By Sarah Johnstone, Assistant editor, online
Russia’s planting of a flag under the North Pole in 2007 was a ‘magnificent’ bit of PR, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said at the IISS this week, but it wasn’t typical of international relations in the Arctic.
At the launch of the institute’s Forum for Arctic Climate Change and Security, Bildt highlighted the need for nations and companies to work together in the polar region. Rapid climate change – twice as fast in the Arctic than elsewhere – was opening up new maritime routes and opportunities for resources exploration. However, he insisted, it remained a harsh environment that made cooperation necessary.
This relatively benign assessment surprised some of his London audience, one of whom said the issue of Arctic security normally in the UK focused warily on what the Russians were doing. Bildt admitted that Vladimir Putin’s election manifesto was ‘not entirely in tune with what I’m saying’. However, he stuck by his earlier assertion that the Arctic region had become much less militarised since the end of the Cold War.