The members of the Arctic Council have met this week in Portland, the U.S., to talk over the region's problems and to reach an agreement about the further development programme. The conference gathered more than 250 participants from all over the world, says Portland Press Herald.
The Arctic Council was founded in 1996 to facilitate international cooperation among the Arctic States. The council consists of the eight members: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. The chairmanship of the latter is coming to an end soon and the next chair will be Finland for the next two years.
Russian military activity in Arctic region is a cause for concerns for other countries such as Norway and the United States. However, the presence still haven't reached Cold War levels. The Russian Northern Fleet, the largest of the four Russian Navy fleets, is headquartered in Severomorsk in the Kola Gulf in the Barents Sea.
In addition to the currently recognised territory, the Russian Federation is claiming a large extended continental shelf based on the Lomonosov Ridge within their Arctic sector. On 9 August 2016 the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf started working on the issue.
Earlier it was announced that Canada and Russia will hold a joint conference on Arctic cooperation in Ottava this November despite the controversy over Syria and Ukraine. The relations between two countries started getting better since the Conservative government of Canada's former prime minister Stephen Harper was changed to the Liberal one headed by Justin Trudeau. 'To sever links with Russia, our neighbour, serves the interests of no one,' Pam Goldsmith-Jones, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada Stephane Dion, said this past week, 'Between us we control 75 per cent of the North.'
Another conference was held by the US' White House on 28 September. The first Arctic Science Ministerial gathered science ministers of 25 national governments to discuss further collaborative projects. The European Union is going to launch an Integrated Arctic Observing System that also involves Russian scientists. As the average temperatures in the Arctic are rising, it is necessary to observe the impact of these changes on the global weather and climate.
The significance of the region is constantly increasing as the sea ice melting process enables further exploration of its oil and gas reserves. For Russia, another important opportunity is the Northern Sea Route that is used for commercial shipping. This is the shortest connection between the European part of Russia and its Far East. Although the internal shipping through the route have increased significantly in recent years, the transit shipments in 2015 fell to lowest levels since 2011. The opening of new Arctic oil fields can help to bounce back the demand.