When Western countries began to take a hard line against Russia in early 2014, the aim was to force Vladimir Putin to change his mind about meddling in Crimea and Ukraine. Doing so also stoked a bitter debate over whether the Russian president had Arctic territory on his to-annex list, Kevin McGwin writes in The Arctic Journal, and continues:
“Now, one year after sanctions were formally imposed, Mr Putin is looking more entrenched than ever in Crimea. Meanwhile, the situation in eastern Ukraine appears to have become a quagmire.
To be sure, Arctic relations are not entirely smooth either. Perhaps most glaring was the absence of Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, from the Arctic Council’s biennial summit in April. Officially, this was due to a busy schedule, though most also suspected it was an effort to snub Ottawa for its hard line against Moscow since the conflict over Ukraine began. Still others suggest that not showing up was the least bad option; staying away may have been an effort to ensure that bigger issues didn’t overshadow the meeting.”