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Kommersant: Cold War-like tensions won’t freeze Russian-US cooperation in Arctic

10.05.2017 18:22

The Arctic remains one of the regions where Moscow and Washington continue to cooperate despite rocky bilateral relations, Kommersant writes. Fairbanks, Alaska, will host a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council on Thursday. Russia will be represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who left for Washington on Tuesday to hold talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his way to Alaska. The two top diplomats will discuss the bilateral agenda and pressing international issues, primarily Syria. In Fairbanks, they will focus on the Arctic region. US Deputy Assistant Secretary David Balton noted talking to Kommersant that, in spite of disagreements on other issues, the United States believes cooperation with Russia in the Arctic region has been productive.

Cooperation within the Arctic Council has not stopped Moscow and Washington from hurling mounting accusations at each other about attempts to militarize the region. Commandant of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, said on May 3 that Washington is concerned about Russia’s growing military presence in the Arctic region. In turn, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu noted a few days before that NATO is moving its infrastructure in the region towards Russia’s border.

Nevertheless, experts say that the risk of a serious conflict in the Arctic is rather low now. Paul Berkman, Professor of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told the paper that the Arctic region will prosper economically if peace persists there, and all Arctic Council member-countries realize that.

Finland, which will take over the Arctic Council's chairmanship after the Fairbanks meeting, likewise hopes goodwill would prevail in relations between Arctic regional countries. "So far, it has been possible to prevent conflicts in other parts of the world from spreading to the Arctic region. Common efforts should be aimed at preserving the Arctic as a low-conflict zone in the future," a source in the Finnish Foreign Ministry told the paper.