Newsletter: The dice are rolled and the Arctic game is on

US missile destroyers in the Arctic sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Austin G. Collins/Released
U.S. missile destroyers during the joint operations to ensure maritime security in the Arctic Ocean, May 5, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Austin G. Collins/Released
Dear reader. This week kicked off with a couple of rather strong statements from the Americans, which did not go unnoticed. There were accusations of China trying to ingratiate itself with Norwegians and warmongering from the Russians, with comments such as ‘a new Cold War’ and ‘aggressive approach in the Arctic’. The rhetorics are sharpened – so who is right, if anyone? High North News has worked to find an answer to that this week.

The dice are rolled and the Arctic game is on. Many actors are vocal in their opinions and the level of engagement in our social media channels testifies to this being an issue engaging people.

“What the USA does now, is directly conflicting with Norwegian national interest.”

The quote comes from Mayor Rune Rafaelsen in Sør-Varanger municipality, which is bordering on Russia, and is one out of several reactions to a picture painted by the US State Department of China and Russia as a threat to the Arctic.

Harsh rhetoric

That did not go unnoticed, and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs State Secretary Audun Halvorsen is clear in his statement:

“China is not a threat to the Arctic.”

Because even though the US State Department is right that Chinese activity in the High North is increasing, there are no signs of military presence, according to a researcher from the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies.

China, on the other hand, accuses the USA of pushing the two big powers towards a new Cold War if this rhetoric continues. And Senior Researcher Julie Wilhelmsen at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs worries about the exchange of words, fearing that the population in Northern Norway may be used as a piece in a geopolitical play.

Julie Wilhelmsen, seniorforsker ved NUPI. Foto: Amund Trellevik. 
Julie Wilhelmsen at NUPI. Photo: Amund Trellevik

The American statements appear somewhat strange in the sharp, Arctic eyes of our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm.

"Independent thinking is a strength to our democracy, not a threat against it", he writes in this week's Friday commentary. "What is new, is that American Navy vessels once again sail the Barents Sea."

From crisis to knowledge

We notice that covering of the Corona crisis has taken on a new character. There is less talk of disease and crisis, and more talk about opportunities in the wake of the pandemic. In just a few days in March, the world went through a historic process of digitalization. Now, it is almost June and we can draw our breath and lift our eyes a little.
 

Alexandra Middleton og Bjørn Rønning
Alexandra Middleton og Bjørn Rønning
"Why is the investment in the High North limited?" asks Alexandra Middleton and Bjørn Rønning.

We wee how important and visible networks and telecom operators are during a crisis. However, data centers, which often constitute the backbone of internet infrastructure, are often not mentioned in the coverage of the crisis. Assistant Professor at Oulu University Alexandra Middleton and Internet Infrastructure Expert at Digital Footprint AS Bjørn Rønning have investigated why connectivity in the Arctic is so important.

The young among us have been quiet during the crisis. They have not shouted out loud about lacking freedom of movement or about their holidays going down the drain. While the rest of us were crying over closed restaurants, young brains worked to shape the future after the Corona crisis.

Future in our hands

This is best illustrated by the

Øystein Andresen, rådgiver i NORA inviterer til North Atlantic Corona Challenge. Foto: NORA
Brainpower: Øystein Andresen invites to the North Atlantic Corona Challenge. Photo: NORA

international #hackaton wave. Innovative and creative young people in Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Scotland and Norway are now invited to participate in a 48-hour virtual competition called “North Atlantic Corona Challenge” taking place from 29-31 May. Young people hold our future in their hands.

We keep following the fascinating adventures of the MOSAiC Arctic Expedition, where the ‘Polarstern’ research vessel has frozen into the ice to drift with the polar ice for one year. Supplies, new crew and scientists arrived near Svalbard last weekend and will meet up with ‘Polarstern’ during the final week of May.

This was a week characterized by powerful words from powerful men and women. We are excited to see what next week might bring and we would love to hear from you if you have opinions, input and comments.

All the best and enjoy your weekend!
Trine Jonassen
News Editor, High North News

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