On May 6th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accused Russia and China of misconduct and militarizing the Arctic, in his speech at the Arctic Summit in Rovaniemi, Finland.
In his 20-minute remarks, he talked about U.S. policy in the region and warned against China and Russia’s increasing territorial role in the region. He added, “…just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness.”
Pompeo said China has national security interests in the Artic, while Russia’s activities, including plans for new shipping channels from Asia to northern Europe, needed to be monitored.
“The United States and Arctic nations welcome transparent Chinese investment that reflect economic interests, not national security ambitions,” Pompeo said.
“The Pentagon warned just last week that China could use its civilian research presence in the Arctic to strengthen its military presence, including by deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks,” he told delegates from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden.
“We need to examine these activities closely, and keep the experience of other nations in mind. China’s pattern of aggressive behavior elsewhere will inform how it treats the Arctic.”
He also took a stab at Canada’s claims over the Northwest Passage.
“No one denies Russia has significant Arctic interests. We recognize that Russia is not the only nation making illegitimate claims: the US has a long-contested feud with Canada over sovereign claims through the Northwest Passage.”
Russia, in addition to reconstructing airfields throughout the country also plans to reinforce security in the Arctic.
“In the Northern Sea Route, Moscow already illegally demands that other nations request permission to pass, requires Russian maritime pilots to be aboard foreign ships, and threatens to use military force to sink any that fail to comply,” Pompeo said.
“These provocative actions are part of a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior in the Arctic.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that there was nothing illegal with the demand to request passage permissions, since it was in line with UN regulations and Russia’s territorial waters.
As Ivan Danilov wrote in his analysis of Pompeo’s speech for RIA Novosti:
“Moscow simply designates its rights and establishes its rules in strict accordance with international law, but, as practice shows, for our overseas opponents the very concept of international law exists only if it can be used as a tool of pressure on Washington’s opponents. And, accordingly, never in the event that its use would lead to a restriction of American interests.”
Pompeo completely disregarded climate change as a concept, and refused to sign a final declaration due to wording regarding it.
“There are different tones with which different countries want to approach climate change,” Finland’s Arctic Ambassador Aleksi Harkonen said. “It’s not about whether climate change can be mentioned or not. It will be there in the final declaration.”
Overall, two things became clear from Pompeo’s speech:
- The US discovered “traces of Russia” and “Chinese influence” in the Arctic;
- The US openly claimed its aim of establishing its control over the region and heavily contesting Russia and Chinese interests.
The idea of forbidding China to be friends with Russia in the Arctic, prohibiting the use of the Arctic Russian trade routes, prohibiting the involvement of other Arctic countries in the large-scale Chinese project Belt and Road Initiative and also prohibiting loans to these countries for the development of the Arctic transport infrastructure were all essentially suggested by the US.
Pompeo further said that to follow up on US interests in the Arctic, the construction of a modern icebreaker fleet would also begin.
Mike Pompeo and the US appeared to be alone at the Arctic Summit. According to the NYT, representatives of the participating countries and countries – observers of the Arctic Council, were extremely annoyed by the fact that the forum, which is usually used to jointly solve common Arctic issues with a special focus on environmental cooperation, was turned by the American side into another arena to clarify relations with geopolitical policies.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Russia To Reconstruct Over 100 Airfields To Increase Air Force’s Operational Capability
- Pentagon Releases Annual Report on Chinese Military and Security Developments