On Thursday, Arctic countries vowed to combat global warming, which is three times higher in the Far North, and to keep the area peaceful as its strategic value grows, The Moscow Times reports.
As foreign ministers from countries bordering the Arctic met in Reykjavik, Iceland, they discussed accelerated global warming, untapped energy, new shipping routes opened up by retreating sea ice, and the future of local communities.
The comments were thinly veiled threats to China, which has made no secret of its interest in the vast territories rich in natural resources and where retreating sea ice has opened up new maritime routes, despite being only an observer on the Council.
After heated conversations leading up to Thursday’s meeting about the possibility of “militarization” of the Arctic, Blinken was unmistakably targeting Russia.
In recent years, Russia has gradually increased its military presence in the Arctic, reopening and modernizing a number of bases and airfields that had been closed since the end of the Soviet period.
However, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who took over as rotating chair of the Arctic Council from Iceland on Thursday, accused NATO of using a “play on words” to justify establishing a military presence on Russia’s doorstep.
According to Lavrov, deployments in Norway were referred to as a “rotational presence rather than a fixed presence” in order to avoid a deal between Russia and NATO.
During Russia’s two-year presidency of the Council, the Russian ambassador also stated that his country backed the concept of holding an Arctic summit.
Lavrov has also requested that monthly consultations between the chiefs of staff of the Council’s member countries be resumed.
After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has been barred from these sessions.
The Arctic Council was established 25 years ago to address concerns such as the environment and international cooperation, with military security specifically excluded from its mandate.