Russian envoy to Denmark says US undermines Arctic peace

Speaking to a Danish newspaper, Vladimir Barbin accused the U.S of pursuing a policy of confrontation in the Arctic.

By Reuters - April 27, 2020
Thule Air Base, see here in a October 8, 2019 photo, plays a key role in the United States’ interests in Greenland. (Ida Guldbaek Arentsen / Ritzau Scanpix via Reuters)

COPENHAGEN — Russia’s ambassador to Denmark has accused Washington of provoking confrontation in the Arctic in order to achieve dominance in a region where Moscow has invested heavily.

The accusation came after the United States last week announced $12.1 million in economic aid to Greenland, a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark, to strengthen ties and boost the country’s hunt for mineral resources.

[Greenland welcomes US aid, but some lawmakers fear it could bring entanglements]

“Now, the United States instead of dialogue and cooperation relies exclusively on the policy of confrontation in the region, hoping thereby to achieve dominance in this part of the world,” Russian envoy Vladimir Barbin told daily Politiken.

Barbin referred to a recent statement by the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, who called Russian activities in the Arctic “aggressive” and a challenge to Western peace ambitions.

The Russian embassy in Copenhagen was not immediately able to confirm the comments when contacted by phone.

The Arctic has increasingly come in focus in Washington after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May last year first criticized Russia’s and China’s behavior in the Arctic on the even of the Rovaniemi Arctic Council ministerial meeting, and later when President Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland from Denmark.

Russia has ambitious plans to build ports along the Northern Sea Route, which would shorten the distance between China and Europe, and has beefed up its military presence in its Arctic areas.

[U.S. extends economic aid to Greenland in a bid to counter China, Russia in Arctic]

China has also encouraged enterprises to build infrastructure in the Arctic as part of a Polar Silk Road. A bid by a Chinese construction firm to help expand three airports in Greenland was effectively blocked by the United States, a close ally of Denmark.

“There is a sick attitude to large-scale investment projects of other states, as well as the advancement of various conspiracy theories and conjectures regarding economic activities in the Arctic of other states,” Barbin said.

Greenland is strategically important for the U.S. military and its ballistic missile early-warning system, both because it hosts the Thule Air Base and because the shortest route from Europe to North America runs via the Arctic island.

Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen.