First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov’s interview with the ITAR-TASS news agency, September 19, 2016
Question: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council. What role does it play today?
Vladimir Titov: The Arctic Council was established as a high-level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction between Arctic states, primarily in the area of environmental protection. Over the years, its role and range of activities in ensuring sustainable development of the Arctic region have increased significantly. It is precisely the Arctic Council that is forming the agenda for promoting international cooperation in the Arctic, setting the tone and the direction of the trends and the processes in the region.
Question: What are the main activities of the organisation and the results of its work over the years? What achievement of the Arctic Council can be considered the most important? What issues should the Council focus on in the future?
Vladimir Titov: The Arctic Council is without a doubt a success story. The Arctic Council has no blocs, all its member states act in their national capacity and take decisions by consensus.
The Arctic Council’s main achievement is that the Arctic today is an area of peace, stability and cooperation.
The Arctic Council is also unique in that organisations of indigenous peoples, including the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and the Russian Far East, are involved in its activities as permanent members. This element of the Arctic Council’s activities provides close alignment between joint projects carried out by the Arctic states and the needs of the people living in the Far North.
Protecting the fragile Arctic ecosystem remains a priority for the Arctic Council, whose initiatives have taken the form of various international agreements, including one on tightening requirements for vessels navigating in high latitudes, as well as the adoption of a number of conventions to combat a variety of environmental pollutants.
Over the past few years, the Arctic Council has approved documents on a pan-Arctic network of protected marine areas, biodiversity monitoring, a financial tool to support Arctic Council projects, cooperation on the prevention of polluting marine areas in the Arctic with oil resulting from oil and gas production and shipping, and on measures to reduce black carbon and methane emissions. Two pan-Arctic intergovernmental agreements on cooperation have been signed in the area of aviation and maritime search and rescue, as well as on cooperation in readiness to respond to oil spills. Currently, we are drafting an intergovernmental agreement on strengthening international Arctic research cooperation.
The Arctic Council has contributed to creating more regional cooperation agencies, including, for example, the Arctic Economic Council. As you may recall, Russia was among its founders. In particular, the University of the Arctic was established, which is a network organisation that brings together over 150 educational and research centres from different countries, and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum was created.
As for the future of the Arctic Council, Russia believes that full-fledged economic cooperation is needed to resolve major problems of the sustainable development of the Arctic, to achieve improvements in the quality of life of the peoples of the Far North, including its indigenous peoples. These issues should get more attention.
Question: How productive is international cooperation within the Council? What are the prospects of such cooperation?
Vladimir Titov: Despite the current difficult stage of international relations, all the Arctic states are determined to continue cooperation in the region. None of the 80 Arctic Council’s joint projects, including those implemented in Russia, has been suspended.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council, foreign ministers of Arctic countries adopted a joint declaration in favour of further strengthening international cooperation in the Arctic. Such an approach gives us confidence that the Arctic will continue to be a region of peace and stability.
Question: Russia is, without exaggeration, one of the key players in the Arctic, particularly the Arctic Council. What difficulties is our country faced with in the Council? What challenges in the Arctic are important to Russia today?
Vladimir Titov: Russia's future is inextricably linked to the Arctic. The Arctic zone of the Russian Federation accounts for over 15 percent of its GDP and over 20 percent of exports. The role of the Arctic in the sustainable development of our country will never stop growing. Today, it is important to create, in conjunction with other Arctic states, a secure environment for economic development in the Arctic, and to expand cooperation using the latest technology and international expertise.
Speculation is rife in foreign countries regarding the militarisation of the Arctic. I would like to note in this regard that Russia does not see any challenges in that area that would have a military dimension. Russia will continue to oppose any attempts to portray the region as an area of future conflict, and intends, for its part, to promote the idea of the Arctic as a territory of peace and cooperation.
Currently, there is a steady growth in interest shown by various states and international organisations in the Arctic, or in obtaining observer status in the Arctic Council. Russia is open to cooperation with them. However, we believe that the founding states of the Arctic Council have a special responsibility to ensure sustainable development of the Arctic, and must continue to perform their leading role in international Arctic cooperation.
Question: Are there any plans to implement new projects in the Russian Arctic zone, and what is the total amount of investment?
Vladimir Titov: The plans include over 140 projects worth several trillion roubles. The bulk of it will come from private investors. We are talking about developing oil and gas fields, coal and ore deposits and transport infrastructure, including the Northern Sea Route. Our foreign partners are welcome to join us as we proceed with the implementation of projects in the Russian Arctic zone.