Home Patrol combatant The Arctic This Week Take Five: Week of October 25, 2021

The Arctic This Week Take Five: Week of October 25, 2021


Political tensions as Finland takes over presidency of Barents Euro-Arctic Council

October 26, The Independent Barents Observer indicated that Finland has now taken over the presidency of Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) of Norway for the period 2021-2023 following the biennial ministerial meeting of Barents Cooperation in Tromsø, in northern Norway, last week. The foreign ministers of the four countries of the Barents region, including Russia, Norway and Finland, were all present at the conference focused on cooperation in the territories of northern Europe, with the exception of the Sweden. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, who stayed in Stockholm to lead a seminar on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Senior representatives of the BEAC member states, Iceland, Denmark and the EU, were also present at the proceedings. (Eye on the Arctic, Yle)

Take 1: This conference represented Russia Minister of Foreign Affairs – Sergey Lavrov’s first visit to a NATO member country since the Kremlin announced just two weeks ago that it would suspend its diplomatic mission to NATO. Critical analysis of this development is therefore important, as Barents’ cooperation is one of the four main Arctic forums that can be considered essential to improve the very tense NATO-Russia relations. Despite NATO’s strong influence over the Nordic members of the BEAC, Russia still wants “close cooperation” with the northern European region. Russia also hopes to promote its political and diplomatic interests in the Arctic by securing the support of such platforms. The move from a Norwegian presidency to a Finnish presidency can be positive for Russia. The former BEAC President’s close practical engagement with NATO in the Barents region has been a source of tension for Russia; as a non-NATO member, Finland can potentially play the role of facilitator to increase dialogue between the West and Russia. Overall, after the Ukraine crisis in particular, Barents’ cooperation has become an important channel of dialogue between the Kremlin and the Nordic countries to build confidence and reduce tensions. As a pre-conference interview shows, “Barents’ Euro-Arctic cooperation is arguably the most successful multilateral cooperation format in northern Europe, as it demonstrates enduring immunity to changing political conditions.” (Mid.ru, Ruptly, TASS)

Norwegian Navy frigate reaches Svalbard

The Barents Observer reported on October 23 that Norway KNM Thor Heyerdahl arrived in Longyearbyen as part of their annual high-profile patrol of territorial waters around the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The KNM Thor Heyerdahl is the newest of the four Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates, the main combat units of the Norwegian Navy. (Barents Observer)

Take 2: The trip around the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen, highlights the growing presence of the Norwegian Navy in the region. As a representative of the Norwegian Navy commented, “We have not only the right, but also the duty to safeguard sovereignty in the territorial waters of Spitsbergen, Hopen and Bear Island.” This annual visit is a symbolic challenge to Russian geostrategic interests in the disputed area, and is part of what Russia sees as a Norwegian attempt to establish absolute national jurisdiction in the area. Russia’s grave dissatisfaction with these developments is expressed in a 2017 Russian National Security Assessment Report. In response, Russia has also increased its presence in the region. For example, in August, Severomorsk, the anti-submarine destroyer of the Russian Northern Fleet, sailed the west coast of Spitsbergen, while being careful to stay in international waters. In a nutshell, it is clear that Russia and Norway are fighting over the future of Svalbard. (Kommersant.ru, The Barents Observer)

Remotely piloted aircraft tested in the Canadian Arctic for the first time

October 27, Journal of National Defense reported that the MQ-9A Reaper, a new remotely piloted aircraft developed by General atomic for security and surveillance missions, had been successfully tested by the United States for operation in arctic conditions. The unmanned aircraft took off on September 7 in the Canadian Arctic, and returned a day later, on September 8, after successfully crossing the 78th parallel north for the first time. A new telecommunications and surveillance system called the L-band airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (LAISR) service designed especially for high latitudes by the Inmarsat Government was used to maintain connections with ground control stations during flight. (National Defense Magazine)

Take 3: With Russia increasing its military presence in the region, the United States understands the need to improve military technology for use in the Arctic. The MQ-9A Reaper has the potential to be used successfully by the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) as part of the recently released US Marine Corps General Defense Strategy (USMC) 2030. It can enable the United States to improve its operations specifically in the Arctic, allowing the tracking of Russian icebreakers, submarines and warships in the Arctic Ocean. This is important because the particularly harsh environmental conditions in the region made it almost impossible to collect important data safely through unmanned remote observation. The revolutionary capabilities of the MQ-9A aircraft, combined with the new technology of the LAISR observation system, will pave the way for future security and surveillance missions in the Arctic region. (Marines.mil)

New Norwegian Prime Minister criticizes EU proposal to ban Arctic oil and gas extraction

Jonas Gahr Støre, the new Prime Minister of Norway, criticized the European Commissionthe proposal to ban oil and gas projects in the Arctic, citing the importance of industry for the transition to a greener economy, The Financial Times reported October 25. Støre has vowed that his new government will continue to search for oil and gas in the Barents Sea. (The Arctic, The Financial Times)

Take 4: A conflict has arisen between the importance of oil and gas exports to the Norwegian economy and growing resistance from environmental groups such as Green peace, and Nature and youth, and the new EU proposal. However, Norway can potentially still emerge from the EU decision unscathed for some time due to the continued importance of natural gas in the EU’s energy portfolio, to which Norway contributes 20-25% of imports. total. Støre believes that Arctic oil development is necessary for Norway’s participation in the green transition, still aiming for a 55% reduction in net emissions by 2030, even if he maintains the oil and gas sector. This position is supported by Russia, which wishes to pursue its own oil ambitions in the Arctic. With the largely untapped Barents Sea accounting for up to half of Norway’s unexplored oil stocks, it will be difficult to force Norway to ban its Arctic oil exploration projects anytime soon. (BBC, Norwegian Petroleum, Regjeringen.no, TASS)

The permafrost problem in northern Sweden

This week, on October 25, an opinion poll was published in france24 and Phys.org on the impact of climate change on permafrost in the far north of Sweden. Author Johannes Ledel of AFP says climate change has increased global warming three times faster in northern Sweden compared to anywhere in the world. The region observes emissions of hydrogen sulfide with a distinct odor with methane, and as the permafrost melts it can add emissions to the atmosphere because the permafrost globally contains around 1.7 trillion tonnes of organic carbon – the double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Permafrost is a time bomb that makes the climate problem worse. (france24, Phys.org)

Take 5: The melting of permafrost is under study by researchers, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), permafrost melting will increase dramatically by 2100 if CO2 emissions are not reduced. This is concerning as towns in northern Sweden have observed cracks in buildings as the ground moves along with the underlying permafrost melting. 36,000 buildings, 1,200 establishments and people will be affected not only in the far north of Sweden, but throughout the Arctic region. It can also impact sewers, pipelines and pipelines. Overall, urgent action is needed if the world aims to limit the impact of climate change. As Rosqvist said, “You can no longer go wrong”, so decisive action is the need of the hour. “(France24, IPCC, Phys.org)

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