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Good neighborhood rules

"The Arctic is our common interest with Iceland"

Good neighborhood rules

How to resolve disputes between the Arctic states, why, contrary to idle opinion, the northern territories have less and less problems and what is the role of the herring in Russian-Icelandic relations - the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Iceland Anton Vasiliev told

- 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?

- It was not possible to bypass these acute angles. The US Special Representative for the Arctic and the former US Coast Guard Commander, Admiral Robert Papp, pragmatically responded to the question of whether Russian sanctions affect Ukraine's positions and relations with Russia in the Arctic, sanctions sanctions, and cooperation with our country in Arctic affairs should continue. The reason is simple. The Arctic region consists of 8 states that face real problems and opportunities stemming from climate change, changing the political situation, developing technologies that can only be solved and mastered through joint efforts. Each Arctic state has its own regional strategy. Along with the "Fundamentals of the state policy of Russia in the Arctic to 2020 and the future" (approved in 2008), Russia has developed a state program for the socio-economic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2020.

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.

What is usually hinted at in the media when talking about disputes is the question of our application for the extension of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean and similar applications from Canada and Denmark. In 2001, we were not satisfied with the application, saying that there was not enough scientific justification. We have done a lot of research work during this time and are preparing an updated application. The same is done by both the Danes and Canadians. And since no formal applications have yet been made, it is difficult to talk about contradictions. On this score, there is a general political agreement. In 2008, a declaration was signed between the 5 Arctic states in the Greenlandic Ilulisate, the key point of which is that possible cross-cutting demands in the Arctic between these countries should be resolved through negotiations on the basis of the existing international legal framework. And the main element of the base is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 year. While all states are true to this agreement and observe it.

- Now they talk a lot about Russia's arms buildup in the Arctic. Why do we need to arm?

- The problem in the Arctic is not that there is a lot of weapons there, rather, on the contrary. Today, almost all Arctic countries pay attention to their military presence. For us, this is a very important issue, as expanding human activity, strengthening maritime and aviation activities create new potential threats. In these conditions, we simply need to protect our borders. Imagine, our border in the north, along the Arctic Ocean, is about 10 thousand kilometers, and if you count all the curves, then this line is 20 thousand kilometers. Previously, they were covered by a harsh climate and ice. Now the climate is changing, the ice melts, we remain open. And open borders are the danger and drug trafficking, and organized crime, and terrorism. Therefore, it is logical that we cover this Arctic space with appropriate means and radar tracking of the cover, and respond to accidents and emergencies. Except for some extreme extremist statements in print media and scientists, everything we do in the Arctic in this regard does not cause controversy.

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.

When it comes to large-scale transportation, the north remains north, and for a long time it will take ice wiring just to ensure the safety of navigation. The farther you go from shore, the deeper, but the farther from the infrastructure - that means the more time it takes rescuers or other services to assist in a difficult situation. In accordance with our program for the development of the Arctic, we are taking steps to develop the Northern Sea Route from the point of view of ensuring the safety of navigation. So, until the end of 2015 year all the way from Murmansk to Anadyr we are going to build 10 well-equipped monitoring and coordination points of search and rescue. Such stations have already opened in Dixon, in Arkhangelsk, in Naryan-Mar. The service infrastructure of the NSR is, of course, not sufficiently developed, but some of its basic contours already appear. The situation in the Arctic Ocean is very complicated. Sometimes it's simplistic to argue like this: the ice has melted, you can swim. However, even melted ice sometimes poses a greater threat to the safety of ships than does not melt, because underwater icebergs, which are not visible under water, are often one of the causes of catastrophes.

- 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?

- Yakutia, as a region that has been the chairman of the Northern Forum for three years, has been pursuing an active Arctic policy. A significant part of the republic, including the Oimyakon cold pole, is located in the Arctic. The Northern Forum is a self-organization of the northern regions of the Arctic countries. It has its own life, its projects, its cooperation, which is aimed at simplifying contacts between the leaders of the regions and at implementing projects that contribute to improving the social and economic conditions of the North. In this regard, Yakutia has a whole range of interesting projects, both large and small. These projects we - I mean the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation - help her put into practice.

- 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.

The basis of our relationship with Iceland is its export of fish, which is a high-quality product. Of the 230 million dollars in bilateral trade, about 180 million dollars falls on fish exports. However, there are other interesting things. Recently, Icelandic meat, such as lamb, has become popular in Moscow stores. Icelandic meat is a rather expensive product, but high quality. Iceland is an island, the soil is specific, very thin, fertilizers are not used. Sheep graze, I have seen many times, in wild pastures. And the technology of meat processing - the latest technology. Icelandic meat was tasted in Russia and even recently organized - the embassy helped with this - delivering chilled lamb to Moscow on airplanes.

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.

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