Arctic Council chairman warns against Nordic NATO expansion

The accession of Sweden and Finland to the alliance will "lead to certain adjustments in the development of high altitude cooperation,” said SAO Chair Nikolai Korchunov.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - May 20, 2022
Nikolai Korchunov, the Russian chair of the Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials, is pictured at an SAO plenary meeting in Salekhard, Russia in December 2021. (Vyacheslav Viktorov / Roscongress via The Arctic Council)

The entry of Sweden and Finland in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization could lead to certain “adjustments” in Arctic cooperation, says Russia’s top representative in the international forum.

“We clearly have to understand that a change in the military-political status of countries will of course lead to certain adjustments in the development of high altitude cooperation,” says Nikolai Korchunov, the country’s Senior Arctic Official and the top official in Russia’s current presidency of the Arctic Council.

“It remains to be seen what kind of adjustments there will be,” Korchunov said in a press conference, the state news agency RIA Novosti reports.

According to the high-ranking Foreign Ministry official, the NATO membership issue must be seen in the light of whether or not it will help strengthen trust between the Arctic countries and public institutions.

Russia currently holds the two-year rotating chair of the Arctic Council.

Following Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine, international cooperation in the Arctic Council has been paused.

“The core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, based on international law, have long underpinned the work of the Arctic Council, a forum which Russia currently chairs.  In light of Russia’s flagrant violation of these principles, our representatives will not travel to Russia for meetings of the Arctic Council, a joint statement by seven of the eight member states in the Arctic Council said.

The seven countries take a clear stand against the war and say they “condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and note the grave impediments to international cooperation, including in the Arctic, that Russia’s actions have caused.”

Despite the freeze of International Arctic cooperation, the Russians intend to proceed with many of their planned activities.

“All events under the Russian presidency, except official meetings of the Arctic Council and its subordinate bodies, are planned organized in line with the adopted schedule,” Korchunov says in a ministry statement.

In addition, the Russian side now intends to orient most of its Arctic activities on more national priorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informs.