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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project