More difficult to get visas, and even less money for travelling. The cold political climate between East and West is hurting cooperation in academia. But not everywhere.
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Washington-based foreign policy experts Anders Åslund (Atlantic Council), Michael O’Hanlon (Brookings) and Charles Ebinger (Brookings) follow developments between the United States and Russia closely.
They claim that the politics with sanctions and counter-sanctions between Russia and the West is challenging researchers. In Bodø, Norway, Director Frode Mellemvik of The High North Center of Business and Governance (NOS), claims the opposite.
- The cooperation with Russia is increasing, Mellemvik says. But his American colleagues disagree:
- In the academic world, the chill between the two countries has created new challenges. It is now considerably more difficult for American researchers to visit Russia and to maintain close relations with their counterparts in the east.
- It has always been difficult to get visas to participate in conferences and meetings in Russia, but after the Ukraine sanctions it has gone from challenging to almost impossible. Even when Russian research institutions put pressure on the government because they really want US participation, the answer is no, says Charles Ebinger to High North News.
Åslund, O’Hanlon and other colleagues have had similar experiences. Lack of cooperation from the Russian government makes it difficult for policy-focused experts and think tanks to work with Russian colleagues. This is unfortunate, say the Brookings experts.
Russian researchers to Europe
- The situation for Russian researchers is now so difficult that many want to leave. Many of our colleagues have already left Russia and gone to work for research institutions in Europe, says Ebinger.
In Finland, Professor Lassi Heininen is also concerned about cooperation in research and education, but he sees no big impact - so far.
- I have not experienced any effects from the sanctions or counter-sanctions within my network. Since I study political development, it is actually within the realm of my research study these developments and the effects..
However, I think that in academic cooperation, in what I am doing, they don’t have a role to play. The only thing might be that it is a bit more challenging for the Russians to acquire money for travel. That is the only concrete thing where I see an impact, says Heininen.
Cooperation is intensified
Professor Frode Mellemvik, Director of The High North Center Bodø, Norway, does not see that the sanctions have had any negative influence regarding cooperation in science and research.
- On the contrary, says Mellemvik.
- We experience that our Russian counterparts are eager to extend our cooperation because of our mutual interest in creating business and trade in the High North.
Of course we all hope that the days of the sanctions will soon pass, that the nations are able to find political solutions, but it is important to realize that the sanctions and countersanctions are not intended to have a wider affect. Both Russia and Norway see the importance of creating growth and development in the High North, Mellemvik says.
He has not experienced that Russian partners have had difficulties with getting visas for travelling.
- But, he says, - it might be the case that some experience a tougher economic situation, – as I think we all do at present, especially if they deal with the oil and gas industry.
Russia: - May be seriously affected
Associate Professor at the University of MGIMO, in Moscow, Oleg Aleksandrov, on the other hand, fears for scientific cooperation in the future.
- As I see it, the Arctic region has a very low conflict potential. Nevertheless, we are experiencing tension from conflict areas in other regions, such as Syria and Ukraine.
- Even if the Russian leadership has no plans of abandoning cooperation with other Arctic states, the sphere of research and knowledge cooperation may be seriously affected if these tensions continue, says Aleksandrov.
Loss of confidence
German researcher Stefan Steinicke at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs underlines the great loss of confidence between the different states.
- By promoting the importance of the Arctic Council, all member states can highlight their political willingness for cooperation. On the bilateral level, however, the situation is completely different.
All bilateral relationships with Russia seem to have deteriorated in recent years. This has consequences, if only of an indirect nature, for the Arctic Council. And mistrust is growing between all parties involved.
An example; Russian authorities refused permissions for Norwegian scientists to conduct research in Russia´s Arctic areas, says Mr. Steinicke to High North News.
Michael O'Hanlon is a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, and American national security policy.
Charles K. Ebinger is a Senior Fellow in the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at Brookings. He served as the initiative’s director from 2008 to October of 2014.
Lassi Heininen is a Professor of Arctic Politics at the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland.
Frode Mellemvik is a Professor of economics and the head of the Norwegian High North Center for Business and Governance in Bodø, Norway.
Oleg Aleksandrov is an Associate Professor at the University of MGIMO in Moscow, Russia.
Stefan Steinicke is a Fellow at Research Division EU/Europe, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.