Newsletter: Kisses, Hugs and a Woof

Ettra is an Alaskan malamute. Photo by Hearts in the Ice

Dear reader! 

On Wednesday, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for having entered into a peace agreement with neighboring Eritrea and with that ende done of Africa’s longest-lasting armed conflicts. Abiy Ahmed’s method has been referred to as ‘kiss-and-hug diplomacy’.

David vs Goliath
The same can not be said for Emmanuel Macron’s attempt at making Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zenyenskiy ‘kiss and hug’ in Paris last Monday.Macron has made normalization of the relationship between Russia and Europe his core political ambition, though he is only partly successful.

The outcome of the seven-hour long meeting between David and Goliath is that Ukraine and Russia will exchange prisoners of war and that heavy arms will be withdrawn from the frontline. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go to find a solution to the conflict that has created a breakdown in trust between Russia and the West.

And the Crimea conflict was not addressed, at least not in public.

The Ukrainian president confirmed that he considers the Crimea a part of Ukraine. He probably also stated this during the meeting. It is obvious for everyone that no solution is possible for the Crimea in Russia. To Russia, the Crimea issue is solved. For France and Germany, this is not worth mentioning, because then the negotiations will be deadlocked straight away”, explains Vyatscheslav Morozov, Professor of EU-Russia studies at the University of Tartu, Estonia, to High North News.

Jokes aside
Last week, NATO celebrated its 70th anniversary, though the anniversary was once again characterized by heads of state lashing out against each other – both politically and personally. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught on tape while joking about US President Donald Trump to a.o. Great Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It did not take long for Trump to hit back and refer to Trudeau as “false”. The US President also argued that Trudeau joked about him because he was upset that Trump pointed out that Canada does not use two percent of its GDP on its defense budget.

But joking and backstabbing at the NATO summit aside – top-level politicians should talk more about what happens in the High North. And Norway should take the lead, argues Andreas Østhagen“Both Moscow, Washington and Beijing are looking north. France refers to the Arctic as ‘the new Middle East’. Misleading, definitely, though it illustrates the need for a more factual debate about the way forward in the “High North”. Norway should assume a more active role – in particular to prevent the fronts from becoming more entrenched”, he writes in an op-ed [Norwegian only].

Greta vs. Trump
For almost two weeks, representatives from nearly 200 countries have been gathered for a climate summit in Madrid (COP25). This year’s climate negotiations are the 25th in a row and is organized by the UN, hoping to manage to have a global, collective effort to counter disastrous climate changes.

The goal is to work out more detailed framework regulations for the Paris Accord, which was adopted at those negotiations in 2015. The outcome is important for whether the Paris Agreement will be a success or not. Next year, all countries are to report new and more ambitious goals for cutting their climate gas emissions. [Norwegian only]

But it has not been a walk in the park. Some of the negotiations broke down, including the part for which Norway held the negotiation responsibility; about how countries are to record and report their climate accounting.

Nevertheless, 16-year old Greta Thunberg once again stole the show in Madrid. “The greatest danger is when our leaders pretend to be acting while nothing happens but creative PR”, Thunberg said from the podium Wednesday, receiving widespread applause. That same day, she was declared “Person of the Year” by the prestigious Time Magazine.

Donald Trump reacted his usual way through Twitter, writing that Thunberg “should work on controlling her anger” and “go out and see a good, old-fashioned film with a friend”. “Chill, Greta, chill.”

He got what he asked for when the 16-year old updated her Twitter bio to read “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.

Well played, Greta. Well played!

Green-lighting new strategy
On Monday, the EU’s foreign ministers gave the EU Commission a green light to update the EU’s Arctic strategy, which is presumed to indicate that the EU wants to play a more active part in the region.

Brussels is paying close attention to the triangular relationship that it believes is acted out between China, Russia and the USA in the Arctic.
And according ot Jari Vilén, Senor Advisor to the EU Commission, the EU will respond by positioning itself as an alternative to China in the strategy.

Bringing Himalaya to Tromsø
Climate changes know no boundaries, as we know, and affect people and nature from the Arctic to the highest mountains on the earth, in Himalaya.

Nevertheless, challenges related to handling climate changes can inspire innovation and contribute to creating new relationships. The relationship between the Hindu Kush Himalaya region and the Arctic region is one such example.

Two years ago, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) brought Himalayan shepherds to meet Arctic reindeer herding Sami in Tromsø during the Arctic Frontiers conference. In January, they are scheduled to meet again to take cooperation one step further.

Creating attention around climate changes is also the background for Hilde Fålund Strøm and Sunniva Sørby’s overwintering stay at Svalbard. They have spent 80 out of 270 days so far and look forward to a Christmas most extraordinary. We had a chat with them and you can see the result in this week’s long-read article.

Worried about the Arctic Council
Timo Koivurova, former advisor to the Finnish chairmanship of the Arctic Council, opens up for the first time about what happened behind the scenes during the AC Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi last May.

It is difficult to foresee that if Trump gets another 4 years continuation for his Presidency, climate change work in the Arctic Council could continue”, he writes in an op-ed and appeals: “Those of us who deeply care about the Arctic Council and the future of the Arctic should be aware of what is happening and should do our utmost to speak for the values the Arctic Council represents.

Ironic Friday
In this Friday’s op-ed from Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm, he thoroughly settles the score with Norwegian privatization policies and political lame ducks. “Politicians to be Subject to Privatization: - Current Arrangements Are Expensive and Ineffective, says Minister.”

Also read:
On 4 December, Russian Novatek opened its first LNG refilling station in Europe. The establishing of this station in Rostock, Germany represents the company’s long-term ambition about expanding westwards.

We wish you all the best for the weekend!
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News