Russian Arctic offshore energy efforts are in a period of unwelcome pause, and the flight of Western companies in the face of sanctions imposed by their home countries has left the future of these efforts up in the air. But this state is unlikely to last for long. Western firms have left incredible opportunity in their wake, and China is in the perfect position to benefit.
Over the past 10-15 years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has systematically increased its activity in the high north through various avenues. Russia’s current relations with the West are likely to substantially boost this enterprise, which should concern the international community given the importance that the Arctic will play in the years to come. The region’s massive resource reserves, China’s growing presence, Chinese challenges to regional Arctic governance, and the current standoff between Russia and the West are a potentially potent combination. This situation should be recognized and efforts should be made to mitigate possible negative consequences.
These efforts, however, should not be directed at preventing Chinese Arctic activity. China’s wealth and capital make it an important partner for Arctic nations in developing the high north, and it holds legitimate interests in the region. Rather, China’s entry into the Arctic must be managed responsibly through international channels to mitigate or prevent any harmful effects. Doing so may also create a rare avenue through which the West can seek common ground and understanding with Russia that can be built upon.
Picture: Abarinov (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons