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The Arctic – Focus on the East

  • Published in Society
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The Arctic. Around this region there was always some excitement as the Arctic has always been one of the richest regions among terrestrial areas, having favorable transport links and, of course, important climate system for the entire planet.The region is undergoing large-scale climate change, international cooperation has reached a new level of cooperation, and there are all the necessary technologies for the study and development of the Arctic.Sure, there are a lot of questions.  Here is one of them - if the Arctic is ready itself to such universal interest of the entire world? And how about its people?  II Lensky meeting on “The Geopolitics of the East. XXI Century” was held in Yakutsk in 2014 to answer these questions, which was attended by representatives of such countries as Russia, China, Korea and Japan.Participants met in a beautiful place called Tabaginsky Mys, where they had a few hours of hot debates concerning the Arctic and the role of Yakutia in its development.

The event was opened by First President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Mikhail Nikolayev, who was also moderator of the Lensky meetings."There was a time when many thought that geopolitics - a manifestation of egotism. But time has shown that it is not so - began Mikhail Nikolayev. - Geopolitics is very important for all the world's nations, regardless of their size or location, and now it has become a concern of all parts of the world already”.

He also spoke about the various problems associated with the region. “Formerly the situation was that quiet areas of the Arctic were a refuge for scientists, and now the Arctic is a hot political arena between the major powers.This region is rich in resources, and these resources should be used.But when we talk about the Arctic, it is necessary to bear in mind the fragility of nature.During all that time many Aboriginal communities ceased to exist, the emissions of carbon materials caused global warming, and the ice cover has decreased by half.  Permafrost at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean also undergoes changes.We should not forget about the security as terrorist activity in our time is not uncommon”.

Ambassador of China Li Fenglin began the discussion, who highlighted the importance of the project of revival of the Northern Sea Route.According to him, even though the Northern Sea Route has been existing for many years, it was rarely used for its intended purpose, as in the nineties sea-crafts did not sail there at all. “The changes came in 2009, when 10 vessels have sailed on the Northern Sea Route, one of which was Chinese, - said Li Fenglin. - I am very interested in the development of this Route, as it is very important for the development of the Arctic”.

He also stressed the fact that the volume of traffic from Asia Pacific to Europe has been growing steadily and the NSR as an alternative route would greatly help the development of Asian countries.“Of course, a lot of conditions - technical, legal, geopolitical – should be created to achieve this goal, - he added. - We need to create such conditions so that the Northern Sea Route could be more profitable and more competitive than the other routes.Next step is to think about investments in infrastructure, creation of international bodies and other economic nuances”.

At the end of his speech, the Chinese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary has divided all those involved in the work of the Arctic, into optimists and skeptics.China, in his opinion, adheres to the golden mean.  It stands out from his speech that China expects Russia to work out an integrated approach in the development of the Arctic: the NSR, the railway and the gas pipeline in the direction of Asia.
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Rector of the Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University Evgenia Mikhailova, noted that the NEFU works primarily in the area of ​​research, since, in her view, university is a great place for business and science.The rector assured that the Arctic studies are ongoing, for example, it is expected shortly to conduct a comprehensive Arctic expedition.The rector also highlighted the fact that all the countries of the Arctic Council have created "Arctic" research centers, but Russia, unfortunately, has not yet made it.The North-Eastern Federal University has such a project with developed concept, which is necessary to support.

Another point of view was expressed by Japanese journalist and lecturer Ken Isigooka from the University of Reytak, who immediately said that the development of the Arctic is more pessimistic than optimistic, and that his hobby is provocative questions.“Yes, work is being done, but are expenditures going to be cut?After all, private companies will work on profit rather than on the state.As for the Northern Sea Route, it remains only within the oil and gas industry so far, not more.Also in the Arctic climate is very unstable, which can be very dangerous”.

Here Mr Isigooka told the participants about the Japan’s view of the Arctic.  "Our country believes that today Russia has to pay attention to the development of the Siberian railway and development of mineral deposits".

Finally, Egor Borisov, Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), made a speech analyzing the development of the Arctic through an interesting theory of the "hosts" and "guests"."We have to look at the situation taking into consideration the attitude of a person to a particular problem.For Arctic people the Arctic is lifestyle, their culture, - said Mr. Borisov. – Speaking about the development of this vast region we should take into account not only economic interests but also moral.Today we need to develop a balanced and careful approach to the development of these areas".

Egor Borisov also said that the problems associated with the Arctic should not be laid on a shelf and the international community needs to think about it.  “Natural changes are going on, during 50 years reservoirs connected and increased in size, – said the President. - The balance on our northern shores is broken – the area is very much polluted. This issue should concern not only Russia but the whole world".

"Ambitions and accurate knowledge - that's what you need for the development of the Arctic, - said President of the Korean Institute of Eurasian Studies Kim Sok-Hwan. - I am an optimist and believe that the future of the Arctic and Yakutia depends on how correctly technology and knowledge will be applied".
According to him, Korea is a small country, which needs resources.That is why Korea is interested in the development of the Arctic, through the creation of strong infrastructure and exchange of technologies and experience with Russia, and that will be the result to create a new engine for mutual cooperation.

At the end, Mikhail Nikolayev, summarized the event:”We are all quite open and, as it turned out, everyone sees the Arctic in his own way.There are problems; they must be solved, so all of us need to continue working in this direction.This region should be reclaimed with the help of science. Twenty-first century is a century of the East".

Evgeny ONUFRIEV