Newsletter: Impeachment and a Government in Crumbles

LNG Merak
Launch of the vessel LNG Merak constructed by Hudong Zhonghua for service with Yamal LNG in January 2020. (Source: Courtesy of Mitsui OSK Lines)  

Dear High North News reader! 

Around the same time as US President Donald Trump entered the podium at the World Economic Forum in Davos, from where he praised the American economy and warned against climate Armageddon prophecies, the impeachment case against him started on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Trump was also on the agenda for Thursday’s debate about international challenges in the High North – in Oslo. Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm writes in this week’s Friday op-ed that big power politics in the High North has changed primarily because the USA has changed dramatically since Donald Trump assumed power.

Suffice to mention the American aversion against mentioning climate in the Arctic conversation. The fact that the USA also requires security policy issues to be brought on the table in one of the most well-functioning cooperation forums in the High North; the Arctic Council, is another symptom of change”, he writes – amongst others.

Rhetoric escalation
Trump is the third president in American history who is impeached, and even though he appears likely to be acquitted, one would perhaps assume that the impeachment case along with the turbulence about Iran would make the president think of other issues than the Arctic.

Nevertheless, Andreas Østhagen, researcher at FNI, the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, does not think so: “There has been an increasing military focus towards the European part of the Arctic during the current American administration. The US Second Fleet has been reactivated and the USA participates in exercises and capacity building in our northern areas. It would be most peculiar if one were to withdraw from that again, given the White House rhetoric and the rhetorical escalation we are currently witnessing”, he says to High North News.

Still fighting for independence
High North News has had extensive coverage of the US interest in Greenland. This week, we bring an exclusive interview with Premier Kim Kielsen, who says that Donald Trump’s wooing of Greenland has not changed his mind regarding the desire for independence from Greenland.

“The mandate we have from the people is for us to strive towards independence. There should be no doubt whatsoever that everything we do is part of this preparation”, he says.

Russia as a dump site
Russia’s decision to once again permit the importing of depleted uranium has sparked a debate about whether the country should profile itself as a waste landfill for other countries’ nuclear waste.

Below everyone’s radar, Russia has once again started importing depleted uranium from the German nuclear power industry. Greenpeace now warns that Russia may end up as a nuclear dumping ground for other states’ nuclear waste.

And we linger in Russia a little longer, the country where Mikhail Mishustin (53) was pulled in by President Vladimir Putin to become Prime Minister in order to boost the Russian economy.

However, there are increased questions his private economy. Russian media ask how his wife could make USD 12.5 million in nine years – without having a job.

A crumbling government
In Norway, the four-party government coalition crumbled this week. The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Progress Party was the other three coalition parties’ decision to bring home a Norwegian ISIS woman and her two children – one of which is “presumed sick” – from the Al Houl camp in Syria.

With the Progress Party exit from government, there is an opening for rematches on a series of issues of significance for the High North and the Arctic. For instance the issue of the ice edge, a decision that in practice will decide how far north one will permit petroleum exploration to take place.

“The ice edge will not be moved one inch, at least not to the south”, said Deputy Chair of the Progress Party, Sylvi Listhaug, to Norwegian broadcaster NRk the other day. Listhaug, who assumed office as Oil and Energy Minister just one month ago, is also opposed to land-based wind power and has been ardently and very vocal  against windmills.

The Prime Minister should take the opportunity to let Northern Norway into the government”, writes Arne O. Holm. (Norwegian only)

Icebreaker race
Novatek’s giant project Arctic LNG 2 is scheduled to open in only three years, which will require production of icebreakers to transport the gas from the Yamal plant off the northern coast of Russia to markets in Europe and Asia.

Now, Chinese shipbuilder Hudong Zhonghua has entered the competition against Russia’s Zvezda and South Korean DSME about producing highly specialized icebreakers for Novatek.

Arctic paradoxes
Next week, the Arctic Frontiers conference kicks off in Tromsø, Norway for the 14th time running. The conference connects politicians, business and scientists to discuss development in the Arctic. One of the key themes this year will be how we can develop business in the Arctic while also preserving the ocean.

It is not always easy, and good intentions can nevertheless have unintended and most unfortunate consequences. For instance:

In an attempt to reduce Sulphur emissions in shipping, the IMO introduced new regulations from 1 January 2020 that require heavy fuel oil (HFO) to be replaced with low-Sulphur heating oil. However, soon after the regulations were introduced, scientists and environmentalists warn that this new kind of fuel may have a most unfortunate consequence in the form of high coal emissions, an environmental toxin particularly damaging for the Arctic environment.

High North News will of course be present at Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø and will provide extensive coverage.

Until then; have a great weekend!
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News

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