Representatives from all of the Arctic states, plus the EU, rarely meet for a debate on the future of the Arctic and the High North. However, on Thursday it happened at High North Dialogue in Bodø.
One of the main topics for discussion was security politics. Moderator Arne O. Holm challenged Teimuraz Ramishvili, the Russian Ambassador to Norway, on what message Russia wanted to send to the rest of the world when three Russian nuclear submarines simultaneously punched through Arctic ice on the 26th of March, pictures of which were broadcasted all over the world.
"It reminded me of Hollywood films with Russian submarines. Now we know that it can be done in practice. I do not know what signal the Russian military wants to send, I do not represent the military. However, I think that this proves that there is no chance of avoiding discussing security issues in the context of the Arctic", Ramishvili said.
The moderator then asked Jim DeHart, U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region, about why the USA is increasing its military spending and expanding its military presence in the Arctic.
"Presence is very important. It is a reality that there is a sense of rising competition in the region. We do see risks that are associated with more accessibility in the region. We will address these issues with our allies in a very resolute way, and we are doing that every day", DeHart said, and added: "We have no interest in introducing security or military issues in discussions in the Arctic Council. We have always had very good cooperation with all the Arctic states within the council, and we want that to continue".
Presence is very important. There is a sense of rising competition in the region
Mikael Antell, the Finnish Ambassador to Norway, was asked how security politics and military tension look from Finland.
"We need to follow the security situation closely. In the case of Finland, we have a very tight dialogue with our friends in the EU, in NATO. We have established very tight security cooperation with Sweden and Norway. All we do aims at increasing the stability of the region", Antell said and added:
"It is of the utmost importance that we stick with international law, and preserve the order that we have, and that we maintain the Arctic Council as a forum for progressive cooperation, especially on climate issues".
The Ambassadors’ Panel consisted of nine Arctic ambassadors:
- Audun Halvorsen, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Michael Mann, Ambassador at Large for the Arctic, European Union
- Mikael Antell, Finnish Ambassador to Norway
- Teimuraz Ramishvili, Russian Ambassador to Norway
- Cecilia Björner, Swedish Ambassador to Norway
- Jim DeHart, U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region
- Patrick Parisot, Canadian Ambassador to Norway
- Ingibjörg Davíðsdóttir, Icelandic Ambassador to Norway
- Jarl Frijs-Madsen, Danish Ambassador to Norway
Videos from the whole conference will be made available by the High North Center in the coming weeks.