Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 287

287 Arctic Yearbook 2015 but also such actors as energy companies like Exxon Mobil, Total and others that are interested in cooperation with Russia, despite the sanctions. The joint US Coast Guard’s and Russian Border Guard’s international exercises that will take place in the autumn of 2015 can also be mentioned as another example of continuing cooperation (Sputnik 2015). Russia’s perception of other countries’ strategies The tense relations between Russia and the Western countries have been transferred at a rhetorical level to the Arctic due to the conflict in Ukraine. Russia’s involvement in Ukraine provides solid grounds for the West to promote the image of Russia as an aggressor and a potential threat. In 2014, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Canada and the US need a united front in response to Russia’s aggressive reopening of military bases in the Arctic (Peritz 2014). Likewise, the former Foreign Minister of Canada, John Baird, told a Danish newspaper that Ottawa was determined to promote and defend the sovereignty of Canada in the Arctic against the Russian threat that manifested in the reactivation of a Soviet-era base on its north-eastern coast, and fly-bys by Russian aircraft (RT 2014). S. Lavrov reacted to such rhetoric with a strict statement: “There are accusations flying about that we are trying to make a land-grab during a latter-day gold rush. This is nonsense. We don’t want the Arctic to become an arena of conflict” (RT 2014). It should be emphasized, however, that an exchange of sharp words between Russia and Canada in relation to the Arctic had already been present before the crisis in Ukraine. For instance, in 2011, A. Vasiliev also had to respond to Canada’s complaints about Russia’s provocative behaviour in the Arctic. At that time he said that such views arise from a lack of knowledge of reality, and the inertia of human mentality (Blanchfield 2011). S. Lavrov rejected Western efforts to present Russia as being aggressive in the Arctic by stressing that Russia has legitimate rights to pursue its interests in the Arctic like any other country: The countries that have northern borders must ensure their security, including in the northern region, like in any other part of their territory. This is an axiom: wherever you are and whoever surrounds you, you have to think about your security, including military security. It would be naive to imagine that because we are talking about the Arctic this principle does not apply (Vorobyov 2013). While some of the political leaders of Western countries attempt to strengthen the image of Russia as a potential threat in the Arctic region, Russian officials promote the idea that it is other countries that are attempting to make the Arctic a conflict zone. For describing the strategy of the Western countries as a whole, Russian officials often refer to NATO. In the view of S. Lavrov, NATO doctrines and analyses occasionally say that the military factor is likely to grow in the Arctic in the context of the intensifying battle for natural resources (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation 2014). A. Grushko says that there is no clear NATO strategy in the Arctic, but from time to time, certain forces in NATO try to p W6