Arctic Council Handover to Norway Held Online Amidst Tensions with Russia
The handover of the Arctic Council presidency from Russia to Norway, which usually involves foreign ministers from member states, was conducted online this year amidst tensions between Western countries and Russia due to the Ukraine War.
The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body established in 1996 to promote environmental protection, has gone through its biggest existential crisis in recent years, with eight member countries suspending their participation in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a result, Western member states did not send representatives to the meetings hosted by Russia, and several studies were put on hold due to Russia’s data source blockade.
The Arctic Council is a rare platform for Russia to sit at the same table with Western states. Many experts are concerned that the Russia-Western tension may complicate the organization’s steps towards mitigating glacier melting, using mineral resources in the Arctic region, or determining new sea routes. Rasmus Gjedsso, a professor at Arctic University in Norway, stated that the tension poses a significant challenge for Norway, as member states must isolate Russia while avoiding their disbandment.
Polar security policy expert Dwayne Ryan Menezes acknowledged that the transfer of the presidency to Norway will not eliminate the forum’s crisis, but it can encourage close cooperation among the majority of the member states. As Norway takes on the leadership, observers wait to see how the country will navigate the current challenges and bring back the Arctic Council’s long-standing cooperation.