CHARTER is not alone in the Arctic facing the unexpected consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. In Finland, a recentreport commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office and published on 11th October comprehensively examines the impact of Russian aggression on international cooperation in the Arctic region. Markku Heikkilä, chair of CHARTER Expert Advisory Group and the head of science communications at the Arctic Centre, coordinated the work and research professor Timo Koivurova was the scientific director.
The report is in Finnish but the full English translation will be available in early December on the Arctic Centre’s website. An English summary and conclusions can be found here: https://www.arcticcentre.org/news/Report-discusses-Finland%E2%80%99s-new-role-in-the-Arctic/39649/ee54b073-9c4f-4bc2-af69-f0e0ddd0de30
Finland’s current Arctic policy strategy dates back to June 2021. Although it highlighted the intensification of military tensions, the strategy did not foresee a situation like today in which Arctic cooperation has become significantly more complicated. The descriptions of the international operating environment and the structures of Arctic cooperation in Finland’s Arctic policy strategy are largely no longer relevant.
Among the international Arctic cooperation mechanisms, the most important is the Arctic Council, where Russia currently holds the chairmanship. Seven Western member states have temporarily suspended their activities in the Arctic Council. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council has also suspended its cooperation with Russia. Russia is still involved in activities based on legal agreements and, for example, in UN organisations.
The paralysis of international cooperation and research in the Arctic is particularly problematic. The sustainable development of the region requires extensive international and regional cooperation. In addition, possible steps taken by Russia away from sustainable development activities, for example, climate action, will weaken the state of sustainable development of the entire Arctic region. The state of the environment and climate know no national borders. With the geopolitical situation, the green transition will become increasingly important at the national level, not only in terms of climate and energy policy, but also for security policy and the security of supply.
According to the report’s conclusions, Finland needs to adapt its operations to the realities of the new Cold War, where the international Arctic structures are fragmented. Regardless of the geopolitical situation, environmental and climate issues, sustainable development, and the status of indigenous peoples will still remain the key themes of the Arctic region. They are still needed as priorities for Finland’s Arctic activities.
Overall, the indirect effects of the Russian aggression on the Arctic region and the role of Finland in the region are significant. As the situation continues, this will also affect the structures of Arctic cooperation. For example, an operating model at the Nordic level should be developed for the growing cooperation needs in the northernmost regions of Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
According to the report, Finland still needs information on Russia's Arctic regions. In the longer term, it is in Finland’s interest to continue to build a functioning relationship with Russia. However, this must not happen at any cost. In the coming years, ensuring national security must be at the centre of Finland’s policy towards Russia.