In geopolitical terms, the Arctic is characterized by a number of unique features that set it apart from other regions. Its governance structures, the way Arctic states engage with one another, the way they tackle shared challenges and address disputes—all of these take a different form in the Arctic than they might elsewhere. But a major challenge to the Arctic status quo has emerged as a result of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, especially with its February 2022 invasion and the ongoing war there. As a result of that aggression, a host of countries joined together to implement a comprehensive sanctions regime and to isolate Moscow politically. That included the other Arctic states suspending participation in Arctic Council activities for the duration of Russia’s chairmanship of the organization. Effectively, engagement with Russia on everything from science and climate issues to Arctic search and Russia has ceased.
This raises important questions: Is the sort of engagement and cooperation that has characterized the Arctic for the past few decades still possible? If not now, will it be possible in the future? What are the long-term second- and third-order effects of halting engagement likely to be? And do the unique considerations in the Arctic region warrant an exception to the broader effort to punish and isolate Russia for its war in Ukraine?
To address these difficult questions, John Amble is joined on this episode of the MWI Podcast by Dr. Elizabeth Buchanan. The codirector of MWI’s Project 6633, an initiative focused on polar security, and a 1st Sea Lord Five Eyes fellow for the Royal Navy, she is also the author of a recently published book called Red Arctic: Russian Strategy Under Putin.
You can listen to the full conversation below, and if you aren’t already subscribed to the MWI Podcast, be sure to find it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. While you’re there, please take a moment and give the podcast a rating or leave a review.
Image credit: kremlin.ru, via Wikimedia Commons
Should matters relating to the Artic (and the Antarctic for that matter) be considered from the perspective of “imperialism?”
“Imperialism: State policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Because it always involves the use of power, whether military or economic or some subtler form, imperialism has often been considered morally reprehensible, and the term is frequently employed in international propaganda to denounce and discredit an opponent’s foreign policy. …
The third group of arguments has to do with strategy and security. Nations are urged, proponents of this viewpoint say, to obtain bases, strategic materials, buffer states, “natural” frontiers, and control of communication lines for reasons of security or to prevent other states from obtaining them. Those who deny the value of imperialism for these purposes point out that security is not thereby achieved. Expansion of a state’s control over territories and peoples beyond its borders is likely to lead to friction, hence insecurity, because the safety zones and spheres of influence of competing nations are bound to overlap sooner or later. Related to the security argument is the argument that nations are inevitably imperialistic in their natural search for power and prestige.”
(The definition above comes from "Britannica.")
And maybe with "imperialism" being seen within the larger context offered below by Margaret MacMillian in her International Affairs article “1914 and 2014: Should We be Worried?”:
The outbreak of the First World War remains a great historical puzzle and a source of concern, for if we do not understand how it came about we run the risk of stumbling into a similar catastrophe. This article draws parallels between the world of 1914 and the present. It starts with comfortable assumptions made by so many, then and now, that a major conflict was impossible or improbable and then looks at the paradox that globalization not only made the world more interdependent and linked, but also fostered intense local and national identities. It suggests factors that propelled Europe to war in 1914, including national rivalries, imperialism, the arms race and a shifting power balance between rising and declining powers, as well as ideologies and assumptions such as Social Darwinism and militarism, and points out that similar forces and ideas are present today. … "
Here is some information on imperialism in the Antarctic:
Antarctica has no indigenous population, and so there has been no domination and resistance of peoples as is usually associated with colonialism and imperialism. It is nevertheless possible to understand Antarctic territory as having been the object of imperial endeavors. Proposals for how to govern the continent as well as what is perceived the relevant international law to be applied to Antarctica have also reflected an imperial outlook. The history of interstate relations concerning the governance of Antarctica can be understood in terms of three waves of Antarctic imperialism: the first led by Spain, the second by Britain, and the third by the United States. Each was part of a broader imperial project. Viewing the history of Antarctica in imperial terms helps us recognize the relationships of power that have infused the geopolitics of Antarctica and relates it to the broader international political context in which Antarctic politics has necessarily been embedded.”
(See the 03 June 2019 Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism article: “Imperialism in Antarctica” by Shirley V. Scott.)
As to matters relating to the Artic — and Russia's (and indeed everyone else's) ambitions therein — consider the following from the article “Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North and Cold War Ideology,” by Dennis Bartels and Alice L. Bartel, in the Canadian Journal “Anthropologica,” Vol. 48, No. 2 (2006); therein, see Page 274:
"Northern Peoples After the Cold War:
Although we were aware in 1989 of some of the negative aspects of Soviet policy toward Northern Peoples, we feared that the introduction of the 'free market' would prove to be much worse than anything that had happened to them during the Soviet period with the exception of the Great Patriotic War. …
Unfortunately, our fears regarding the negative impact of the 'free market' on Northerners were realized. For example, according to a 1996 document released by the Russian Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the North and Far East:
‘Our native lands are being annexed and barbarically destroyed by rapacious petroleum and natural gas, coal, gold and non-ferrous mining interests without any for of just compensation … The transition to a market economy is characterized by a total breakdown of traditional economic activity and way of life, an uncontrolled growth of unemployment, impoverishment, life-threatening levels of crime and alcoholism.’ ”
Question — Based on the Above: As to the "imperialists" I discuss in my initial comment above, is anyone taking into consideration the devastating effect that "the market" — when combined with imperialistic competition — will have on the native populations?