British government plans to form international Arctic cooperation agreement between Western countries in order to contain Russian presence in the North Pole.
Written by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The UK’s post-Brexit expansionism seems far from over. This week, the British government announced that it is negotiating the signing of an international agreement to increase Arctic cooperation between Western countries. The British plan sounds like an affront to Russia, which has historically been consolidating the Arctic as its zone of influence, which contributes to the increase of tensions between Moscow and Western States, unnecessarily threatening the stability of international relations.
London plans to elevate Western international cooperation in Arctic policy. For that, the country will count on Canada as its main ally to form a new agreement, to which other countries may adhere at a later time. It is still unclear how exactly the new deal will work, but British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’ words in a recent article she wrote for the media agency Daily Mail show that the AUKUS will be a real inspiration, which seems to mean that the new deal will have a military aspect.
Here are some of her words: “We are going further and faster with partners – such as through the newly-agreed AUKUS partnership. In the same spirit, we want to deepen our work with nations like Canada to cover regions such as the Arctic (…)”. She also emphasized that the new pact is a NATO’s response against possible “Russian incursions”, almost admitting that the aim is to harm Moscow’s geopolitical plans. According to her, the “necessity” to create a new Arctic agreement has become clear in the backdrop of recent Russia-Ukraine tensions: “Together with our NATO allies, we are making clear that any incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a huge strategic mistake. The UK stands ready to use all diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal to avoid such an outcome and impose a high cost should it occur”.
It is curious to note how once again Western anti-Russian paranoia is being used in order to justify measures that will undoubtedly generate unspeakable damages to world peace. Most of the border tensions between Russia and Ukraine in recent years have been initiated by NATO countries, which claim to have information about a possible “Russian invasion plan” and thus justify dangerous and unnecessary military maneuvers. Now, in a much deeper and more dangerous sense, the UK plans to “respond” to such a “Russian invasion plan”, not on the Ukrainian border itself, but in the Arctic. Literally the UK (as well as Canada and any other country or NATO member that joins the pact) is planning to hurt Russia in the Arctic because of alleged events on the Ukrainian border, which sounds absurd.
Specifically, regarding the Arctic, it is necessary to remember that there is a current tendency in the western world to direct to the North Pole all responses to frictions with Russia that have arisen anywhere on the planet. Recently, in many occasions, the US and the European Union have also acted in in the same way that the UK is currently doing. In fact, the Arctic has been consolidated, with the historical course, as a zone of great Russian influence, mainly due to the control exercised by Moscow over the Northern Sea Route which is in accordance with all the norms of international law and Arctic agreements. Currently, Western countries seem to want to “conquer” the Arctic, as Russian superiority in the region seems to concern them deeply (a trend that started during Trump era, when several measures were taken to increase NATO’s presence in the North Pole). As a result, Western actions against Russia have progressively been directed towards that region, even if they are responses to events elsewhere.
Added to this is the issue of the current post-Brexit UK’s expansionism. London is seeking to expand its geopolitical horizon as much as possible, as it has lost space within the European continent. AUKUS was a joint initiative with the US precisely to meet this British objective, being a profitable measure commercially (imposing conditions for naval cooperation with Australia) and militarily (allocating ships in the Pacific). Now, an “AUKUS for Russia” appears to be the new objective, with the Arctic as a zone of interest.
Obviously, the matter will still need to be discussed many times in the coming months, considering that the agreement is still under construction. It is necessary to observe what will be the reaction of other NATO countries and whether the US and the EU will support the British initiative. However, tensions will certainly escalate over this topic, as the interest of Western powers in increasing the military presence in the Arctic is unlikely to diminish any time soon.