Russian actions in Ukraine could cause Arctic problems: Iceland PM

EDMONTON — Russia’s actions in Ukraine could cause problems for international cooperation in the Arctic, says Iceland’s prime minister.

EDMONTON — Russia’s actions in Ukraine could cause problems for international cooperation in the Arctic, says Iceland’s prime minister.

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson said Russia’s strongarm tactics in its former satellite could make it harder for the eight nations on the Arctic Council to reach agreements at a time when the region faces a series of critical issues.

“This has a ripple effect, even though the actual events are far from the Arctic,” said Gunnlaugsson, in Edmonton on a trade mission.

“Clearly, it has made many players in the Arctic quite worried about developments and whether they might be a sign of what is to come.”

In fact, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton echoed his sentiments earlier this week while delivering a speech in Calgary.

Clinton said it is in the best interests of Russia, Canada, the United States and the five other Arctic Council members to find ways to reach agreements on how to handle resource development in the Arctic.

The insistence of many Ukrainians on turning their country toward the West has angered Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian soldiers have moved into Ukrainian territory in the Crimea and the crucial Black Sea port of Sevastopol. Russian and Ukrainian troops have faced off several times over control of military facilities in the Crimean region.

Meanwhile, northern nations are involved in discussions over which country will control which parts of the Arctic. Safe shipping and oil exploration rules for the North are being negotiated, as is an agreement to delay commercial Arctic fishing until more is known about the resource.

Gunnlaugsson, whose country sits on the Arctic Council, said Russia’s actions are going to make agreement on those and other environmental and economic issues in the Arctic even harder.

“I don’t think it will have an immediate effect,” he said.

“It makes other governments more worried about what might happen in the future, so it creates a sense of insecurity and maybe lack of trust. If what we see in Ukraine turns out to be an exception and Russia goes back to friendly relations with its neighbours, then it shouldn’t have an effect.

“But if it is a sign of what it to come, it is quite worrying.”

Gunnlaugsson’s country is banking a good part of its economic future on Arctic development.

It is planning to build a major seaport in northeast Iceland to service growing traffic through gradually opening Arctic sea lanes. It has signed offshore oil exploration deals with CNOOC, the Chinese company that also owns Canadian energy company Nexen.

The country has also been active diplomatically. It raised eyebrows when it formed the Arctic Circle, an international forum that included non-Arctic countries such as China before they were granted observer status at the Arctic Council.

But Iceland sometimes feels snubbed by some other Arctic countries, such as when Canada, the U.S., Russia, Norway and Denmark recently concluded an interim agreement on fisheries.

“We felt it was almost peculiar that the Arctic Five have decided to negotiate regarding the fish and leave Iceland out of it,” Gunnlaugsson said. “Iceland has a lot to offer when it comes to fisheries policy.”

Canada has a lot to gain from working with Iceland on opening the Arctic, said Gunnlaugsson. Canadian companies could use the country as a bridgehead to burgeoning resource plays in Greenland, for example.

“With the location of Iceland and the infrastructure we already have in place and additional know-how from Canadian companies, I think we could do a lot of good in Greenland.”

Gunnlaugsson said his government has already opened discussions with provincial governments in Manitoba and Alberta on increasing business ties. He was in Edmonton to help inaugurate expanded air service between Edmonton and the Icelandic capital of Reyjavik.

The highlight of his trip, however, may have to do with another type of ice entirely.

Gunnlaugsson and his delegation attended a hockey game during his visit between the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders. Hockey legend and former Oiler Wayne Gretzky was in the crowd and invited the visiting leader to his box.

“It was pretty great, an unexpected pleasure,” said Gunnlaugsson, 38.

“He chatted and was really friendly. We took pictures of us together and it was a great experience.

“He is the first thing I knew about Edmonton. Everybody knows Wayne Gretzky.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council approved $22 million of financing to help keep Westerner Park sustainable. (Advocate file photo)
Red Deer city council approves $22M to keep Westerner Park viable after emotional debate

It’s vital ensure future success for the huge economic generator, says mayor

Red Deer Rebels goalie Chase Coward tries to find a loose puck during WHL action at the Centrium earlier this season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Changes on the horizon for Red Deer Rebels next season

New coach, roster adjustments among top priorities for Sutter this offseason

Renovations and construction have begun at Red Deer Dream Centre. (Photo contributed)
Renovations underway at Red Deer Dream Centre

Christian-based addictions treatment centre

Red Deer County's municipal planning commission gave approval for a new directional sign for a business located near Elnora.
(Image from Red Deer County)
Red Deer County garden centre and winery gets sign approved

Delidais Estate Winery and DA Gardens is located near Elnora

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation PM wants COVID-19 health disaster

Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation PM wants COVID-19 health disaster

Mourners organize a memorial, Monday, May 10, 2021, outside a mobile home in Colorado Springs, Colo., where a shooting at a party took place a day earlier that killed six people before the gunman took his own life. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
Police: Man killed 6, self after he wasn’t invited to party

Police: Man killed 6, self after he wasn’t invited to party

Colonial Pipeline joue un rôle de premier plan dans le transport de l'essence, du kérosène, du diésel et d'autres produits pétroliers du Texas vers la côte Est.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

A taxi drives past the charred remains of a car that was burned during clashes between Indigenous people from Cauca state who arrived to support the national strike, with local residents who do not support the blocking of roads in Cali, Colombia, Monday, May 10, 2021. Colombians have protested across the country against a government they feel has long ignored their needs, allowed corruption to run rampant and is so out of touch that it proposed tax increases during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Andres Gonzalez)
42 killed in Colombia protests, human rights agency says

42 killed in Colombia protests, human rights agency says

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill, on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
All parties in the Commons give approval in principle to pandemic election bill

All parties in the Commons give approval in principle to pandemic election bill

Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan of the Canadian Armed Forces joins soldiers during a lunch with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont. on Monday, July 15, 2019. A parliamentary committee will hear this morning from Carigan,  who was recently tapped to lead the military's efforts to change its culture.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Military police chief defends independence; Vance allegedly said he ‘owned’ force

Military police chief defends independence; Vance allegedly said he ‘owned’ force

In this Thursday, May 14, 2020 photo, a doctor holds his stethoscope during a patient visit in Blackburn, England, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors in British Columbia are being warned they could face investigation or penalties from their regulatory body if they contradict public health orders or guidance about COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP
B.C. doctors could face penalty for veering from COVID-19 health guidelines: college

B.C. doctors could face penalty for veering from COVID-19 health guidelines: college

A vial of the  AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta says it won't give out more first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Hope for a good summer with one dose in arms, if we ‘crush’ COVID-19: Trudeau

Hope for a good summer with one dose in arms, if we ‘crush’ COVID-19: Trudeau

Most Read