase. This year, because of the ice conditions, later navigation began. In addition, we introduced a new tariff regulation for maintenance - icebreaker wiring by our vessels. And it is required to bring this system to normal, smooth out all the roughness.
- If you go back to business relations in the Arctic, then only lazy does not mean that ExxonMobil has broken off cooperation with Rosneft. Do you think new international contracts will be signed soon?
- I think these difficulties are temporary, common sense should prevail and new contracts will, of course, be signed and implemented. The resources of the Arctic are economically very attractive. This is indicated by the latest "high-profile" discoveries of our companies, in particular, Rosneft. Cooperation will continue, but only on condition that Russia does not become the object of unfair competition: sometimes, in my opinion, behind external politicized problems lies the calculation of the gain in economic competition.
Russia did not and will not compromise with its economic and political interests, especially in the Arctic. The Arctic is in many ways a unique region that can give 100 points ahead to many other regions, and in our interests this positive and constructive, which is there, protect and develop.
- The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), from all northern Russian regions, conducts many Arctic initiatives. Why?
- You are in Iceland for half a year already. How are you going to position Russia?
- Iceland with Russia is associated with decades of good, friendly relations. Russia established diplomatic relations with Iceland six months before the declaration of the final independence of this country (17 June 1944 - approx. red.). We have always helped Iceland in difficult times. Say, in the 1950s, when the so-called “cod war” broke out between Iceland and Great Britain (Great Britain imposed sanctions on Iceland, ceasing to handle Icelandic ships in its ports), Russia came to the rescue, began to buy fish in Iceland. From here went the famous "Icelandic herring." By the way, in 1950-s. Our country supplied cars here. Fans of the Russian car industry still remain. I recently saw the letters "UAZ" on the tuned car - bright red on a beige background. Someone bought our "UAZ", brought to mind and proudly travels around the country! The country is very beautiful: despite the fact that it is one big volcano, here is an amazing nature. Iceland is a small country where 328 thousand people live, nevertheless it is a country that was considered up to 2008 of the year as the first country in the world for the general quality of life, including all sorts of indicators - education, climate, safety, medical care, etc. After the crisis, 2008, she lost a little in the ranking, but is now recovering position. More and more of our tourists visit Iceland, in 2014 there will be 8 thousand people.
Our common interest with Iceland is the Arctic. Icelanders are trying to use the changes (the melting of the ice, the opening of the NSR) that occur in the Arctic zone to their advantage. This was often said at the past Arctic Circle forum. Thus, Iceland’s role in international Arctic policy is increasing. Icelanders understand us. Iceland became the first country with which Russia signed a political Joint Statement on Arctic Cooperation in 2011.
Icelanders know and love Russian culture - this is a large and promising area of cooperation. So, recently the tour of E. Kissin triumphantly, the second week of Russian cinema in Iceland, which was just finished, attracted considerable interest.
In the current situation, I can say that Iceland, among other NATO countries, is taking a relatively reserved position in connection with the events in Ukraine. By the way, Iceland is one of the few countries in the world that does not have its own armed forces.