By Yereth Rosen
Alaska Dispatch News
In 1987, in the glow of glasnost, then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev detailed his vision of an Arctic that would be a “zone of peace” where nations cooperate to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.
Scientists, indigenous people and others working on the ground to protect resources and improve life on both sides of the Bering Strait are determined to maintain that zone of peace in the Arctic, despite deep geopolitical divides over what the governments of the United States and other nations consider to be Russia’s belligerent policies elsewhere in the world.
Such cooperation was on display last week in Fairbanks, where scientists and policymakers gathered for a high-level meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council and other Arctic-related events.
It was “a pleasure to see” collaboration between the Russian delegation and those of the council’s other seven Arctic nations, said David Balton, deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of State who chairs the council’s panel of Senior Arctic Officials.
“It’s no secret that the United States and Russia have significant conflicts about other parts of the world and other issues — not just the United States and Russia but virtually all of the other members of the Arctic Council and Russia,” Balton said at a news conference at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, site of the Arctic Council meeting. “But in the Arctic in general and in the Arctic Council in particular, we remain able to cooperate with one another. We actually need each other to make progress on the Arctic issues.”
Picture: Paul Gierszewski (Gierszep) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons