Leading article: A chance to avert a new cold war

Share
Related Topics

A two-day meeting taking place in Moscow this week may turn out to be just another talking shop, but it could also be the start of something much more significant. The subject is co-operation in the Arctic, a title which puts the most positive spin on what might more realistically be termed cut-throat competition for a slice of territory believed to be rich in natural resources.

The question of exactly who controls what and where national demarcation lines might run has taken on a new urgency because of two quite separate developments. Modern technology has made prospecting and drilling possible deeper and in lower temperatures than before, and the shrinking of the polar ice cap, which is making the north-east passage navigable in summer, is making the region more accessible.

Nine years ago, in what might be seen as its opening gambit, Russia submitted a territorial claim to the UN for the underwater Lomonosov Ridge. That was rejected for lack of evidence, but three years ago a Russian expedition planted a titanium flag underneath the North Pole, in a bold statement of its intentions. Moscow has also announced a major national research project designed to support its case.

This week's meeting, at which all those countries with claims to Arctic territory are represented – but at a research and consultative, rather than official government, level – can be seen as the opening of a parallel track, based more constructively on fact-finding than land-grabbing. As such, it is in line with Moscow's efforts to present a friendlier face to the world and its new emphasis on co-operation. This in turn may reflect the Kremlin's recognition of its own relative international weakness.

That Russia has an acute sense of its own self-interest, however, cannot be ignored. With an economy heavily dependent on natural resources and mineral reserves in more accessible regions becoming harder to exploit, it has at least as great an interest as any of its Arctic neighbours in maximising the area under its control. But, in a positive sign, this week's agenda also stresses the ecological aspect – the imperative to preserve this pristine region for future generations.

It must be hoped that this forum is the opening of a continuing international discussion, rather than a one-off event entrenching rival claims. But it is even more to be hoped that a spirit of co-operation and respect for the environment will somehow manage to prevail over the potentially destructive scramble for resources.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'