It has been a week in the name of politics at High North News. There have been local elections in both Norway and Russia.
In Norway, Labor ended up with its worst election results in a long, long time. Only by the narrowest margin possible did the party manage to hold on to its status as Northern Norway’s largest party. However, just like trends elsewhere in the world, the traditional governing parties in Norway decline while so-called ‘protest parties’ gain prominence.
What separates Norway from other countries, however, is that while in other countries people’s dissatisfaction is expressed through extremist political parties of various kinds, dissatisfaction in Norway is expressed through established, democratic parties. There is no Boris Johnson or AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) between Norwegian fjords and mountains. “Emphasizing the High North over the next year may prove an efficient cure”, Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm writes in his op-ed after the election.
Backlash for Putin
The biggest party took a solid blow in Russia too, in last Sunday’s elections. The Russian president’s support party, United Russia, lost big in the local elections in Moscow. The opposition parties won 20 out of 45 seats. It was the most emotional election in recent times, say Moscow mayor.
On Sunday, there were local elections in 16 regions outside Moscow too, as well as elections for 13 regional assemblies. The result shows that the ruling government party took a blow outside the capital too.
The Canadian election campaign has started
The Canadian election campaign period officially started on Wednesday. The 41-day long election campaign leading up to 21 October is just half the marathon period that brought Justin Trudeau to power in 2015. Trudeau is aiming for four more years, and during the upcoming campaign period he is expected to focus on the party’s performance in job creation, reduction of child poverty and on the reconciliation with Canadas indigenous population.
However, the Liberal party leader lost some of his public approval when it came out that he tried to exert political pressure on then-District Attorney Jody Wilson-Raybould last year in order to make her intervene in a prosecution process and protect Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. His actions are not punishable, however, for a man like Trudeau – who built his entire image on being a ‘nice guy’ – it may jeopardize his chances of reelection.
Launched ambitious plan for the Arctic
Nor was it perhaps a wise move to release the new framework for Canada’s Arctic policy on the day before the election campaign started, all quiet and on the low, when many had expected fanfares and celebrations at the launching of a report following from three years of innovative work.
While most commentators praise the fact that northern partners have contributed in the process, critics have lined up to say that the document contains old news and platitudes, no funding plans or time schedules. Nor has it been possible to establish a consensus amongst the 31 different partners who have participated.
Arctic as a storage for toxins
The use of chemicals will double by year 2030 and the Arctic has become a storage for global chemical pollution. In a March 2019 report, it is stated that dangerous chemicals are still emitted into the environment despite obligations to maximize advantages and minimizing the effects of the industry.
- Increased use and emission of chemicals on a global scale has direct consequences for the Arctic, says Research Director Heimstad. This week, she presented the challenges that the use of chemicals represent to the environment and people during the Arctic Council’s working group for reduction of pollution (ACAP).
However, chemicals are not the only threat to the Arctic. Plastic waste and microplastics have been found along the entire Northern Sea Route, according to Russian scientists. The result of a recent expedition may provide important information about how some of the least accessible ocean areas in the world are affected by global plastic pollution.
Surface pollution documented by the expedition stems from bottles and waste thrown overboard from ships sailing along the NSR. However, plastic waste was also found in the Okhotsk Sea in East Russia as well as in the Tchukotskiy Sea by the Bering Strait, and also in the Barents Sea.
The beginning of the end of the sanctions regime?
Ukraininan President Volodymyr Zelenskyi personally received each of the 35 released Ukrainian prisoners who last Saturday landed at the Borispol airport outside Kiev. This is the most important exchange of prisoners until now during the five year long war between the Ukraine and Russia, and it may kick new life into establishing a lasting peace solution in a conflict that up until now has taken some 13,000 lives and led to a crisis in the relationship between Russia and the West.
Chinese capital has become increasingly important for Russia following the introduction of the western sanctions in 2014. Last April, it was announced that two Chinese state-owned oil companies are acquiring a 20 percent stake in Novatek’s LNG project ‘Arctic LNG 2’.
Though if we are to believe professor Vyatcheslav Morozov, there are not any alternatives to European cooperation for Russia.
- Even if Chinese influence will grow, Russia wants a pro-European stance in the longer term, he said to HNN during a seminar organized by the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI) last week.
Morozov believes that the weekend’s prisoner exchange with the Ukraine may be the beginning of the end for the sanctions regime.
Make Vardø great again
We also traveled to Vardø to ask people about the American radar that looms over the town. Once upon a time, Vardø and Arkhangelsk traded fish for timber and flour. Today, Russia practices attacks against the town that for centuries was the hub of economic and cultural cooperation towards the East.
How did Vardø become an expressed bomb target for Moscow? The construction of a new American radar is just a part of the answer you will find if you dedicate yourself to reading our latest longread article with the suitable name “Make Vardø Great Again”.
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Op-ed: What is There for the Arctic in the Updated Maritime Strategy of the Russian Federation?
Russia to Re-Examine Drilling Samples on Svalbard
Have a great weekend!
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News