The Arctic This Week

Welcome and thanks for joining us for a Reads of the Week edition this week! As always, we hope that you find TATW interesting and entertaining to read. If you’re not a subscriber yet, you can sign up here.

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TAI co-hosted a roundtable discussion with the Embassy of Iceland in Washington, DC on Monday. The discussion focused on US Arctic strategy (including the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, the US Coast Guard's Arctic Strategy, and the US Navy's Arctic Roadmap), potential themes for the upcoming US Arctic Council chairmanship, and the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Arctic cooperation. To read one of our team member's take on the impacts of Ukraine on Arctic Cooperation, see this article by Andreas Østhagen, posted this week on our website.

TAI Executive Director Malte Humpert was quoted in a recent piece by Arctic blogger Mia Bennett. Her post, "Extractive frontiers -- The Arctic and Central Asia," was published on her blog Cryopolitics, as well as on the websites of Alaska Dispatch and Eye on the Arctic. Humpert was also quoted in an article by the Wall Street Journal this week on the Northern Sea Route.


In political reads this week, check out two interesting articles from Alaska Dispatch, one from the Institute of the North's Nils Andreassen, and the other from former North Slope mayor Edward S. Itta. The first, "Alaska and Finland could share more than Arctic status," revisits themes from a speech Alaska Governor Wally Hickel gave in Finland in 1994. The second, “In the Arctic, it’s not Natives who are restless,” urges a "balanced," "project-by-project" approach to Arctic development, contrary to the positions of environmentalists and oil companies, who Itta describes as "warring tribes." And since we've already mentioned the nineties, go ahead and check out the Arctic Journal's Video of the Week, an old music video from Greenland's first rap group Nuuk Posse (it’s "straight outta the Nuuk of the 1990s.")

In other artistic and cultural news, we suggest you check out Voice of Russia's podcast featuring Scottish photographer Bryan Alexander. Alexander, who has been visiting the Arctic for over forty years, currently has work featured in London's Horniman Museum.

In energy reads, the National Research Council released a report titled Responding to Oil Spills in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment. A PDF version of the report can be found here. The report, written by a committee including representatives from academia, environmental organizations and the energy industry, concludes that the US is far from ready to respond to an oil spill in the Arctic and suggests developing a long-term research agenda focused on oil spill mitigation in Arctic waters, investing in increased awareness of climatic conditions in the Arctic, and fostering cooperation with other Arctic states, Russia in particular, on oil spill response (NG). The broad collaboration on the project raises hopes that all sides can come to the table to work on improving US preparedness for in the Arctic, recommending a “public-private-municipal” partnership, funded with revenues derived from oil leases, to lead the initiative (AD).

The ongoing fallout from Russian actions in Ukraine is being felt very differently on different sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK all scrambled jets after two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers were picked up over the Barents Sea (BO). Simultaneously, Finland has signed a deal with NATO “declaring its willingness to receive assistance from the alliance, should it come under attack from any foreign power,” while Sweden has announced a 12% increase in military spending over the next decade (AJ). In Canada, however, experts caution that military tensions are unlikely to spread into the Arctic, and that pursuing a strategy of “neo-containment” in the region could be counterproductive (The Star and OpenCanada).

The crisis in Ukraine is also threatening to negatively affect science and development in the Russian Arctic. Officials from Murmansk are seeking assurances from the federal government after some 31.5 billion rubles slated for the Murmansk Transport Hub project were rerouted to projects in Crimea (BO). In a panel discussion entitled “Arctic: Defense of Russian Interests,” Arkady Tishkov, deputy head of the Institute of Geography at the Russian Academy of Sciences, assured that potential sanctions imposed on Russia will not affect Russia’s international science cooperations (RIA).

Iqaluit is gearing up for the 2014 Northern Hockey Challenge – “the North’s highest-level hockey tournament” – pitting teams from Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Kuujjuaq, and Ottawa against each other. While last year’s edition of the competition was several months long, this year’s much-abridged version will play out between 25-27 April (NN).

Moving on to science news, Canada’s northerners seek to be better integrated into Arctic research. According to a study of the Canadian Polar Commission, they expect answers to questions particularly relevant to them, such as adaptation to climate change or access to education. But they do not only want to be involved in shaping the research questions, but also contribute to answering them (Montreal Gazette). In Ny- Ålesund, on Svalbard, infrastructure is perfectly adapted to support research. This is one of the reasons why several countries are planning to step up their research activities based in the community. The Czech Republic, for instance, is establishing a research base which will be operational by 2015. On the other hand, Norwegian scientists are moving to other parts of the archipelago to study climate change (BO).

In her “Ice-Blog,” Irene Quaile underlines the importance of the increasing instability of Greenland’s icecap, where all margins appear to be unstable. The seriousness of this concerning trend, however, is not matched by the attention it receives, according to Quaile (DW).

Finishing our Reads of the Week with shipping and business news, an article in the Moscow Times illustrates the growing importance of nuclear icebreakers for Arctic oil. They are particularly relevant for oil and gas transports in ice-covered areas, which may become more frequent in the near future. This April, Gazprom shipped the first 70,000 tons of oil from the Prirazlomnaya oil field in the Pechora Sea. Rescuing ships stuck in the ice is also another major task of icebreakers (Moscow Times).

According to the US Government Accountability Office, which monitors the government’s spending, there is too little interest from the industry to develop the shipping infrastructure in the Arctic. Its controversial report refers to the uniform scenery and uninteresting ports, which are not likely to attract cruises, and the seasonal shipping route, which complicates other commercial activities (HP).

courtesy of ilovegreenland on