Celebrity Arctic explorer and Duma member Artur Chilingarov deplaned in Moscow today to a hero’s welcome, bearing a Russian tricolor and a stuffed polar bear. Putin personally congratulated the expedition, and the team made direct references to reject the Canadian criticism (“I don’t give a damn what all these foreign politicians there are saying about this,” said Chilingarov). Canada, on its behalf, is still grappling to come up with a coherent response, and is beginning a hasty tour of the Arctic nations to represent its interests. Dr. Ariel Cohen at Heritage has an interesting op/ed in the Washington Times on the matter:
This latest move by Moscow is also a chilling throwback to the 1930s Stalinist attempts to conquer the Arctic during the years when the U.S.S.R. was seized by fear and hatred. Stalin and his henchmen executed “enemies of the people” by the hundreds of thousands in mock trials and in the basements of the Lubyanka secret police headquarters, or in unnamed killing sites in the woods. Those not yet arrested were forced to applaud the “heroes of the Arctic”: pilots, sailors and explorers, in a macabre celebration of Stalinist tyranny. To the regime’s critics, today’s expedition is a chilly reminder of the brutal era when millions of Gulag prisoners were sent to the frozen expanses to build senseless mega-projects for the power-crazy dictator. … A crisis over Russian claims in the Arctic would be perfectly avoidable, if Russia is prepared to behave in a more civilized manner. If Moscow suggested exploring the Arctic’s wealth in a cooperative fashion, in partnership with the United States and other countries aboard, this could become a productive project that furthered international cooperation. However, the current rush to dominate the Arctic Ocean and everything under it indicates that greed and aggression characterize the new Russian polar bear.
Read the complete article here.