Nikolai Korchunov: It is important to have constructive cooperation in the Arctic Council
The Russian Government has to take into account the growth of potential Arctic threats in its military planning, said Nikolai Korchunov, Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation at the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Senior Arctic Official of the Russian Federation at the Arctic Council.
“We can see such signs of growing military and political tensions in the region and increased activity of NATO forces, primarily from non-Arctic countries. It puts us on alert. Naturally, we are forced to take this into account in our military planning in the Arctic area,” said Nikolai Korchunov during a roundtable discussion organized by Rossiya Segodnya.
He also pointed out that Moscow stands for more active military contacts between the Arctic countries to reduce potential risks.
“The risk of an arms race should not be underestimated. It is important here to expand constructive cooperation in the Arctic Council to the military-political sphere as well. Russia is prepared for the relevant multilateral contacts on military affairs, which would be aimed at reducing tensions and preventing conflicts, misunderstandings and an incorrect evaluation of military capabilities,” noted Nikolai Korchunov.
The ambassador added that regretfully not all Arctic partners share this point of view. In his opinion, there are two possible scenarios.
“Either de-escalation – readiness for a dialogue and rejection of accusatory rhetoric – or a road to escalation, when countries show no readiness for a multilateral dialogue and when countries use accusatory rhetoric, fanning up information confrontation,” said Nikolai Korchunov.
He stressed the constructive nature of the dialogue with the United States within the Arctic Council.
“I want to underscore the very constructive relations with our US colleagues at the Arctic Council. And, above all, I want to point out the working relations that I have with Meredith Rubin, Senior Arctic Official of the United States,” stated the ambassador.
To his mind, Russia and the United States have a good understanding of the problems that the Arctic region is facing. Both parties are also interested in cooperation on climate change issues in the region.
“We will interact hand in glove with our American colleagues on all such problems, including permafrost retreat, gas hydrates issues and other matters related to climate change,” he said.
According to Nikolai Korchunov, the new US administration’s policy of advancing the climate agenda is favorably reflected in the interaction at the Arctic Council.
“The United States returned to the Paris Climate Agreement, joined by all other Arctic Council countries, which facilitated the rapprochement of their positions on climate issues. And the climate changes occurring in the Arctic are very important for Russia in terms of the consequences and risks that they entail,” emphasized the diplomat.