168 Scramble for the North Pole
The Arctic and the Antarctic are privileged locations for observers interested in understanding how our world is shaped by the forces of nature and the workings of history. These areas have inspired countless humans to undertake epic expeditions of discov
2023, Chris Marquardt
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showThis episode is a joint production of Curiously Polar and [Polar Geopolitics](http://www.polargeopolitics.com). Joining today are [Klaus Dodds](https://pure.royalholloway.ac.uk/en/persons/klaus-dodds), Professor for Geopolitics and Executive Dean for the School of Life Sciences and Environment at Royal Holloway, and [Eric Paglia](https://www.kth.se/profile/paglia), postdoctoral researcher in the SPHERE project at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and producer and program host of the podcast Polar Geopolitics.
**SCRAMBLE FOR THE NORTH POLE**
Not only since 2007, when [a submersible planted the Russian flag](https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/russias-new-claim-to-north-pole-puts-pressure-on-canada-expert-says/article25838454/) at the North Pole, the question of who owns the North Pole are a widespread topic discussed in several media outlets around the globe. With a [large portion of its claim scientifically sound and confirmed](https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2019/04/russia-scores-scientific-point-quest-extended-arctic-continental-shelf) by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, a new [scramble for the North Pole](https://www.wiley.com/en-us/The+Scramble+for+the+Poles%3A+The+Geopolitics+of+the+Arctic+and+Antarctic-p-9780745652450) has set in. But where does this interest come from and [what are the implications of it](http://www.natureandcultures.net/arctic-geopolitics.html), particularly with the Russian war on Ukraine and the resulting [political isolation of Russia](https://bit.ly/3oft6AI) on the world stage? How will the [Arctic Council](https://arctic-council.org) as intergovernmental forum for circumpolar cooperation [develop in the future](https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/commentary/from-russia-to-norway-three-scenarios-for-the-arctic-councils-future-after-the-chairmanship-handover/) and how will the claims of different Arctic states effect the work in the Arctic Council? We discuss these and other questions together with Eric Paglia and our guest, Professor Klaus Dodds.
You can find Klaus Dodds’ latest book ‘Border Wars’ [here](https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/438930/border-wars-by-klaus-dodds/9781529102611) and an overview over a selection of his other books [here](https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/53759.Klaus_Dodds).
Please consider to check out Eric Paglia’s podcast [Polar Geopolitics](http://www.polargeopolitics.com) and [send us your questions or feedback](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) to todays episode.notes
This is an episode of the Curiously Polar podcast
Chris Marquardt https://chrismarquardt.com/
Henry Páll Wulff: https://henrypall.com/
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[0:00] It is May the 18th, 2023, and you are listening to a very special episode of Curiously Polar, the podcast about all things very north and very south.
[0:16] Welcome to Curiously Polar, I'm Chris, and I'm here with my co-hosts, Henry and Mario.
If you're watching this on video, you can also see that there's more than just the three of us.
We're excited to bring you a very special episode, a collaboration with the Polar Geopolitics Podcast.
Joining us are two voices in the study of polar geopolitics and environmental governance.
First, we have Professor Klaus Dodds, the Executive Dean of the School of Life Sciences and Environment, at Royal Holloway, University of London, and also Eric Paglia, a postdoc fellow in the SPHERE project, investigating the evolution of global environmental governance.
And he's also the host of the Polar Geopolitics podcast.
Let's get right into it. Let me hand this over to Henry. Henry, take it away from here.
Thanks, Chris, and welcome, everyone, as well, from my site.
It's really nice to have you on the podcast.
I'm a big, big fan of polar geopolitics, and I'm so, so happy that we finally managed to have a joined episode here.
Professor Dotz, welcome on the show, and I would love to introduce you a little bit more.
[1:22] In detail, hands over to you. Yes, hello, good afternoon, really, really great to be with you.
And my name is Klaus Dodds and I work in the field of polar geopolitics and for the last 30 years I've been going up north and up down south and really had the pleasure and privilege of working, with lots of interested stakeholders who care very deeply about the current and future state of the polar regions. Thanks a lot, thanks a lot Professor Dutt. Eric, also welcome to you, welcome to our show. You want to introduce yourself as well? Yeah, I think Chris did a good job of just basically saying I'm a researcher at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment at KTH in Stockholm, KTH Royal Institute of Technology. I've been hosting the Polar Geopolitics Podcast since 2018. I think it's just a fabulous idea that you came up with here, Henry to join forces here for this episode and speak to Klaus, who's a recurring guest on Polar Geopolitics. And also, I got to say that for this particular topic, I think I.
[2:29] Was first introduced to these issues surrounding the extended continental shelf by Klaus, a lecture that you gave at KTH when I was a PhD student, probably 10 years ago, maybe even further back, maybe 12 years ago. And it was a real eye-opening presentation. And And it's fantastic that we can talk about this particular subject on this episode here.
[2:54] Absolutely, and for me it's really interesting. I'm a big, big fan of geopolitics, just following it around. And as our podcast is not really that kind of a niche podcast at Polar Geopolitics, it's really difficult to have that expertise on the show on a regular base. We try to tackle it every now and then. So let's start and talk a little bit about the North Pole or the scramble for the pole and when we want to talk about the scramble of the pole we have to talk a little bit about the setting as well or just give a little glimpse to it.
And when we see the central arctic ocean with an area of roughly 3.3 million square kilometres that includes the north pole which is technically 4261 metres below the surface.
[3:44] It's on the bottom of the basin over there. So that's a very inaccessible spot, if you like, unlike the South Pole. So there's a major difference there.
And when we talk about the scramble of the pole, the territorial claims of the North Pole, that makes things really difficult if it's not a landmass you actually can access on an easy base.
Professor Dots, would you say that the 2007 Russian expedition to the North Pole, where the submarine actually planned it, that flag at the bottom of the ocean, has put the North Pole on the general map of the general audience? Yeah, I mean I think there's no question that when that image was released to the world's media that it then ushered in a very different kind of conversation about the sort of North Pole Central Arctic Ocean and that's where, for example, leading media organisations like BBC News framed this apparent event as a new scramble for the Poles. And I think I would just say two things right at the start. First of all, it's not the first time we've had so-called scrambles for the Poles. So, whether we're looking north or looking south, depending on our starting point.
[5:10] We've had previous scrambles and obviously there'll be lots of people listening to this show who'll be familiar with other kinds of scrambles as well that go beyond the polar regions but I think it was really striking that that framing was alighted upon initially to make sense of it but then when you dig into the details it's a complicated story it's the the submersibles that could descend gently to the bottom of the Central Arctic Ocean are part of an oceanographic expedition and we'll get on to why they were there I'm sure later on.
But it was also partially funded by a Swedish billionaire who was also very, very passionate about the polar regions. So it has this curious public-private mix to it.
It's not an exclusively Russian show, but nonetheless what audiences see is a Russian flag.
[6:05] Or titanium Russian flagpole planted at the bottom of the Central Arctic Ocean.
The second thing to just to bear in mind is that the image itself also makes a difference in in the sense of what is depicted. Imagine just for a minute as a thought experiment that image of a Russian flag was replaced by a flag of the United Nations or perhaps a flag of a smaller Arctic state such as Iceland for example, then that might be a very different matter. We might think, well, that's a source of amusement. Or we might say, well, that's interesting. I never knew the Central Arctic Ocean might be international waters. But why did it matter? And this is the bit I'll sort of conclude in terms of my opening remarks. It mattered partly because of timing. In 2007, the rhetoric coming from President Putin in particular was decidedly chillier, if you excuse the pun, we had a real sense that that relationship with Russia was changing.
[7:12] And I think, speaking now in 2023, given everything we know, there was probably something here that would give us pause for thought about whether we were witnessing the start of a more expansionist Russian Federation. But it was not only that the climate was chilling down between Russia and the The timing was also in regards to the claim itself, because Russia joined the convention on the seas in 1997.
And as far as I understood, the claim can only be done within 10 years of ratifying the convention. Is that right?
[7:58] Yes, so it's worth saying that actually the first Russian submission, technical submission, regarding what Outer Continental Shelf claims was actually made in 2001.
So what you witnessed in 2007 was Russia seeking to expand upon and improve upon a submission that it made some six-odd years earlier.
And it's important to give, again, sort of the audience context here.
What Russia was engaged in in 2007 was an entirely legal process.
So the Law of the Sea Convention, which is effectively the blueprint for how we govern and manage the world's oceans and seas, provides certain opportunities for coastal states and Russia is of course an enormous coastal state, as is Canada, the United States and others, but it provides them with an opportunity to extend their sovereign rights over the seabed.
And it is a complex technical legal set of operations, but what Russia was engaged in was in essence an information gathering exercise designed to improve a potential submission.
[9:25] That could lead to an extension of its sovereign rights over the Arctic seabed. The image that that people will be familiar with, that Russian flagpole, was highly symbolic and utterly legally and technically irrelevant to the real work the Russian Federation has engaged in.
So there's a kind of oddness about 2007.
On the one hand, it's a kind of show-and-tell, aren't we amazing that we can descend to the bottom of this ocean and gently deposit a flagpole, but it shouldn't confuse.
[10:05] Anybody from the serious business in hand which was trying to extend Russia's domain over a vast area of the Arctic Ocean seabed. Absolutely and it created a huge media outcry back in the days, I remember that. Nonetheless it was not the first time a submersible actually went down to the North Pole. Actually the Americans went down in 1958, if I remember correctly, and they measured slightly deeper depth for the North Pole. And when we take it from here and just think about the claim or the outcry the Russian.
[10:46] Actions actually created, it's not the only claim we actually have in the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole. There are literally three more countries of the seven of the eight Arctic coastal countries that actually have a claim extending to the North Pole. Is that right?
So let me just offer you a sort of caveat to that, so just so we're really clear on what we're talking about. So there are eight self-appointed, I would say this as a British academic, let me repeat myself, self-appointed Arctic states and those Arctic states are key members of what we might come on to consider the Arctic Council, an essential intergovernmental Forum which has its own history and politics. Out of the eight, there are a series of Arctic Ocean coastal states and some of them of course will feature notably in our conversation today and.
[11:53] They are Canada, Denmark Greenland and the Russian Federation. So those are the ones really to keep the focus on, because those are the key countries when it comes really to the central Arctic Ocean.
Now, if you're wondering who the other two are, then let's also deal with that. The other two are, in essence, the United States through Alaska, and then Norway, not least because of the Svalbard archipelago, but because of the geography of the Arctic Ocean, we're really only talking about three countries, Denmark, Canada, Russian Federation, that are, if you will, really really focused in on the Central Arctic Ocean North Pole. And why is the claim of Canada, let's say, nowhere near as covered as the Russian claim?
[12:55] So, the reason is really quite straightforward. Russia started earliest.
So, that's the other thing just to bear in mind with all of this is that Russia hit the ground running in 2001 and Russia has been prepared to spend considerable sums of money and make considerable effort to not only submit early on, and then to resubmit after it received so-called recommendations from the technical body that is responsible for making sense of those submissions.
So, if you want me to explain further, then what I would say to you is this, is that countries spend an awful lot of time and effort creating a technical submission, that responds to the challenge of proving, that their sovereign rights to a seabed can extend in the way that they wish.
[14:02] And I wouldn't wish anybody to have to read Article 76 of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention unless they're sitting in a comfortable seat. It is quite a daunting process to make sense of it all.
And I speak to you, incidentally, as a non-international lawyer, but this is a highly technical scientific process.
That commission, the Commission on the Law of the Continental Shelf, has the tough task of making sense of that Article 76.
[14:35] And that commission is composed of around 15, 16 technical experts.
And then they try to evaluate, if you will, the quality of that submission.
And they issue what are called recommendations.
And recommendations, to make matters even more confusing, are not legally binding.
They are recommendations. They are kind of summary judgments.
[15:03] Which then coastal states who receive them can then put to use.
And if they're lucky, if they don't face potential competition, they can then start to say, we have extended our sovereign rights.
Now, where this becomes complicated, yet again, is when you have areas of the world's oceans and seas, where more than one party thinks they enjoy similar rights to that same seabed.
And that's what makes it tricky.
Russian Federation, Denmark, Greenland, Canada, they all think their rights extend to the North Pole, Central Arctic Ocean.
And that's the conundrum we've got to try and resolve.
Which is interesting because those claims, they are scientifically underlying.
So there is a lot of science going on since the first claim in 2001 to prove actually that the bedrock at the North Pole is part of the continental shelf of either Russia or Canada or Greenland. And when you look at the history of the area, you can see that all of that.
[16:16] Was once merged together as one piece and it just opened in geological times. So I would be not surprised if Canada and Greenland would come up at a point with a prove that the Bat Rock also is an extension of their shelf from a geological perspective. So the conundrum even gets more complicated. And now we jump forward to earlier this year when the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf actually confirmed the largest portion of the scientific data underlining Russia's claim, creating a media bus saying that the UN actually confirmed Russia's claim, which is technically not true. Why is that?
[17:00] Well, we can, of course, speculate for an awful long time about media framing and how matters that are technical, scientific and, generally speaking, complex, get sensationalized and framed in the way that they do. But look, the long and short of it is this. Russia scored something of a diplomatic victory earlier this year when the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental shelf, as I mentioned earlier, effectively said that there is much of merit of the latest Russian submission. What they said was that around 1.7 million square kilometres of the Russian submission they are very sympathetic to, their recommendation would endorse, and if memory serves, they said something around 300,000 square kilometres they were not persuaded by.
[17:59] But overall, Russia got a very good recommendation, if I can put it like that.
Now, we then have to remind ourselves that Canada and Denmark have formally submitted their own technical submission to the Commission. But the Commission has such a backlog of work that it might not be to around 15 or 20 years until they actually give it the due care and consideration that it undoubtedly deserves. In the meantime and, here's the health warning in case you're thinking that this is just a story about technical scientific and legal discussion and careful consideration, There's a warning.
The warning comes recently from Pakistan that has started to express formal disquiet, about how the rival submission of India is being treated in another part of the world.
So one of the things that Denmark and Greenland will be asking themselves in their respective foreign ministries is in the light of everything we know about the Russian Federation.
[19:14] Are we absolutely convinced the Russian Federation remains committed to the international legal process and structures that shape all of this business?
Or might it not be very tempting for a Russian Federation that appears to be fairly attracted to the idea of expansionism to simply ignore the decade and a half long wait for potential final diplomatic adjudication and go that's it we we now have more than 50% of the Arctic Ocean seabed it's part of the Russian Federation we extend all the way to the North Pole and beyond and we're not very interested in negotiating with Canada or Denmark. Absolutely. Eric why do countries actually want to claim an area that is so difficult to access as the North Pole?
[20:12] Well, I would say it's it's more symbolic. I think when we often talk about the North Pole, maybe it's for symbolic reasons. I don't think there's any proven reserves at the North Pole at this point. I think it is mostly symbolic. And certainly technology is, I mean, Klaus is talking about 10 or 15 years just for adjudication of these of these, these claims. But the, technology could well be much longer in the future than that. So I think the focus of the North Pole is maybe, yeah, a media framing issue. I mean, just like the scramble for the Arctic narrative, which emerged around the time of Russia's flag planting. Very, very interesting time, you know, following the Arctic climate impact assessment in 2004, 2005, and there was the Arctic sea ice minimum. So these media narratives, they, yeah, they kind of gel at certain times, and then they kind of live on, even though many experts are very much critical of the way the media and sort of general narratives take shape.
Because what do you think? In terms of these claims, I mean...
[21:20] You say Russia could just proceed, whatever that could be, and maybe starting to build some sort of, exploration initiatives and things like that. But are these mutual exclusive? I mean, now that the CLCS has recommended that they look favorably upon Russia's claim, does that mean that they haven't looked at the Danish and the Canadian claims yet? So, Could those also have merit as well? Yeah, and quite certainly will have merit because in both cases, those countries have highly professional, skilled geological surveying.
[22:03] Organizations that will be more than up to the task of preparing a highly competent submission.
So, what we're going to find is this, is we're going to find the three submissions in due course are formally declared to overlap with one another.
We might have a few areas where the overlap is non-existent or minimal, but it's going to be the case almost certainly that all three countries will be able to say in practice, that they have potentially sovereign rights that extend all the way to the North Pole.
The key thing to bear in mind is, and what we should never lose sight of, is we're talking about seabed.
[22:47] But the waters in the Central Arctic Ocean are international waters.
So another factor, just to sort of bear in mind, is that as the Arctic Ocean potentially opens up further, in the sense that we don't have that kind of prevailing pack ice that used to be only accessible to nuclear-powered submarines traveling underneath or nuclear-powered icebreakers traveling across the surface, we could have another situation where other countries, such as China, begin to make themselves more and more felt, for whatever reason, it might be at some point commercial fishing, it might be because there are transpolar shipping routes, it might be because there is a perception there's a military advantage to be struck, operating if you like at the surface and above, whilst Russia, Denmark, Canada continue to argue if you like with one another about what happens below. So it's really important when we think about this issue and it's geopolitics, we don't just in a sense focus on the seabed in isolation. We need to take what I would call a volumetric approach. So we need to think about seabed, water, ice, airspace because all of this is caught up with one another.
[24:13] When we think about the changing Arctic geopolitics. And that's a fantastic segue by Maria, when we see the changing Arctic and the accessibility we see, we have almost on a yearly base record lows on Arctic sea ice, it's retreating at a tremendous speed.
So the accessibility of the living resources of the Arctic Ocean, also the minerals.
[24:36] They are actually easier to access for the countries, not only the Arctic nations, but also as Professor Knott's pointed out, then so-called near Arctic or interested states, literally the entire world. What do those mineral living resources of the Arctic ocean actually entail.
Well, first of all, thank you for asking me. I'm humbled here from my position as Deputy Secretary of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program Secretariat here in Tromsø.
I have a much more modest view of the Arctic, but let's say that what we see now is that also from the recent scientific warnings is that we could have a much warmer Arctic already in five years from now.
So we are talking in 2027, we could have something that is even warmer than the warmest predictions So the ice-free summers up all the way to the North Pole could be just around the corner.
[25:46] So this is one thing. Then let's say that the mineral resources on the seabed, for the time being are technically difficult to access. I mean, they're more expensive to access in other areas around Indonesia, for example.
So it's not that we are, that there are mining activities just waiting to start the day after tomorrow.
Because yeah, it's easier to get hold of the same resources somewhere else.
And the living resources are also not particularly accessible now on the one side, because of the 2018 agreement to prevent the unregulated high-sea fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean, which imposes a moratorium that is more or less a moratorium during the time where.
[26:44] It would not be profitable or it would not be interesting either to go up and fish, But it's also that there is there are some physical, barriers to the borealization of commercial species taking about for example Arctic like, Cod like Barents Sea Cod, which is the most refined cod that is fished here in Norway Well, it would probably not move further north and yet to the continental shelf so coming into the Nansen Basin north of Svalbard the code would stop and and therefore do not it would probably not go over to the the Central Arctic Ocean and if you're talking about like a Calanus or like copepods like krill, krill is also much more accessible in the Southern Oceans than it is up in the in the very far north. So I don't think that even with a potential warming and nice free summers.
[27:47] Very soon, I don't think that there is going to be anything happening technically. But just as a finishing point here is that when we talk about the North Pole, it is actually an ideal point it's a it's a dot it is a no dimension and it is right there and and we have like the the slices of the cake if you look at the earth from above the, North Pole that are already assigned for example for search-and-rescue to the to the let's say the Arctic states that have a contiguous coastline and so there is already a division that is more or less approved for search and, rescue. And it is these areas that go up to them, all these slices that are the ones that are very interesting for.
For these nations and well, it's going to be interesting times in the few years ahead.
[28:55] Absolutely, but coming from the just the resources back to the geopolitical.
[29:04] Segment of the problem, when we see how the climate, the international climate has changed in the past year, particularly with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, how has that crippled the discussions about the Arctic in general? Professor Dutz, we see that the Arctic Council, which has been a very important forum for intergovernmental discussions away from security issues. But other than that, it was a really important forum where actually the seven or the eight Arctic nations were discussing with the observer states and the indigenous communities very, very deeply and thoroughly about the shape of the Arctic of the future, which has been stopped since the invasion of Ukraine. How has that crippled these efforts and how would that actually impact the Russian claim? So I think the two are distinct. So what I would say is there's a kind of either-or here. On the one hand, Russia continues to engage and respect, the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention and also, as has just been noted rightly, the Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement, Russia continues to be a party of that.
[30:33] And that does indeed impose a moratorium of 16 years on any kind of commercial fishing.
[30:41] But on the other hand there's no getting away from it. When the Arctic Council was paused, shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it was a hammer blow to the kind of vision of the Arctic that the Arctic Council underpins. Since its creation in 1996, the Arctic Council has actively imagined the region as a circumpolar one where those Arctic states, indigenous peoples, known for the purposes of the council as permanent participants.
[31:15] And observer states and organizations work together but respectful of the sovereignty and the sovereign rights of those Arctic states and Arctic peoples. Now, in the aftermath of the pause of the Arctic Council, effectively what we're seeing is a bifurcated Arctic. We're seeing seven arctic states continue to work with one another and then on top of that that seven arctic state community very very shortly are all going to be NATO arctic states as well given the admission of Finland and given the likely admission Sweden in the near future and the Russian federation which by dint of physical geography alone represents 50 percent of the arctic you, You know, that's absolutely fundamental to keep in mind.
And then prior to that pause of the Arctic Council, you know, it's worth just going back and just reminding ourselves that with the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
[32:19] Sanctions were imposed on the Russian Federation that in turn arguably encouraged the pivot towards countries like China and India and, Really the long and short of it is we've got two arctics, we've got a kind of Western Arctic for argument's sake and we've got a Russian Asian Arctic and, The and the fear is is that the Arctic Council won't be able to, to restart itself in the way that we might have hoped for, notwithstanding the fact that we have a Norwegian chairmanship, which arguably of all the Arctic states, knows how to work with Russia best.
And that's our big challenge, is we've gone from a circumpolar Arctic into an Arctic fundamentally split in two.
[33:09] And fundamentally it looks like that split is hardening, soft for me. Eric, when we look at that scenario and we actually see that the largest Arctic state is isolated in not only the Arctic Council but in global geopolitics and we also see that Russia's Arctic officials are actually, toning up their voice when they talk about it saying that Russia will stay in the Arctic Council as long as it serves our own interests, or as the foreign minister, of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, said, that Russia is open to work in the Arctic Council if there is, a civilised conversation possible. How would that actually change the Arctic or the understanding of of the Arctic if those rifts, as Professor Dotz put it, would not soften, but actually solidify.
[34:11] I don't think anybody has a clear answer to this. This has been the topic of several episodes of my podcast.
Is it an A7? Is that feasible? Is it viable?
And it's quite a hotly debated issue, and I don't think anybody's really come up with, taking a clear stand on this. Actually, some of us said actually no. I mean, I was at the.
[34:36] Arctic Circle Assembly last October, and a number of the senior Arctic officials I think especially the one from Finland, it was very clear that there is no such thing as an A7.
There can't be an Arctic Council without Russia.
And legally, I guess they can't be excluded from the Arctic Council either.
You can pause the entire organization and you can have scientific cooperation in some of the working groups, but you can't legally just kick Russia out of the Arctic Council.
So some other venues, forums would have to be created instead.
Also at the Arctic Circle Assembly, I spoke to a number of indigenous peoples groups and some observer countries, and they also felt that they get in some ways hit hardest by this because of such the prominent status of indigenous peoples groups in the Arctic Council.
Arctic, functional Arctic Council, their voice is not being heard in the same way as it had been previously.
And the observer states as well, they felt that that was a good way for them to have their interests put forward.
And now that they're also perhaps kind of wondering where to turn to next, what other.
[35:46] Forums, like the Arctic Circle Assembly, maybe rises in significance, even though it's not a political organization, it has some sort of political aspects to it as well, being very much supported by the government of Iceland.
Maybe you could say the same thing about Arctic Frontiers and its connections to the Norwegian government.
So, yeah, I think there's still quite a bit of uncertainty. the changeover to the Norwegian chair of the Arctic Council, maybe that.
Thaws things to some extent, but I still don't see it as being a viable functional organization as long as the current situation in Ukraine continues.
And whether other forums and other – I'm sure there's quite a bit of behind-the-scenes interactions going on between the seven Arctic countries, ex-Russia, on diplomatic levels, on scientific exchanges and so forth.
[36:40] But I don't think there's any clear answers yet. I think we're still kind of fumbling around trying to find a way forward here.
[36:46] Mario, on a theoretical level, the A7, even though everyone rejects that idea, are technically functioning already, as a lot of scientific projects have actually been picked up after the seven Arctic countries, excluding Russia, have paused the Arctic Council cooperation with Russia.
Shortly after they picked up the scientific efforts or at least a couple of those projects, all those projects as I understood which not include Russia, is that right? Well first of all, if I keep my my AIMAP hat on, my Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program hat on, there were never the A7 or the Arctic 7 don't exist. They are not anything we talk about at work. And the pause was not a pause of cooperation with Russia, it was a pause in the work of the Arctic Council. So that is the, let's say, probably the most stringent of a correct way of expressing it. The fact, of course, the The problem was for the working groups, and especially for AIMAP, which is one of the working groups that predates the Arctic Council, the foundation of the Arctic Council, and actually come from the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy of 1991.
[38:15] We have a.
[38:18] A problem, we have had a problem that the collection and the continuation of the scientific work, the collection of the data, needs to continue. I mean, taking a break in, collecting and elaborating data about the climate, about the tundra, for example, which is by a large part in Russian territory is a huge problem. So the thing that happened was that the projects, the activities of the different working groups were listed. We were requested to list the different projects and then to like flag the ones where there was Russian cooperation or significant Russian participation and those were the ones that were put on pause because of the difficulties in communicating and in taking decisions on these projects. Because when we do projects we have at one point to make decisions, financial decisions, decisions on the direction of the project and these have to be taken according to the rules of the Arctic Council, which is.
[39:38] That there has to be a plenum and it has to be a consensus on the direction to be taken. So with no participation of Russia there was effectively no decisions that could be made. So that was the big problem in continuing, but a few and actually probably I would say that a large majority of projects have continued or scientific projects and activities have continued as far as possible without Russian participation and those were projects that already didn't have Russia participation and those that had Russian participation have been paused totally, and that is a huge problem. But to go back to Professor Dodd's point here, the Norwegian chairship, and this is a term that the Norwegians introduce, chairship to be gender neutral, and they call it leadership as well, and the Norwegian leadership or the Arctic Council, if you prefer, is promising. Norway has the intention of making the Arctic Council functional again, that's a stated intention. The interesting thing is that.
[41:04] That they have been able to transfer already the chairship the chairship from Russia to Norway.
By modifying slightly the procedures, so by agreeing that it wouldn't be a ministerial meeting, it would just be a meeting of the senior Arctic officials.
[41:24] The participation or the intervention of Mr. Lavrov, was a recorded intervention at the beginning, was particularly shocking, but it was quite, like it was firmly responded to by the other states, the other Arctic states, but it was responded in a very professional way. Mr. Kochunov, the chair of the outgoing chair of the Arctic Council was extremely professional as well. Everybody was extremely professional in this meeting. I was particularly impressed by everybody and everybody agreed that they would not accept anything about the situation in Ukraine that had not been already stated before by any of the states.
But they all agreed, including Russia, that the Arctic Council is the high-level forum where things and discussion in the Arctic can be discussed and should be discussed in spite of all of the different articles that came out afterwards.
Conferences or the assemblies like the Arctic Circle Assemblies and Arctic frontiers have tried to fill or they have not.
Filled effectively the void left by the lack of communication within the Arctic Council.
[42:50] But they are not the political, the high-level political forum that they are, so they serve other functions in spite of the especially Arctic frontiers. Here we can see that there is a political or the policy part and the science part with Arctic Circle. I've unfortunately never been been able to assist, but it's more the policy part.
But they try to communicate on the same level of the Arctic Council, but they are very different in essence, and they are useful and very nice to have, very useful to have, but they would not be substituting the Arctic Council itself.
And I think that science, especially going back the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy Agreement, signed in Rovaniemi in 1991.
[43:42] I think that we should go back and look at that treaty and that's a big agreement and it's a foundation of not only EMA but the whole Arctic Council and CAF and all the Convention of Arctic Fauna and Flora and the PAME, the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment especially, and here we have the foundation for the future, I think.
Absolutely. And I feel also that the Arctic Circle Assembly, for example, is more informal forum to discuss things you would probably not discuss in a more formal setting like the Arctic Council.
But Russia has put the ball into Norway's hands and just said that their responsibility for the future of a restored council lies in the new share ship.
And I would love to give the closing remarks to both of you.
Professor Dots first and right after Eric.
[44:42] No, thank you. And I think the assessment I would make is partly building on the comments from the Norwegian chairship. So, which is, I think, being quite straightforward, which is on the one hand, the immediate task of the chairship is to ensure that the Arctic Council survives. So, I think that's the priority over the next two years. And then secondly, I suspect we will also be reminding ourselves about what was possible during some of the more awkward moments of Arctic collaboration and cooperation during, for example, the Cold War.
And it's worth saying, for example, that the notable polar bear agreement, the Mimansk Initiative, they came out of the backdrop of profound awkwardness. And I suspect what we'll end up concluding, is that there will be ways again through science and other forms of diplomacy, to build or to rebuild relations with Russia, and it might well involve the.
[45:46] Third parties who are trusted on both sides, to ensure that in the end the Arctic is a circumpolar region, and it's one with powerful indigenous on the one hand, but also global, entanglements and connections and that won't change regardless of the obviously worsening relationship with Russia as a consequence of the Ukrainian invasion.
[46:16] Thank you, Professor Dodds. Eric? Yeah, I like to believe in the idea of science diplomacy as Klaus brought up.
But I was also quite interested with some of the comments that Mario made about sort of the administrative and the financial complications that really make it difficult to even operate on a working group level inside of the Arctic Council without Russia's full participation, since it's a consensus-based decision-making in the Arctic Council. Yeah, it's really hard to say.
It's really hard to say how this will play out. I mean, I'm generally optimistic. I think the Norwegians, I think as Klaus mentioned also, have a good way of dealing with Russia, a lot of experience with that. Maybe them and the Finns as well could help on that front. But yeah, I have a hard time seeing the Arctic Council being a fully functional organization anytime in the near future.
And at the same time, I don't see the Arctic being governable without Russia.
It's such geographically, just so dominant.
There could be a period of fragmentation going on in the months and perhaps years to come with different constellations taking shape.
But yeah, I guess it remains to be seen how this will play out.
[47:37] Thank you very much, gentlemen. We are coming to an end of today's episode.
Professor Dotz, where do our listeners and viewers can find further information to you and your projects.
[47:48] Well, if they want to read some of my work then obviously I'd be hugely excited if they found their way towards various websites, Amazon being one, and you could certainly find out more about my recent work.
My latest work is called Border Wars which was published by Penguin and that addresses all the different ways in which we argue about lines on the map and lines on the ground including those underneath the world's seas and oceans. Fantastic book, certainly a recommendation. We're going to talk about that in a later episode I'm sure. And Eric where can we lead our listeners for your podcasts and projects? Yeah, well the Polar Geopolitics podcast is available on all the various platforms, Apple and Google and Spotify and so forth, so I would certainly recommend finding us there. It's also polargeopolitics.com is the website. My own personal research, I've done some work in the Arctic, several articles about Svalbard. I could also recommend a book that Klaus has co-edited, Ice Humanities, recently with my colleague Esferico Sorlin.
So yeah, that's the kind of work that we do at my department at KTH, more of a humanities perspective on the Arctic and the polar regions.
[49:11] Thank you very much, both of you, Professor Dots and Eric Paglia.
And that being said, I throw the ball back to you, Chris.
Let me do my job, because this is the end of the episode. That was it for today.
You all for tuning in, for sticking with us. A special shout out to all the subscribers. We see you, we appreciate your support and of course a huge thank you to our guests Professor Klaus Dotz and Eric Paglia for joining us and sharing their insights. As usual you know the drill, you can find us online at, curiouslypolar.com and don't forget to follow us on our socials or on your socials wherever you are.