US and Russia at odds over military activity in the Arctic – fr

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US and Russia at odds over military activity in the Arctic – fr


REYKJAVIK. ICELAND – The Biden administration is waging a campaign against Russian attempts to assert its authority over Arctic shipping and to reintroduce a military dimension to discussions of international activity in the region.

As Russia assumed the rotating presidency of the Arctic Council on Thursday, the United States rallied other members to oppose Moscow’s plan to establish maritime rules on the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Norway to Alaska, and its desire to resume high-level military talks within the eight-nation bloc. These talks were suspended in 2014 due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

This effort reflects growing concerns in Washington and among some NATO allies about an upsurge in Russian military and trade activity in the rapidly opening up region due to the effects of climate change. Russia has expressed similar suspicions about NATO’s motives.

At a meeting of Arctic Council foreign ministers in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the group should remain focused on peaceful cooperation on environmental issues , maritime safety and the well-being of the indigenous peoples of the region.

Blinken left Iceland after the meeting to deliver the same message to Greenland, which gained international attention when former President Donald Trump expressed interest in buying the world’s largest island from Denmark and then canceled a state visit to Copenhagen when his interest was widely mocked and rejected by the Danes and Greenlanders.

When asked if the Biden administration had abandoned Trump’s interest in buying Greenland, Blinken replied, “I can confirm that is correct. At the same time, Blinken hailed the re-establishment of a US consulate in the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk and said the administration hoped to strengthen cooperation with the island on various fronts starting with climate change.

Earlier Thursday in Iceland, Blinken told his counterparts that “the Arctic is a region of strategic competition that has captured the world’s attention. But the Arctic is more than a region of strategic or economic importance. must remain peaceful cooperation. It is our responsibility to protect and benefit from this peaceful cooperation. “

Blinken stressed the importance of maintaining “effective governance and the rule of law” to ensure that “the Arctic remains a conflict-free region where countries act responsibly”. He had previously questioned the legality of the maritime rules proposed by Russia and expressed deep reservations about Russia’s military activity in the far north.

Several other foreign ministers, including those of Canada, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, echoed Blinken’s call to keep the Arctic peaceful and secure. conflicts under international authority rather than that of individual countries. Representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic urged that their voices be heard.

“We are concerned about the level of recent anger and provocative speeches,” said James Stotts of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. “We don’t want to see our homeland turned into a region of competition and conflict. “

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who earlier this week dismissed US criticism because the Arctic “is our territory, our land,” questioned NATO’s motives for bomber and military deployments. submarines in the area. On Thursday, he said resuming a military dialogue with the Arctic Council would contribute to stability.

“It is therefore important to extend the positive relations that we have in the Arctic Council to also encompass the military sphere, first of all by revitalizing the multilateral dialogue on military matters between the staffs of the states of the Arctic, ”Lavrov said.

He later told a new conference that resuming that dialogue would be a priority for Russia as she led the council.

“We haven’t received any ‘no’ so far, but we haven’t received a positive response either,” Lavrov said. “We have therefore decided that in the next three years we will create the right conditions for this particular aspect of common security to become part of the work of the Arctic Council again. “

Outgoing Council President Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson of Iceland did not appear enthusiastic. “Anything we can do as nations to reduce tensions and see stability is something that, of course, should be looked at in a very positive light, but I think it’s important to keep the Council as it is. it is, ”he said.

Lavrov also criticized NATO and the United States, which he accused of acting arrogantly towards Russia and its security concerns. He was particularly interested in Norway, which he said was amending its foreign military presence laws to allow for the constant rotation of military materiel and personnel.

“We are particularly concerned about what is happening near our borders and Norway is indeed one of our very close neighbors,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with Norway. Nevertheless, the problems linked to the intensification of military tensions due to military deployments in Norway and the Baltic States are still very present ”.

He called rotational presence a “pun” to describe what is in fact a permanent presence. “This is not the first demonstration of this high-level approach that our Western colleagues are currently adopting on the international scene,” he said. “We will take the necessary steps to ensure our safety, but our priority and our preference is really dialogue. “

Lavrov also proposed that a summit of Arctic Council leaders be held at some point during Russia’s two-year presidency and said Moscow wanted to encourage cooperation.

“We encourage you to maintain and seek consensus in the Council to continue constructive cooperation,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Lavrov.

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