彭況 By Peng Kuang
The 12th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting closed in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, on May 20. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took advantage of this multilateral stage and held a meeting in Reykjavik on the evening of May 19. This is the first face-to-face meeting between Russian and American top diplomatic officials after the Biden administration took office.
With rising tensions, choosing the "Arctic Council" ministerial meeting as the venue for the talks between Russia and the US also reflects the special significance in multiple ways of "the Arctic" in international relations.
To start with, the Arctic serves as the "battlefield" of geopolitical competition. Both Russia and the US are no strangers to this area. During the Cold War, this area, from the sky to the water, was once the frontier of military confrontation. In fact, it still is. Since the earth is a sphere, the closest missile flight path between the two countries is neither via the Atlantic nor the Pacific, but over the North Pole. The ballistic missile nuclear submarine that can break out of the thick ice of the Arctic Ocean can easily deter most developed countries in the world. After all, most of them are geographically located in the northern hemisphere. From the perspective of military struggle, Russia and the US dare not underestimate the status and role of the Arctic.
In October 1986, the leaders of the US and the Soviet Union met in Reykjavik to discuss the proposal to drastically reduce nuclear weapons. Each move of the two military powers, including the meeting in the Arctic region this time, has become a "thermometer" for observing changes in the world situation.
Second, the Arctic is a "new stage" for economic and trade exchanges. The Arctic region has received more and more attention in recent years. The overall reason is that global warming has caused a large area of sea ice to melt, making some new navigation routes commercially viable options.
However, the prospects for commercial development of the Arctic route are subject to the "big climate" of the international situation. The unreasonable posture in the name of the so-called "freedom of navigation" of the US has also extended to the seas of the Arctic Ocean. Considering geographical factors, both Canada and Russia hope to adopt more stringent management measures for the corresponding waterways. However, the US put forward all kinds of unreasonable demands completely from its own perspective, which has cast a shadow over the commercial prospects of the Arctic route before it was even planned.
Finally, despite being in an extremely cold place, the Arctic is still a human "habitation place" . With an area of more than 12 million square kilometers, the Arctic Ocean is larger than the size of Europe. The total area of more than 21 million square kilometers in the Arctic Circle accounts for 1/25 of the total surface area of the earth. The Arctic Council had eight member states when it was established. Today, it has developed into the most valued Arctic cooperation mechanism with an increasing number of "Near-Arctic States", related international organizations and institutions participating in various forms.
Human beings have only one earth, and the earth has only one Arctic. The Arctic should not become the "battlefield" of geopolitical rivalry. Whether it is a climate change plan that is vital to the Arctic or international cooperation under a multilateral framework, we need to pay attention to the real contributions made to the building of a community of shared future for mankind.