As Russia prepares to issue a new Northern Policy Concept later this year, Vanguard asked the Russian Embassy to share Moscow’s priorities in the Arctic. As Kirill Kalinin reminds us, the range of collaboration already in place across the Arctic Ocean between Canada and the Russian Federation is extensive and affects the policies of federal, provincial and territorial governments in both countries.

Cooperation in the Arctic between Russia and Canada is about to increase. Both countries recognize the need to expand ties on a bilateral basis as well as within international fora such as the Arctic Council.

The Russian-Canadian Agreement in the Arctic and the North was signed in 1992; an interdepartmental memorandum of understanding concerning cooperation on Aboriginal and Northern development was adopted in 1997; northern cooperation was a major theme of the Governor General’s visit to Russia in 2003; bilateral contacts between the Siberian Federal District and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada under a program of cooperation continue to develop; and in March 2004 a visit of the Council of the Federation Committee on Northern Territories and Indigenous Minorities Issues took place.

Collaboration in northern development was also the main subject of talks when Mikhail Nikolayev, deputy chairman of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, conducted a working visit to Ottawa in October 2007.

The prospect of new transport corridors across the Arctic territories of our countries provides impulse for greater economic relations.

The long discussed project of the Arctic Bridge came into play in the fall of 2007 when the first Russian vessel of the Murmansk Shipping Company, with cargo for the Canadian agricultural sector, came to the port of Churchill, Manitoba. For the first time Russia and Canada proved to be bound by the shortest sea route, opening new possibilities for both countries. The provincial authorities as well as export and import oriented companies that are carrying out commercial operations through this transport hub are actively involved in this project.

The exchange of experience, as well as closer cooperation primarily on a regional level, represents an integral part of Russia-Canada bilateral relations.

On the federal level, Russian-Canadian interaction is coordinated by the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, a relationship that was confirmed once again with the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the ministries during the visit of Viktor Zubkov, chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, in November 2007.

On the interregional level, the most active cooperation exists between Canada’s northern provinces and territories and such Russian regions as the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Komi, Chuvashia, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Tyumen and Magadan Regions, Taymir and Chukotsi Autonomous Areas. More than half of the bilateral business projects are carried out in the northern regions of Russia. Among them are important ventures such as the nonferrous and precious metals mining industry, crude oil production and refining, and construction (a “model” Canadian village was built in Yakutia on the basis of innovative northern technologies).

Joint scientific research in the Arctic is yet another sphere where Russia and Canada have a long history of cooperation. The international initiative, the International Polar Year, which began in March 2007, has united thousands of scientists from around the world to explore the effects of global warming on the ecological systems of the Arctic. Russia and Canada are in the main of this initiative, as the primary scientific projects in the region will be carried out on our territories.

As stated in the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, approved by President Dmitry Medvedev on July 12, 2008, relations with Canada are an important element of the North American dimension of Russia’s balanced policy. Russia is interested in boosting further the dynamics of bilateral trade, economic links and investment cooperation as well as interaction in the Arctic.

Kirill Kalinin is an Attaché with the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Canada.