Arctic Council nations are ‘pausing’ work after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

All 7 other member nations will temporarily halt Arctic Council collaboration with Russia

Seven of the eight member nations in the Arctic Council, whose May 2021 meeting is seen in this screenshot, jointly announced this week they are “pausing” their collaboration with the eighth member — Russia — in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began last week. (Screenshot courtesy of Arctic Council)

By Melody Schreiber
Arctic Today

Seven of eight Arctic nations said Wednesday they are “pausing” the work of the Arctic Council, the top intergovernmental forum in the region, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is about halfway through its two-year tenure as the body’s rotating chair, which began in May 2021.

In a joint statement, the seven other nations condemned Russia’s “unprovoked invasion” of Ukraine and noted “the grave impediments to international cooperation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.”

All meetings of the council and its working groups will be paused temporarily and indefinitely. None of the seven countries’ officials will travel to Russia for meetings in light of Russia’s “flagrant violation” of international law and territorial sovereignty, the statement said.

“This is the Arctic seven speaking with one voice,” said Troy Bouffard, director of the Center of Arctic Security and Resilience at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a member of the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response working group. “We just simply can’t keep up our current work. Cooperation takes a hit.”

The next meeting of senior Arctic officials was planned for Arkhangelsk in late May. Non-Russian officials will also stay away from a key international conference, the “Arctic: Territory of Dialogue” forum in St. Petersburg scheduled for mid-April.

The seven nations — Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the United States — and the council’s working groups are considering ways to continue vital work in the region given these circumstances, the statement said.

The eight Arctic nations’ cooperation, even in times of disagreement or conflict elsewhere on the globe, is “over for now,” said Sherri Goodman, former U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense and a senior fellow at the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute.

The working groups may find ways to continue this work, but Russia’s chairmanship could make it more complicated.

And during the pause, “there’s no forum for dialogue and discussion with Russia, the largest Arctic country, on matters that affect the people, the ecology, the geography of the Arctic,” Goodman said.

In the longer term, the fallout of Russia’s actions may increases the risk of miscommunication and miscalculation in the North, at a time where Arctic activities are increasing, she said.

The halt is temporary, Bouffard said.

“They used the word ‘pause’ only — not suspend, not discontinue, or anything like that.”

But any delay “hurts,” he said, because “there’s a million things we’re working on that are super important.”

“All of that is vital, and all of that does not need to be interrupted,” Bouffard said.

It’s unclear whether dialogue with Russian Arctic counterparts will be cut off entirely.

“What happens when you don’t have that ability to have dialogue, to work and deal with issues?” Bouffard asked.

Six Indigenous organizations are permanent participants to the Council, and four of the six have Russian members — which will likely create difficulties carrying out collaborative projects.

“We are monitoring the situation on a day-to-day basis,” Monica Ell-Kanayuk, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, told Nunatsiaq News on Tuesday.

A recent statement from the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, one of the Indigenous permanent participants, expressed support for Putin’s actions. But Bouffard believes “it’s a scripted Kremlin narrative” that the group was forced to issue.

After the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia was excluded from Arctic forums on security, including the Arctic Forces Security Roundtable. (The Arctic Council itself expressly does not address military security issues.)

Prior to this invasion, there was talk of re-engaging the security dialogue with Russia – “now, that’s impossible,” Goodman said.

Putin’s unpredictability and his order to put nuclear forces on high alert increases the risk for conflict in the Arctic as well, Goodman said.

Another unexpected development from the invasion has been Finland’s increased interest in considering NATO membership, which a majority of Finns now support for the first time.

“It is too early to tell more about the long-term consequences and how this will affect the Norwegian leadership of the Arctic Council,” Morten Høglund, senior Arctic official for Norway, told the Barents Observer.

Norway will assume the body’s two-year rotating chair in spring 2023.

This article originally appeared at Arctic Today and is republished with permission.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Newbees on

    All of these states laying the blame on Russia are deliberately ignoring facts or are ignorant of the history in the region of eastern Europe. There has been provocation from the US as it has pressured Canada and other states to follow suit in military confrontation rather than a diplomatic progress. As Russia now says the worst is yet to come, and a generous share of blame for that worst can rightly be laid upon us. Alex Mercouris, a long standing authority on international law would be a good follow up for more info.

    • Posted by quote on

      Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone, George Galloway are actively reporting Ukraine news interviews beyond the heavy on the agenda media of the CBC.

    • Posted by Fraud Alert on

      I hadn’t heard of Alexander Mercouris so I looked him up. While I could not find any real credentials on him, I did find this:

      Mercouris is “a British barrister debarred for falsely claiming to have been kidnapped and for attempting bribery, was described in Sputnik coverage as a “London-based expert on international affairs”.

      Nice… apparently he is (or was?) a reporter for a Russian propaganda outlet called ‘Sputnik’ .. He also wrote for Russia Today (RT) which is a famously deceitful news outlet.

      Have a look for yourself:

      • Posted by More Propagandists on

        Max Blumenthal, George Galloway are also affiliated with the same Russian news outlets. Check your sources before going down these rabbit holes people.

  2. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    The 7 remaining nations should meet via Zoom and strip Russia of the chairmanship, and then vote to expel Russia from the organization.
    The reason is Russia’s unprovoked invasion and war on Ukraine. Add to that their previous annexation of Crimea. Russia is currently committing war crimes against the people of Ukraine and the Russian leaders should be brought to trial in the Hague.
    After Russian leaders are brought to justice the organization can decide whether to allow Russia to participate. Until then Russia must remain a pariah.


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