There is an impression that in its foreign policy Russia tends to place a stake on its power and national interests without taking into account the international community. The last example of this was the Russian president’s declaration about Russia’s sovereignty in Arctic and the situation with the arrest of Greenpeace activists trying to put a banner on the oil platform. The Russian-Georgian war and shooting of four Ukrainian fishermen by the Russian border guards in the Sea of Azov where the border line is still absent because of Russia’s fault are similar phenomena. This list can be continued.
Certainly, the attitude to Greenpeace and their methods is not the same all over the world. However, in this case during the action on September 19 the members of this organization including a Ukrainian wanted to draw attention to ecological problems that might occur when Russian Gazprom starts extracting oil in Arctic.
The 30 activists who approached to the platform in rubber boats were arrested and later accused of terrorism. Now they are in a pre-trial custody in Murmansk and might be sentenced to different terms of deprivation.
Our readers should pay their attention to the fact that the Russian coast guard illegally arrested the ship Arctic Sunrise that was in the high seas, which was emphasized by Greenpeace advocate Jasper Toilings.
And now we should do justice to the Dutch government. Just after the incident the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans informed in his letter to the parliament that “the Netherlands, as the country whose flag Arctic Sunrise flies, subject to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, initiated the arbitration proceedings aiming at releasing the ship and the crew that we consider to have been illegally arrested.” At the same time Timmermans informed the journalists that he intended to use the diplomatic channels as well to gain the release of the ship and the 30 crew members. “I would like to talk to my Russian colleagues and release these people as soon as possible. I do not understand how one can see any connection with the piracy,” the head of the Dutch foreign ministry said.
However, it looks like Russia has seen this connection and decided to warn all its competitors, first of all the US, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Canada to keep out of the Russian north. This is the conclusion drawn by the edition Time, in whose opinion, Greenpeace chose not the best moment for making a journey to Russian Arctic. On September 15 Russia opened the first new permanent military base in Arctic since the USSR had collapsed and for the first time in history the whole fleet of Russian atomic ships was sent to Arctic, the edition explained.
The Day addressed the senior scientist of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies Stephan de Spiegeleire asking him to comment how the Netherlands consider the arrest of the ship in the developments in the world after Putin’s declarations about Russia’s sovereignty in Arctic?
“To be honest, Sergei Medvedev, who said that Arctic has to be a heritage of the world, is my good friend. I have been watching the discussions in Russia and the Netherlands.
The discussion in Russia started with Sergei Medvedev’s commentary on Facebook in which he said that Russia’s behavior in the Far North was ecologically irresponsible, which is why we should probably promote the idea of taking Arctic as the common global heritage. After that there were Zhyrinovski’s declarations in the parliament and Putin’s television interview in which he called Medvedev ‘a nerd.’ It is a sharp evidence of the debates in Russia that will provoke serious debates about Russia in Europe.
What strikes me is that most of Russians think that Arctic belongs to Russia. Of course, it is not true, but have a look at Russian school books and at what is taught at schools. Everywhere it looks like Arctic belongs completely to Russia. However, they do not know that only the contiguous zone belongs to them. Many of them do not know that in 2010 they signed an agreement with Norway that limited Russia’s territorial claims.
Now something is changing in Russia with the extremely acute debates about the national interests and national sovereignty. Sergei Medvedev, who participated in a range of talk-shows and looked perfectly well, claimed that he is the one protecting Russian interests since ecological catastrophes in the North will threaten Russian interests. In fact, Russian official documents read the same.”
What does it mean for the West?
“Now it is not a big problem for the European countries. The developments in Russia are mainly taken just as noise; in particular, the Dutch think that it is all far away. In the Netherlands we have a good balance between the green and Greenpeace and the media write that Arctic has to become a common legacy. Greenpeace is speaking about it especially loudly and others do not care and think that this issue is not important for them.
“I can say that the discussion about Russia is changing in Europe because of this evident Russian pushiness and many things said by Putin lately. Many western policymakers noticed that and the community also reacts in a different way now. Now when Putin has shown all his real strength, it gave a start to the debates in Western Europe. There were people in our country who said that we had to be more powerful in our relations with Russia and these people are becoming more influential because of their declarations.
“In the Netherlands we are studying the security issues and various risks. With this we are trying to take into account old-fashioned territorial interest and new interests, including ecological ones. We also have to consider the ecological criteria for national security. The sovereignty is not only the military issue, it is also the ability to efficiently use resources.
“To sum up, I would like to emphasize that the game is changing as well as the power balance within Europe, between the people saying that Russia is pushy but we should not consider it and the people saying: Russia is a serious problem, it returns, spends a lot on defense and does whatever it wants. The power balance is changing in favor of the last group. Its representatives say: we have to get down to work and do more to be more powerful.”