Since the annexion of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, Norwegian-Russian relations became more and more freezing, unlike the winter climate in the high north. And while the ice in the Arctic melted faster and faster, high-level talks between politicians froze in almost completely. But now with spring coming to the Arctic, it seems as if the neighbors also start thawing as well. Both foreign ministers have agreed to meet in March at the Arctic conference in Arkhangelsk.
The Arctic regions are considered to be the most prominent resource for fossil fuels. Up to 1/3 of the world’s remaining sources of oil and gas are thought to be hidden under the Arctic Oceans. Therefore, a large dispute about the exploitation of those resources had been ignited between environmental groups and exploration companies. Especially in the US and Canadian parts of the Arctic, the dispute became a major political issue. Now, both US president Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have acted and have declared large areas as protective zones, thus banning all exploration activities.
The receding sea ice of the Arctic Ocean opens new possibilities for exploitation of natural resources. Not only fossil fuels but also fisheries stands very high up on the agenda of Arctic nations. However, no proper data on fish stocks exist for the central Arctic Ocean. Arctic nations now have agreed to halt all fisheries themselves until more and better data will be available. They are also discuss now an international ban on fisheries in the central Arctic Ocean.
The opening of the Arctic Ocean due to climate change will also open the race for the presumed resources. Next to minerals and fossil fuels, fisheries will play an important role in the considerations of governments. However, an important step to protect the marine environment from overexploitation has now been taken.
Despite growing numbers of tourism in Svalbard, coal mining still takes the lions share in revenues of the archipelago. The Norwegian government has now decided to continue the financial subsidiaries for this controversial production of raw materials. It seems as if this decision has been taken rather by arguments in terms of security policy than in economical terms.
Together with AWI researchers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Norway Ban Ki-moon launched a radio-sonde. He was impressed by the balloon and the technical possibilities. In front of the glacier he called for action against the climate change.
Canada's military has again delayed the opening of a major new Arctic port, a sign the government is struggling to assert sovereignty over a remote resource-rich region. The planned deep water naval facility at Nanisivik - some 3,100 km (1,900 miles) north of Ottawa - is one of the key components of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "use it or lose it" approach to the Arctic. The port, initially due to open in 2012, will now not be operational until 2018. Additionally, the proposed and needed vessels to enforce Canadian claims of the Arctic waters will enter service in the same year according to official news.
The Arctic Council is a coalition of Arctic states and offers a communication platform to discuss Arctic related matters. The Council has gained more and more importance over the years due to the opening of the Arctic Ocean. States with no borders to the Arctic have the possibility to join the Arctic Council as Permanent Observers and have thus a certain influence on Arctic matters. Among these states are China, India, Singapore, France, the UK and Germany. Switzerland has now officially deposited its application and hopes to join this illustrious council.
One of the last active remains of the Cold War era is Thule Air Base, owned by the US Air Force. It is clear that the use of a foreign territory as a military base has aspects for the host country in terms of both security policy as well as in economy. But now, the newly elected premier of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, has used his first official visit in Copenhagen to gain support for a special concern: The effort to get Washington to pay for the use of Thule Air Base