The Week Ahead: Going with the floe

Russia’s Camp Barneo opens for the 2018 season. For the next month, the Arctic Ocean ice base will be a hive of research, tourism and, if the past is any guide, controversy.

By Kevin McGwin - April 2, 2018
Deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin (in white) takes part in a prayer service during his 2015 visit to Camp Barneo. Also pictured: polar explorer Artur Chilingarov (wearing hood) and environment minister Sergei Donskoi (with hat in hand) (Military Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation)

Camp Barneo, a privately operated Russian temporary base near the North Pole, is expected to open for guests this week after a delay of several days due to problems finding a suitable ice floe to build it on.

Set up each year since 2002, the base, which is operational for about a month, is primarily meant as a tourism destination, although it is also associated with other types of events.

The operators name researchers conducted by scientists from a host of countries, as well as various sports events. The biggest of these is the North Pole Marathon. In addition to being in good shape, runners need to be well-heeled: the entry fee is €15,000 ($18,500), though that gets competitors things like transport, accommodation, necessary medical support and a T-shirt.

Less is made of the political and military activities associated with Camp Barneo, though in the past these have drawn the most attention. Even though it is a private operation, Camp Barneo works closely with the Russian Geographic Society and prominent Russian scientific and political figures often make appearances.

The most memorable was the 2015 visit by Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry and the chairman of the Russian Arctic Commission. He stirred up controversy during his trip when he suggested that Russian policy towards the Arctic was the same as it was towards Crimea, which Russia had annexed the year before. A tweet he sent from Barneo that the Arctic is a “Russian mecca” added to the unease.

A 2015 Dmitry Rogozin tweet sent from Camp Barneo (Captured by The New York Times)

Rogozin also gave Norway a diplomatic headache: his involvement with the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea landed him on Western travel-sanction lists, but he transited to Camp Barneo through its staging point in Longyearbyen, in Norwegian-controlled Svalbard.

Norway avoided a confrontation by determining that Svalbard’s international status meant Rogozin could not be barred from visiting, though it warned Moscow against sending other individuals who were on the sanctions list. Competitors in this type of Camp Barneo event need to be flexible, but firm.

When and where
Early April-Early May; an ice floe near the North Pole

For more information
Barneo Arctic Camp

See related
Preparations for 2018 Barneo North Pole Ice Camp are in full swing
Russian Border Guard Service takes part in North Pole exercises

Beaufort Sea oil lease call for information

This is the first week of America’s month-long call for information for a proposed 2019 sale of exploration licenses in the federal waters of the Beaufort Sea.

If it goes ahead, it would be the first of as many as three sales of Beaufort Sea leases envisioned in a five-year plan, currently being drawn up by the White House, for opening America’s offshore areas to exploration.

The plan would reverse a ban on offshore drilling put in place by former President Barack Obama at the end of his second-term, in 2015.

Before a plan can be finalized, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency responsible for managing the development of energy resources on the U.S. outer continental shelf, wants information from the oil industry and other interested parties.

Replies to a call for information are used to make recommendations regarding which parts of a proposed leasing area are of most interest to the oil industry, and which sort of environmental analysis is needed before a sale can take place.

Conservation groups welcome being given the chance to have a say, but wonder whether, given the Trump administration’s hostility to environmental arguments, it will do any good. The outcome, they fear, will be that the Beaufort will be drilled if they do and drilled if they don’t.

Until April 30

For more information
BOEM to Open Call for Information and Nominations for Proposed Beaufort Sea Lease Sale
2019 Beaufort Sea OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale

Further reading
Interior takes step toward 2019 Beaufort oil lease sale


BEAC Regional Committee meeting
The Barents Regional Committee is a forum for civil servants from 14 member counties in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, as well as an indigenous peoples’ representative. The committee is responsible for preparing the meetings of the Barents Regional Council.

When and where
Apr 5; Helsinki, Finland

For more information
BEAC Regional Committee

Further reading
Facing growing outside influence, local Arctic leaders seek more cross-border collaboration

The Week Ahead is a preview of some of the events related to the region that will be in the news in the coming week. If you have a topic you think ought to be profiled in a coming week, please email [email protected].