A few years ago, experts came together to discuss potential scenarios for the Arctic. They discussed what the Arctic would look like in 50 years in the face of climate change and intensified resource development.
The experts developed several scenarios, ranging from a race by countries to extract natural resources to armed military conflict, from protecting the Arctic for its natural wonders to a vision of sustainable development that brought economic wealth to local peoples. After Russia planted its flag on the North Pole, news outlets trumpeted the likelihood of a new “cold war” with conflict brewing in the Arctic.
This week, Russia held a conference to try to dispel this myth. The conference, called “The Arctic: A Territory of Dialogue,” Diplomats and scientists from around the Arctic talked about the importance of working together to address the challenges facing the Arctic. Speeches by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson provided an official air to the discussion.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the conference by the Russian Geographic Society, which organized and hosted the event. In many ways, the conference was organized to showcase Russia’s long-term commitment to exploration and research of the Arctic. Although hosted by Sergei Shoigu – Russia’s Minister for Emergency Situations and the President of the Russian Geographic Society – the most visible participant was Artur Chilingarov, Russia’s colorful Arctic explorer who planted the Russian flag on the bottom of the North Pole. (more…)