A Call for Canada-Russia Cooperation in the Arctic

canada_arctic122109.jpgThe author and project leader of ArcticNet, Michael Byers, has an optimistic piece published in the Globe and Mail today arguing for a renewed effort of cooperation between the Canadian and Russian governments on mutual recognition of arctic sovereignty.  The tone of the piece is unusual for most of the material out there on this subject, which, to put it lightly, is usually much more antagonistic, suspicious, and pessimistic about agreement over this area of the world.

In 1982, Russian and Canadian diplomats teamed up to ensure that the UN Convention provides enhanced pollution prevention rights to coastal states in ice-covered waters within 200 miles of shore. It’s time, now, to negotiate a protocol providing enhanced protection in the areas beyond.

It’s also time to negotiate a treaty on search and rescue. With hundreds of cruise ships and thousands of commercial airliners traversing the Arctic each year, a major accident is inevitable. When it happens, hundreds of lives will depend on information and assets being deployed without regard for international boundaries or national pride.

For co-operation to work, politicians will have to resist the easyheadlines offered by Arctic sovereignty. During the 2007 Russianelection campaign, Artur Chilingarov led a mission to plant a Russianflag on the ocean floor at the North Pole. The Russian Foreign Ministerlater dismissed the exercise as a “publicity stunt” that had not beenapproved by the Kremlin.(….)

But co-operative engagement can bring mutual benefits, while sometimeshelping to change the ways in which countries behave. For the samereasons that we trade with China, we should work with Russia – onobvious, pressing matters of common concern.

Above image is copyright to Anthony Jenkins / Globe and Mail