Coast guards of Arctic nations seek deeper cooperation

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Arctic nations agree on coast guard cooperation.

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Coast guard leaders from the U.S., Russia and other Arctic nations are meeting to strengthen cooperation in northern seas, where warming temperatures are opening new waterways to boat traffic. An agreement setting up a new forum dedicated to security and stewardship of Arctic waters is expected to be signed Friday by leaders from eight countries’ maritime agencies.

A total of eight countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the U.S. — are formally establishing the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. The organization will help implement agreements of the Arctic Council, which is comprised of the same member countries, but also make its own decisions and plans concerning Arctic operations. “Much of the ACGF’s work will focus on fostering the strong partnerships required to support safe, secure and environmentally responsible maritime activity in the Arctic region,” said Lisa Novak, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Washington. As the planet warms, waterways through the Northwest Passage above Canada and Russia have opened during summer months, funneling more ship traffic through the Bering Strait.

The region also holds trillions of dollars’ worth of oil and gas reserves, and many have warned of a new battleground for resources emerging in the 21st century. But negotiations were delayed when the Harper government refused to allow Russian officials to take part. “The (prime minister’s office) insisted the Russians not be invited because of the Ukraine,” said John Higginbotham, who attended that meeting as a fellow of Carleton University’s Centre for International Governance Innovation. Officials say the Arctic has been emerging as a popular topic of study at the academy, where cadets train and study along the Thames River in New London for careers as Coast Guard officers. That means the new forum will also provide a meeting place for high-ranking military officials from member countries, say experts. “The most important consequence of the meeting will be that from now on there will be regular contact, regular meetings and exercises between the coast guards of all eight Arctic countries, and most importantly between Russia and Arctic NATO countries,” said Michael Byers, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. “It’s very important that they’d be able to speak with each other to build confidence, to cooperate, especially given the tensions between Russia and NATO elsewhere in the world.” Byers said there is a strong understanding in Washington and Moscow that the two countries need venues for diplomatic and security cooperation, and the Arctic where the two superpowers already cooperate is an ideal place to build this cooperative relationship. “In December 2014, a South Korean trawler sank on the Russian side of the Bering Sea and the first thing the Russians did was to call the U.S. This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

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