Putin: No "Battle for Arctic" Energy Riches

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"Putin explained Russia's top Arctic priorities at Moscow's Arctic conference."

Vladimir Putin's message to an international audience of 400 scientists and politicians on the final day of last week's The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue conference in Moscow was unequivocal. There will be no "battle for the Arctic" and its potentially vast mineral resources.

Spelling out Russia's top Arctic priorities, Prime Minister Putin stressed that the exploitation of the Arctic's continental shelf and deepwater deposits should be carried out preserving the region as a "zone of peace and cooperation" by "uniting forces for genuine partnership." The resolution of territorial disputes can, he insisted, be achieved, "in a spirit of partnership through negotiations and on the basis of existing international law." Indeed, all Arctic development ought to be in accordance with the most "stringent environmental requirements."

If a spirit of detente characterized Putin's—and the conference—major text then, the subtext was more intriguing. For the Russian Geographical Society (RGS), this inaugural Arctic Forum(1) was plainly designed to signal to a watching world that Putin's Russia was now de facto "chair" of proceedings on global Arctic policy.

"Frugal" Exploitation

Putin was certainly playing to an audience more geared to environmental considerations over mineral exploitation. Top of the Russian Prime Minister's priorities came, "comfortable living conditions for local people" and the "pursuit of a frugal attitude toward the indigenous and small Arctic nations." The "large-scale domestic and foreign investment" needed for resource exploitation came second, he said. This "principled stance of the Russian Government" would, said Putin, "guide all future development of the Yamal Peninsula, at the giant Shtokman deposit in the Barents Sea, in the northern sector of the Krasnoyarsk Territory in Yakutia, and at hundreds of other production and infrastructure facilities."

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