The harsh ecological conditions of the Arctic in the past have sustained economic activity in the region. Climate change, new technologies and innovations open new perspectives for the development of these territories. The Arctic has turned into one of the hotspots of geopolitics: global and regional players are striving to expand their borders. Watching the Arctic is a complex problem, so the solution can only be secured by integrating the forces of all parties in the Arctic.
It is impossible to discuss the development of the Arctic from the standpoint “whether we are going to exploit it or not”, as the industrial development of the Arctic started about 100 years ago. Today 10 million people live around Arctic, only about 10% of them are indigenous peoples. The main question is how we can make this development responsible and sustainable to ensure all three aspects – economic, social and environmental – in the long term and who should be a stakeholder in this activity.
Scientists from Russia, Norway and Iceland, despite the difficulties and deteriorating relations between Russia and the West, are conducting an active dialogue on the future of the Arctic. They call for enhanced cooperation and joint development of the Arctic for the benefit of humanity, not for geopolitical confrontation, because “Together we are stronger.” Scientists have also called for attracting the capabilities of space satellites to conquer the Arctic and solve various tasks and problems. They hope to strengthen public and private investment in human capital, for better education, to attract more talented people, to create high-paying jobs for young people, to create and develop smart cities. The Arctic is an excellent opportunity for a clean and green economy, for Industry 4.0 and for the creation of new industries.
As part of the High North Dialogue Arctic 2050: Mapping the future, a panel discussion was held on April 23, 2021. The umbrella theme of all Arctic 2050 presentations: Mapping The Future of the Arctic and exhibitors tried to give their views on development and change in the Arctic over the next few decades from the standpoint of economy, trade and maritime transport, energy, ecology and social trends. During the panel Russian scientists from the Skolkovo School of Management, one of the leading research centers in Russia and their Norwegian colleagues discussed possible scenarios for the development of the Arctic in the next 30 years
Although almost all exhibitors were wary of more accurate predictions given the many factors that potentially determine the course of events in this area, the general impression that could be gained from different presentations is that greater importance is expected in this area in world economic and traffic flows. Development opportunities in mining, energy and maritime transport are great, but there are also great unknowns and potential temptations regarding the mutual rivalry of countries in this area, regulating legal and policy frameworks for the implementation of development policies and finally regarding climate change and risk environment.
The ability to think long-term, and to maintain a balance between all three dimensions, is what is called a ‘sustainable mindset’ and this is exactly what the Arctic needs from leaders now and in the future. A new leadership agenda emerges in each and every sector, reflecting the paradigm shift: policymakers will have to work towards creating an enabling environment, incentivizing more responsible investment in the Arctic, instead of trying to find a balance between economic activity and environmental footprint business needs to turn away from the cost reduction imperative and concentrate on creating innovation in technology and business models that together will make it possible to do business in the Arctic sustainably, which means both at the new level of productivity as well as in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. NGOs must concentrate on facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogs aimed at finding a balance of interests, rather than lobbying for limiting policies and challenging business activity in the region. What is more important, is that, just as with the triple bottom line, these paradigm shifts should be synchronized and synergetic. The sustainable future of the Arctic tarts with the sustainable thinking of the leaders of today.
Russia Facing China: Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella?
Whenever I read another Western report on the prospects of Russian-Chinese relations, the old children’s fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood involuntary springs to my mind. In this well-known story, a little girl walks through a dense forest to bring cakes to her sick grandmother, unexpectedly stumbling upon an angry hungry Wolf. The light-hearted girl talks to the cunning Wolf, only to expose the purpose of her walk in the dark forest. Needless to say, this dangerous adventure cannot end well for Little Red Riding Hood: the insidious Gray Wolf eventually eats both the old sick grandmother and the tale’s main character.
With a little stretch of imagination, we can draw an analogy between the plot of this horror tale for kids and the West’s interpretations of the current relations between Russia and China. It is clear that Moscow has to play Little Red Riding Hood, stupid and naive, while Beijing is a fierce and ruthless gray villain. The emerging friendship between the two inevitably entails most tragic consequences for the girl. This is to say, Russia’s economic, technological, military and otherwise dependence on China will over time grow to an extent that Beijing will be able to take advantage of this growing dependence by turning Moscow into its obedient and compliant vassal.
While the fairy tale ends with the hapless Little Red Riding Hood set free from the wolf’s belly by the hunters who had arrived just in time, the real-life Russia cannot rely on a miraculous rescue. Moscow will have to accept the unpleasant status of an “outlying ulus” of the Middle Kingdom, with all the ensuing consequences for the Kremlin’s international ambitions. As President Vladimir Putin said on a slightly different occasion, “like it or don’t like it—it’s your duty, my beauty.” Unless prompt hunters (perhaps, the noble Americans and their faithful NATO allies?) eventually restore justice, bringing this story to a happy ending.
Still, when I come across the many Russian publications on the same interesting topic of bilateral relations with China, I can’t help but think of another well-known product of folk fantasy, the fairy tale Cinderella. It also tells the story of a young girl who is systematically mistreated and in every way abused by her ugly stepmother and heartless stepsisters. Fortunately, poor Cinderella is saved by her fairy godmother, who appears at just the right moment, generously dressing Cinderella for the upcoming royal ball. With one wave of her magic wand, the good fairy turns a pumpkin into a golden carriage, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen. Cinderella’s filthy rags are miraculously transformed into a beautiful dress studded with jewels. For an additional gift, Cinderella receives glass slippers, which make the girl absolutely irresistible in the eyes of the local prince, who happens to be on the look-out for a suitable bride.
A large number of Russian analysts, politicians and journalists seemingly perceive China as the modern incarnation of the fairy godmother, ready with her magic wand to solve all the numerous problems of modern Russia, quickly and painlessly. They expect Beijing to vigorously oppose U.S. and EU anti-Russian sanctions, increasing purchases of Russian hydrocarbons and food at prices favorable to Moscow, providing Russia with critical technologies, and consistently supporting the Kremlin in all international organizations and multilateral forums. Multifaceted cooperation with China should allow Russia to avoid international isolation as much as enhance its status and influence in international affairs. Thus, despite all the machinations and intrigues of the envious and malicious relatives, Cinderella arrives at the royal ball in dazzling splendor and magnificence.
Moving on with this fairy tale analogy, we can argue about who the Prince Charming is in this case, and what fair punishment awaits Cinderella’s relatives in the end. The latter should obviously be understood as the notorious “Collective West.” In the end, all these details are not so important. What is important, though, is the understanding of China. Whereas it emerges as absolute pure evil in Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella rather portrays China as the embodiment of an equally absolute pure good.
However, the world of fairy tales and the world of international politics have little in common. No matter what anyone says about Vladimir Putin, he appears neither the naive and frivolous Little Red Riding Hood, nor the battered and hardworking Cinderella. The Russian President remains one of the world’s most experienced state leaders. For more than two decades, he has consistently stressed the paramount importance of efforts to bolster Russia’s national sovereignty and independence. If national sovereignty were a religion, the Kremlin could rightfully claim to be the cathedral of that religion. It is hard to imagine a situation where Vladimir Putin, or even one of his likely successors, would willingly sacrifice the country’s sovereignty and independence, even for the sake of promoting cooperation with China.
Perhaps even more importantly, modern China is ill-suited to the role of the hungry evil Wolf or the generous fairy godmother. The characters of children’s fairy are inevitably one-dimensional, grotesque, and poster-like. In fact, they represent either absolute evil or equally absolute good, which is the intrinsic value of fairy tales passed down from generation to generation. They help children clearly distinguish good from evil, white from black, and justice from injustice. These fundamental differences, fixed in children’s minds, come to be one’s moral bearings, without which a person cannot do in adulthood.
In politics, however, this kind of one-dimensionality is a rare thing. The real China, in contrast to the imaginary one, is a vast and rather complex country, with its numerous and varied national interests, aspirations and priorities. Some happen to coincide with those of Russia, some overlap only partially, while others diverge altogether. Therefore, it would be hardly fair to define Beijing’s foreign policy as “pro-” or “anti-Russian,” since they have always been and will primarily be “pro-Chinese.”
There is no doubt that Russia and China currently converge in their approaches to a number of critical issues of international security and development. Such unity is historically justified as it reflects the current geopolitical landscape in the international system. A convergence of interests forms a solid foundation for long-term mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries. It is to be hoped that the relations between the countries will remain dynamic, acquiring new and important dimensions over time.
Far from our two countries only, it is the international system at large that stands to benefit from a stable, predictable and sustainable Russian-Chinese partnership. The numerous prophets hoping for an imminent crisis in Moscow-Beijing relations and going on to predict a conflict between the two should think about the various grave consequences of such developments, not only for Russia and China, but also for the rest of the world. Tactically, many countries could probably take advantage of a Russian-Chinese rupture. Strategically, though, another tectonic split in the international system would not serve the interests of any of the responsible actors in world politics.
Nevertheless, Russian analysts and journalists should not flatter themselves, because no one will solve Russia’s own problems for it. No good wizard can turn a pumpkin into a carriage, mice into horses, and ash-soaked rags into a gorgeous ball gown. No generous fairy will shoe Russia in shimmering glass slippers, and no Prince Charming awaits Moscow at the magical royal ball.
Russia should fight corruption and mismanagement, the overreach of officials, and oppression of small businesses, all on its own. The country should invest in human capital, promoting its innovation sector, introducing full-fledged federalism and local governance, increasing the efficiency of the court system at all levels, and unleashing the creative potential of Russian society to its fullest. The faster and further Russia advances these goals, the more valuable a partner it will become—both for China and other foreign countries. This, in turn, means that the current crisis in the Russia-West relations should become another incentive to speed up the socio-economic modernization of the country, rather than slack or freeze it.
From our partner RIAC
The Alliance of Downtrodden Empires
There are many commonalities and differences, to the point of contradiction, in the Russian, Iranian, and Turkish political and economic positions, calculations, and priorities. Nevertheless, Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara maintain an alliance or, at least, close coordination that includes conflict files, that all or some of which are involved in different arenas.
To explicate this, it is possible to go back to the modern history of the three states, and to the fall of their empires. The empires that had their center in geography continued for long periods of time with space for their expansion and contraction and for their wars and the alteration of the territorial and water borders between them.
Russia witnessed the fall of two empires that ruled and sometimes fused their surroundings, and they played a central role in international relations for centuries. From the Russian Empire, which expanded in Europe and Central Asia and extended from the maritime borders in the east to with Japan to the Polish lands in the west which collapsed during World War I, to the Soviet Union, which ruled from Moscow an empire similar to the one that its leaders had brought down before its power increased after World War II to include Europe the entire East. The fall of the Union in the early nineties was a humiliation for the Russians and bitterness for an imperialist ambition that became unable to achieve its aspirations. In that humiliation and the bitterness that followed and the difficulty of being satisfied with the nation-state borders, Putinism was formed, and its rise attempted to marry Russian nationalism, Tsarist Orthodoxy, and Stalinism, based on violent suppression of the independence rebellion (Chechnya). Direct military intervention in the periphery (Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan), leading to two comprehensive wars in Syria to declare a return by force to the international arena, and a denial of the legitimacy of the existence of an entity in Ukraine under the pretext of an American and Western threat to national security.
Iran, for its part, has not adapted to its national borders since it was drawn after the fall of Qajar rule and the rise of Reza Pahlavi to power after the First World War. The imperial intransigence of the new Shah and then of his son Muhammad, with historical arguments or a connection to a Persian bond, brought down Iranian relations with Afghanistan, Iraq and Bahrain ambiguities and tensions that remained until 1979. Then the Khomeinist “exporting revolution” ideology after the overthrow of the Shah, and the erupting Iran-Iraq war that followed in the eighties, transformed the Iranian ambition into a basis for forming alliances and loyalty in the Shiite communities in nearby states. Relying on previous attempts to influence the states were minorities of the Persian League and the historical Persian influence. Iran’s political and strategic expansion was enshrined after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein regimes in Iraq. Tehran took advantage of the American occupation and the chaos it created to extend its influence to the west and complete a strategic arc that passes through Baghdad and Damascus, which is ruled by its ally Assad, and then reaches Beirut, where Hezbollah is founded and supported by Iran. Through it, it was able to engage directly with the Israelis, in order to raise a political-ideological position that provides popularity, and as a response to Tel Aviv’s threat to its nuclear program. Furthermore, Tehran provided finance and arms for Palestinian forces on one hand and Yemeni forces on the other, placing it at the heart of the conflict in Palestine and on the edge of the Red Sea overlooking vital navigation that affects the global economy.
As for Turkey, despite retreating from emerging ‘national’ borders and strict neutrality imposed by Atatürk through the establishment of the republic after the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Despite a subsequent political and cultural push towards Europe and the joining of the NATO after World War II, it remained the result of its nationalist discourse. As a result of the massacres that accompanied the fall of the Ottomans, its relations with its surroundings are tense. Of course, the matter applies to Soviet and then independent Armenia, to Greece and then Cyprus, where it intervened militarily in 1974, and it applies to Syria and Iraq, where the border problems and the depth of the Kurdish question, represent its most prominent concerns. Morevore, it relates to some regions of Central Asia where the geographical contact and historical frictions between empires, and where there are Turkish-speaking national minorities. To all of that in 2002 was added a very important element linked to the Islamic identity that Erdogan and his party had elevated. He returned Turkish priorities to an eastern and southern orientation and made Ankara invest in the remnants of the Ottoman League to build an Arab presence (in cooperation with Qatar), then it overtook that about years ago. Building an African economic presence and playing intermediary roles between countries and regional hubs to demonstrate influence beyond the borders of what was a sultanate for centuries.
Undoubtedly, the issue of warm waters, the control of straits, and sea lanes is a priority for the three parties, both in past and present, for economic and geopolitical reasons. In turn, this explains another aspect of the current alliance (and competition) between them.
The Black Sea and within it the ‘Sea of Azov’ is Russia’s only water port that can be permanently relied upon economically and militarily, as it reaches through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles to the Mediterranean ‘where Moscow’s only base is in Syria’. Obviously this is because of the impossibility of the Russians using their northern, eastern and northwestern seas due to the freezing of its waters for long months. This fact, of course, puts them in direct contact with Turkey, their partner in the maritime domain, and their obligatory waterway to the world. The latter, in turn, seeks to expand its exceptional water presence and establish areas of influence, whether in the Black Sea between Russia and Ukraine, in the Aegean Mediterranean Sea facing Greece, or in the Libyan West to reach the southern Mediterranean shore and energy fields.
When it comes to the Iranian case, the same water priority takes on another dimension, related to the control of the straits in addition to access to the Mediterranean. From the Strait of Hormuz, the oil artery separating the Indian Ocean from the Gulf, to Bab al-Mandab ‘the entrance to the Red Sea connects to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean’ to Syria, Lebanon, and their Mediterranean ports. Tehran is seeking to impose its control and presence through its armed forces or the forces of its allies ‘the Houthis, the Syrian regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah’.
As a consequence, the maritime water issue, as the overlapping areas of geographical influence, and the recent past, which did not go beyond the complex and confusing present with its consequences during the transition from the empire to the nation-state, bring the Russians, Iranians and Turks together, despite the distinctions and different aspirations.
If we add to all the above, hostile discourses against Western hegemony in the capitals of the three states, an intertwining in their roles and occupations in Syria for years, their economic cooperation in the face of old American and European sanctions on Iran and the latest ones on Russia, examining the characteristics of Turkish mediation between Kyiv and Moscow, monitoring the Russian, Iranian and Turkish cooperation projects with China and India, we will see the depth of the mutual need for coordination between the heirs of the ‘Downtrodden Empires’. This common needs seem sufficient so far to curb the antagonism between Ankara on the one hand and Moscow and Tehran on the other hand in the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict. It also gives the impression of satisfactory to overcome the difficulties between them in the Syrian arena, where they share the Astana path despite their contradictory positions and locations. Additionally, it puts to limit the repercussions of the clash between Russia ‘through ‘Wagner’ mercenaries; and Turkey ‘through drones and field experts’ in Libya. Finally, it seems sufficient to perpetuate Russia’s request to Turkey to mediate in the Ukrainian war, despite Ankara selling Kyiv the famous ‘Bayraktar’ drones with which the Ukrainians hunt Putin’s tanks crawling on the ruins of their cities.
The bottom line is, situations are not likely to change in the near future, even if the relationship of the three states or one of them changes with the West, given that diversification of options, taking advantage of the position, role, contradictions, and blackmailing the opposing parties have become a feature of international politics today. There are no signs that this needs to be changed.
Russia responds to America’s plan to win WW III
The U.S. Government no longer designs nuclear weapons to prevent WW III, but instead to win WW III.
Whereas both the Soviet Union and the United States used to design their strategy and weapons so as to prevent a Third World War so that neither side would win but both sides (and much of the world) would be destroyed as thousands of nuclear warheads would suddenly be exploding during a nuclear war which would be completed within around an hour or so, the U.S. Government has gradually shifted away from such a “M.A.D.” or “mutually assured destruction” meta-strategy, and been replacing it with the “Nuclear Primacy” U.S. meta-strategy, in which Russia will be totally destroyed but the U.S. will emerge afterward as being sufficiently strong so as to hold unchallengeable sway over the entire planet (which hegemony has been the actual goal of the U.S. Government ever since 25 July 1945).
On 3 May 2017, I headlined “America’s Top Scientists Confirm: U.S. Goal Now Is to Conquer Russia”, and linked to a report that had recently been issued by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, about “revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing — boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three — and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” I pointed out there that this new technology, called the “super-fuse”, was exactly in accord with the replacement of M.A.D. by Nuclear Primacy. After all, though the proponents of “Nuclear Primacy” didn’t say that this phrase related ONLY to America’s “Primacy” in a U.S.-v.-Russia nuclear war, the context always was clear that this was the intention, and that the phrase meant the exact opposite of (and strongly opposed) any conceivable nuclear “primacy” for Russia. So, “Nuclear Primacy” — a phrase that was introduced in 2006 in the most prestigious scholarly journals, and subsequently adhered-to by all U.S. foreign policies though never explicitly stated (and never publicly advocated) by the U.S. Government — is, in actuality, the new U.S. meta-strategy, the one that now exists.
Other new U.S. military technologies also were discussed in that Bulletin of Atomic Scientists article: for example: “Because of improvements in the killing power of US submarine-launched ballistic missiles, those submarines now patrol with more than three times the number of warheads needed to destroy the entire fleet of Russian land-based missiles in their silos.” Of course, if this is true, then Russians were in a terrifying situation, at least as recently as 2017.
Russia’s response to this challenge had actually started even earlier, by no later than U.S. President Barack Obama’s having grabbed control over the Government of Ukraine in February 2014. (And in this video is shown that video’s full smoking gun of his coup, and here is the transcript and explanation of that crucial smoking gun.) Ukraine is the country that has the nearest foreign border to The Kremlin in Moscow — only 353 miles from Moscow, a mere five minutes of missile-flight-time, away, from the Ukrainian city of Sumy. Ukraine’s having the border with the closest proximity to Russia’s central command (The Kremlin) is the main reason why Obama grabbed it (in accord with his Nuclear-Primacy policies).
Compare that 353 miles to the 1,131 miles from Washington DC that Cuba is and that terrified JFK so much during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as to have made him willing to launch nuclear war against the Soviet Union if Khrushchev wouldn’t remove the missile sites that the Soviet Union was attempting to build in Cuba. Cuba is over three times farther away from DC than Ukraine is from The Kremlin, and the missiles at that time were far slower than they are today, but when America’s NATO finally rejected, on 7 January 2022, Russia’s demand that Ukraine NEVER be allowed to join NATO, what alternative did Russia have left, other than to reverse Obama’s coup of Ukraine and to do it as soon as possible?
In preparation for Russia’s “Special Military Operation,” Russia has been introducing new weapons systems that are specifically designed to prevent “Nuclear Primacy.” Among the main ones is the Sarmat ICBM, which is vastly the world’s most terrifying weapon, because it will be virtually impossible to detect and track, carrying dozens of precision-targeted huge nuclear bombs, unstoppable by any existing technology, and having a range of 18,000 kilometers or over 11,000 miles, which would cover the entire U.S. empire. Just a few Sarmats could destroy the entire U.S. empire, all of the U.S. and its vassal-nations (self-described as being ‘democracies’ and ‘independent nations’ — neither of which is true).
A Princeton University group of scholars has produced their estimate of how a WW III would proceed, which they label as “Plan A”, and their video-summary of it was posted to youtube on 6 September 2019. As-of now, it has had nearly 4 million views, and five thousand viewer-comments. It assumes that the war would proceed in gradual steps of mutual escalation and ignores that the U.S. regime no longer is following the M.A.D. meta-strategy — that the U.S. regime has replaced M.A.D. by their Nuclear Primacy meta-strategy. Consequently, the Princeton estimates appear to be highly unrealistic, and not, at all, to be describing the type of unprecedentedly brief war that a WW III in our era would entail. A WW III in our time would be predicated upon being initiated in a blitz-nuclear attack by the United States, such as a war that is driven by the Nuclear Primacy meta-strategy would be done: Nuclear Primacy means a war to decapitate Russia’s central command in its first strike and within a mere 10 minutes or (if from Ukraine) even less from that blitz-launch. How would a decapitated Russia be able to retaliate, at all? Only by means of a “dead hand” system, which would automatically launch whatever would survive of its retaliatory capacities after that first, decapitating, nuclear-blitz, attack. The Sarmat would be a part of that, unless the U.S. regime starts WW III before the Sarmats become emplaced. In the meantime, Russia’s main concern will be to maintain a current dead-hand capability so as to make certain that at least the U.S. and its main vassal-nations will be eliminated in the event that the Nuclear Primacy meta-strategy becomes launched before Russia’s dead-hand system becomes completely implemented.
The way that a WW III would most likely start has been shaped by the U.S. regime’s objective of not being blamed for the war despite being the first side to nuclearize it; and this objective requires that Russia must have initiated the conventional phase of the war that will have led up to that nuclear phase. For example: if Russia fails to achieve its objective of capturing and holding enough of Ukraine so as to increase that 353 miles to, say, 1,000 miles (or whatever would be their required minimum), then the U.S. might send forces to Ukraine in order to prevent Russia from achieving that objective; and, if Russia then engages U.S. forces in direct combat, the U.S. might use that as their excuse to invade Russia, and, at some stage in that invasion, very suddenly, to blitz-nuclear attack The Kremlin, on the excuse (of course) that “the Russian regime doesn’t respond to anything but military force.” Then, the survivors of WW III will be able to be propagandized sufficiently to cast the blame for WW III onto Russia, and this will help to ease the U.S. regime’s successful take-over of the entire world (or what remains of it).
Already, it is a great propaganda-success on the part of America’s regime, that though they started the war in Ukraine by grabbing Ukraine in February 2014, Russia has gotten the blame for this war, when responding to that coup (which had started this war) eight years later, on 24 February 2022, with their “Special Military Operation.” In fact, most people now might think that Ukrainians always hated Russia’s Government and loved America’s Government, but even Western-sponsored polls of Ukrainians showed consistently that prior to Obama’s coup there, the vast majority of Ukrainians saw Russia as their friend; and America, NATO, and the EU, as their enemy; but that this reversed almost immediately, after the U.S. Government took over Ukraine, in 2014. In the propaganda-war, it’s almost as-if Russia hasn’t even entered the contest, at all.
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