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Research Topics

Actors and patterns of cooperation and conflict
Russia, Norway and the High North - Past, Present, Future
The United States in the 21 Century Arctic
Defining an Interest: The European Union and the High North
The Power of Energy
Law of the Sea and Ocean Governance
Climate Change and Environmental Protection

Russia, Norway and the High North - past, present, future

Conference report: 12-13 April 2011, the Geopolitics in the High North programme arranged its second annual conference on regional cooperation in Murmansk, Russia. A number of researchers and experts met in Murmansk to discuss different dimensions of regional cooperation in the Arctic region.

The two-day conference was the second international conference organized under the research programme Geopolitics in the High North. Questions related to the following issues were discussed: Arctic strategies, energy developments, environmental governance and management of living resources, soft security, the Northwest and Northeast passages, and regional cooperation. The conference was a joint effort by Institute for Universal History of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IUH RAS), Moscow State Institute for International Affairs-University (MGIMO), Murmansk State Humanitarian University (MSHU) and the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS). It gathered participants and representatives from programme partners such as SWP in Berlin, FNI in Oslo, CSIS in Washington and University of Tromsø; as well ass associated institutions, including NUPI, Econ Pöyry and FFI in Norway. 


Arctic strategies

The first session highlighted different Arctic strategies. Lev Voronkov from MGIMO University talked about the main determinants of the Russian Arctic policy and its actors. He argued that reasons for confrontation has disappeared and hoped for increased regional cooperation based on the broad fields of common interest. Resources from the north play an important role to Russia’s continued development and Voronkov claimed that Russia’s military presence is related to national economic interests rather than international security conflicts. He hoped that the recently ratified and signed Russian-Norwegian delimitation line agreement would provide new impulses to the cooperation zone in the Barents Sea area.
Thereafter, Kristine Offerdal from IFS gave a comparative analysis of the different Arctic strategies. Overall, she found many similarities in the existing strategies for the region.  There are few diverging positions and little to indicate friction, she argued. However, she observed a dividing line between the coastal states on the one hand and the non-coastal states on the other hand. Coastal states to a larger extend emphasized sovereignty and security, whereas non-coastal states emphasized their rights as users of the region, such as freedom of navigation. Due to lack of specific sub-goals and the low conflict potential she asked if fear of being left out is a key driver for policy development among the actors.


Energy developments: Prospects and challenges  
Arild Moe, senior researcher from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, was the first speaker on this session. In his analysis of Russian Arctic offshore he found a discrepancy between ambitions and realities. There have been great expectations, but recently there has been little exploration activity and the companies in charge face a number of challenges, he argued. On the implications of the delimitation line Moe asked if we can see differences in time schedule of exploration on the Norwegian and Russian side.
The second speaker on this panel was Fiodor D. Larichkin, director from the GP Luzin Institute of Economy of the Kola scientific center of the Russian Academy of sciences (RAS). Larichkin touched upon different perspectives of the exploration of High North and Arctic mineral and energy resources and he argued for the need for a strategy on integrated resource management in the region.
Valeriy Kryukov from the Siberian Branch of RAS and State University “Higher School of economics” was the final speaker on the session. He addressed social-economic implications of the Arctic oil and gas resources development. He claimed that the Shtokman field originally was explored to contribute to development in Murmansk and other northern regions of Russia. However, there is need for modernization on specific issues related to socio-economic development, such as institutions, agendas and structure. Kryukov also argued that indigenous peoples should have the right to participate in relevant processes and also to claim compensation on loss from energy companies.


Environmental governance and the management of living resources 
The topic of the third panel was environmental governance and the management of living resources. The first presentation was given by Olav S. Stokke from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, who argued the need for a strengthened institutional interplay and multilevel governance for the Arctic region. This should include sub-regional as well as extra-regional institutions, and the Arctic Council could support such a dynamic interplay, in Stokke’s view.
The second presentation was given by Prof. Vladimir V. Denisov on behalf of himself, Director Matishov, Prof. Dzheniuk and Research Fellow Mr Ilyin, all from the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute. In the presentation, Denisov pointed to the human impact on marine ecosystems and argued for an eco-system based management approach based on multi-sectoral orientation and functioning zoning of the Barents Sea due to marine spatial planning.
Dr Carsten Schymik from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) was the final participant on the panel. He asked what role the EU plays in Arctic fisheries. Due to EU’s low account of Arctic catches combined with its large market for fish Schymik argued that the EU has limited influence via catch regimes, but that it could have increased influence via its trade regimes.


Soft security in the Arctic  
The fourth session raised question about different aspects of soft security. Mr Kolomichev held the EMERCOM presentation. He gave an informal talk on the organisation of search and rescue in the Barents Sea. He pointed to the importance of good S&R infrastructure and described the system of which the Murmansk S&R coordination center functions.
Professor Alexey V. Marchenko from the Institute for General Physics, RAS, gave a presentation on prospects for ice melting in the Arctic and the implications for maritime activity. He described the changes in summer and winter ice, touched upon implications for S&R stations and also argued for increased ice management close to offshore platforms and improved sea-maps to avoid of ship-ice incidents.
The final speaker of the first day was Associate Professor Paal S. Hilde from IFS. He asked whether the Arctic states are well prepared for the soft security challenges in the region. Based on the special climate and geographical conditions in the Arctic that raises risks to maritime activity he argued the international community’s preparedness on a governance level but not in terms of capabilities. Hilde argued that the Arctic states are doing well on the governance level with established institutional and legal framework – a framework consisting of multiple levels. On capabilities the picture is bleaker as Arctic states need increased suitable capabilities in the Arctic.


Mur_img5The Northwest and Northeast passages 
This session held two presentations on the aspects of utilisation of the two passages. Professor Emeritus Franklyn Griffiths from the University of Toronto gave the first presentation. In his view, the two passages should be governed as thought they were international straits. As transit voyages he analysed similarities and differences between the two passages based on physical data, administrative handling, political handling and legal issues. Griffiths argued that Canada and Russia could look towards a common frame for governing the straits not as national waters but as international straits to settle issues with the US, reduce irritancy and potential for friction and set a model for increased stability and safety in the region.
Mr Babich from Atomflot in Murmansk gave a presentation of the need for the fleet of atomic icebreakers on the Northern Sea Route. To operate in an environment that according to Babich remains and will remain very harsh, Russia will need icebreakers that are powerful and efficient. Babich saw the nuclear icebreakers as key for operation in the entire Northern Sea Route and hence to Russian economic interests.

Mur_img6Regional cooperation in the High North  
The introduction of Mr Konovalov from the Ministry of regional development was given by a member of the Organisational committee/Mr. Voronkov. According to a forthcoming new Russian Arctic development programme Russia will work to create a framework for improving e.g. the local communities and sustainable growth. In this effort cross-border cooperation on e.g search and rescue, emergency response and overall regional cooperation in terms of energy, ecological and economical sustainability is welcome.
The second presentation on this final session was given by Mr Thomas Nilsen from the Barents Observer and the Barents Secretariat. He highlighted the success and the remaining challenges of regional soft security cooperation based on the case of Russian and Norwegian cooperation. In Nilsen’s view the bilateral cooperation has been a success story, based on common interests and cooperation in fields like culture, education, indigenous peoples, business and media. However, there are also some challenges to handle, such as e.g. visa policies and business, in this that could function as a model for regional cooperation in other areas.
In connection with the conference several workshops were arranged, including one for work package leaders.

The conference programme English version and Russian version.

The conference is a joint-effort by

as part of the Geopolitics in the High North international research programme.



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Norwegian Institute for defence Studies CSIS Fritjof Nansen Institute Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik University of Tromsø Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the MFA of Russia University of Oslo Institute of general history Norwegian Defence Research Establishment Econ Pöyry
  The GeoPolitics in the High North research programme is now terminated, and the programme website will be preserved through 2016, but not updated.
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