The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue international forum
Vladimir Putin is taking part in the fourth international forum The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue.
March 30, 2017
The forum’s theme this year is People and the Arctic. The participants are discussing ways to improve the quality of life in the Arctic, maintain its unique environmental potential, boost sustainable socioeconomic development of the Arctic regions and strengthen international cooperation for these purposes.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Niinistö, Mr Johannesson,
I wholeheartedly welcome all of you to Russia, to Arkhangelsk.
It is the second time that Arkhangelsk is hosting The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue international forum. This is symbolic, because Arkhangelsk is closely connected with the events and individuals that have opened the polar latitudes to the world.
We will mark one of such “polar” events this year. I am referring to the 85th anniversary of the famous Otto Schmidt expedition, which for the first time covered the route from the port of Arkhangelsk to the Pacific Ocean within one navigation season, launching regular navigation along the coast of Siberia, the legendary Northern Sea Route.
The importance of the Arctic has increased manifold. The attention of many nations is focused on the Arctic as a region whose wellbeing determines the global climate, a treasure trove of unique nature and, of course, a region with a huge economic potential and opportunities.
Preserving the Arctic as a territory of constructive dialogue, development and equal cooperation is a matter of fundamental importance. This forum, whose theme this year is People and the Arctic, has a great role to play in this.
The forum has brought together respected academics, business leaders and politicians and has become a venue for serious professional discussions of the current situation and the future of the Arctic, as we hoped it would. The forum is important for promoting different forms of Arctic partnership. Your expert views and initiatives are also taken into account at the Arctic Council, which has over the past 20 years served as an example of effective international cooperation that continues unabated by external change.
Russia, which accounts for approximately a third of the Arctic zone, is aware of its special responsibility for this territory. We aim to ensure its sustainable development, create a modern infrastructure, develop natural resources, strengthen the industrial potential, improve the quality of life for the indigenous Northern people, maintain their unique culture and traditions and provide government assistance towards these goals.
However, these goals must not be viewed separately from the task of preserving the biological diversity and the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic. It is gratifying that the protection of the Arctic environment is a key priority of international cooperation in this region, including research cooperation. I would like to remind you of one more important date in Arctic history: the 80th anniversary of the Soviet drifting ice station North Pole. Its traditions have been taken up by the Russian drift station Barneo, which is home to researchers from around the world.
Academic cooperation and the exchange of experience and programmes are extremely important, considering the large-scale plans for the development of this region, particularly within large international projects. A recent positive example is the Yamal LNG project, which is being implemented by seven countries.
Russia believes that there is no potential for conflict in the Arctic. International law clearly specifies the rights of littoral and other states and provides a firm foundation for cooperation in addressing various issues, including such sensitive ones as the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean and the prevention of unregulated high seas fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean, which is surrounded by the exclusive economic zones of the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia.
I would like to reiterate that Russia is open to constructive cooperation and does its utmost to create a proper environment for its effective development. We have drafted a fairly extensive economic programme for the Arctic designed for many years to come. It already includes over 150 projects with investments estimated at trillions of rubles. First, we will support the initiatives that have a multiplier effect for the Arctic regions and our country in general, including public-private partnerships and what is known as core development areas, which we treat not just as territories, but primarily as a set of coordinated and complementary projects, as well as state support tools.
These and many other activities will be included in the revised state programme for the development of the Russian Arctic. In particular, it deals with forming a block of modern research and technological solutions designed specifically for the harsh Arctic conditions, improving the environmental monitoring system and developing offshore deposits. We pay special attention to the Northern Sea Route, which I mentioned earlier in my remarks.
Changes in the ice situation and the availability of new up-to-date vessels makes it an almost year-round artery, at least, it will become one in the near future. It will be an effective and reliable transport corridor with great potential for the Russian and global economies. I have already instructed the Government to work through the issues of creating a separate entity, which will be in charge of the integrated development of the Northern Sea Route and contiguous core areas, including infrastructure, hydrography, security, management, and all associated services.
We invite our foreign colleagues to make active use of the opportunities offered by the Northern Sea Route, which will cut transportation costs and delivery time for goods between Europe and Asia. However, we are well aware that for that corridor to be competitive, all-purpose, and usable by carriers of all types of goods ranging from bulk cargo to containerised freight, transport companies must enjoy the most favourable terms that meet the latest international standards.
In closing, I would like to thank all the participants for their participation in the constructive discussion of the Arctic issues, and their passion with regard to its future.
Special thanks go to my colleagues – the President of Finland and the President of Iceland – who took the time out of their busy schedules and attended today's forum in person. Such a broad and authoritative international representation is a good sign of the political will of the Arctic and other states to preserve the Arctic as a territory of peace, stability and mutually beneficial cooperation.
President of Finland Sauli Niinistö: President Putin, President Johannesson, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to attend this distinguished forum again. I want to thank the Russian Government and the Russian Geographical Society for convening this forum. It is very fitting that we meet here in Arkhangelsk, the historical meeting place between East and West. I approach the event in this spirit, promoting a meeting of minds with a firm belief that the Arctic will indeed remain a territory of dialogue.
My starting point today is the growing threat of climate change. Tackling this challenge is crucial if we want to ensure that the Arctic remains the place it is today. But the issue is of global significance. If we lose the Arctic, we lose the whole world.
Global warming is a well-documented fact. Last year was the warmest year ever in the history of monitoring the Earth’s temperature and already the third record warm year in a row. No one can escape the effects of global warming. At the moment, the problem is most acute in the North. The former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the Arctic “ground zero” for climate change. The average temperature has risen twice as fast in the Arctic as in most other regions. The summer ice cover reached an all-time low in 2016 and recent reports indicate that this winter has not fully rectified the situation.
A further concern is the recent report made by Russian scientists that in Siberia there are some 7,000 methane-filled pockets waiting to release their content. This will create danger and disruption to infrastructure and humans in the area. What is worse, once released, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Eventually, a warming climate will cause major challenges to everyone on this planet. In the Arctic, residents are facing immediate consequences that will fundamentally impact their communities and traditional livelihoods. Food security is threatened and new health concerns are emerging.
Make no mistake, this catastrophe will not be limited to the Arctic. There will be enormous consequences worldwide. As the ice melts, sea levels will rise. As the ice melts, solar radiation will not be reflected back. Instead, its energy will further warm the water and accelerate global warming.
Climate change is also a major security issue. It is a threat multiplier that aggravates many issues behind conflicts. Famine, water scarcity, flooding, forced displacement and so forth.
So, what needs to be done?
Firstly, a major step in the right direction was the conclusion and early ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change. But the most important part, effective implementation, lies still ahead of us.
Secondly, we need intensified cooperation across borders to combat the challenges and to strengthen the resilience of Arctic residents.
Thirdly, in order to be effective, Arctic cooperation must have a global dimension. A case in point is the impact of black carbon on climate, the environment and human health. The sources of black carbon are known, technology and know-how to deal with the issues exist. It is time we dealt effectively with it. One source of black carbon is flaring, that is, burning excess gas at a production site. For a layman, that is almost impossible to understand. In 2015, flaring amounted to almost 150 billion cubic metres of wasted gas. To put this in a perspective, this is almost forty times more than how much natural gas Finland uses annually. This amounts to burning money. On top of this, flaring accounts for a quarter of the climate warming in the Arctic.
Fourthly, we must ensure that the Arctic remains an area of cooperation. The strategic importance of the Arctic is growing. The geopolitical tensions in other parts of the world should not be allowed to spill over the Arctic. Cool heads are now needed to keep the Arctic an area of low tensions also in the future. The good news is that the Arctic has remained peaceful and Arctic cooperation works very well. There is a strong culture of cooperation and a vibrant system of Arctic governance.
The Arctic is also a place where international law is pre-eminent. The maritime boundaries and ownership of underwater minerals, oil and gas will be determined by international law. The Arctic coastal countries have jointly declared that they will follow the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The maritime delimitation agreement between Norway and Russia in 2010 set an encouraging example that everybody should follow.
Finally, we must ensure that the mechanism we already have reaches its full potential. Beginning in May, Finland will chair the Arctic Council for two years. Our chairmanship slogan will be “Exploring common solutions.” We want to highlight the need for constructive cooperation between the Arctic stakeholders. Also, we believe it is time to take Arctic cooperation to a new level. Finland proposes the convening of an Arctic summit to discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the region and beyond. This would provide an opportunity to ensure that the Arctic, indeed, remains a territory of dialogue. It is our common responsibility to see that this promise and tradition is upheld here, in the North.
President of Iceland Gudni Johannesson: President Vladimir Putin, President Sauli Niinistö, excellencies, dear guests,
I thank the organisers for the opportunity to speak at this important conference. I also thank you, President Putin, for your interest in Arctic issues, and for showing continued commitment in promoting international cooperation in the region.
For Iceland, the Arctic plays an important role. We have worked with other Arctic nations in the Arctic council, and other forums. In recent years, we have also drawn attention to the region through the annual Arctic Circle Conference in Reykjavik, under the leadership of my predecessor, Olafur Ragnur Grimsson.
Allow me also to add my appreciation for being here in Arkhangelsk. When I studied history in my youth, I became fascinated by Russian and Soviet history, and the Russian language. Unfortunately, I was only able to study Russian for one year. But the admiration remains to this day. Back home in Iceland, I gained the friendship of Russians living there. Hospitality and honesty – these are the words I would use to describe those friends. And as the Russian saying goes: nothing is as precious as true friendship. (InRussian.) Нет ничего дороже на этой земле, чем настоящая дружба. (Applause.) Спасибо.
We Icelanders share parts of our history and heritage with the peoples of Russia and other countries in this part of Europe. Our old sagas contain tales of Viking travel to eastern lands, to Novgorod and Kiev, and other sites. In our more recent past, development in this part of the world have of course influenced our society. In Iceland, people fondly remember how the rulers in Moscow sided with us in disputes about fishing limits in the mid-20th century. Later, when we extended the line even further, there were objections from the Soviet side, it is true. But the general history of fishing disputes, and the development of the Law of the Sea demonstrates how international disagreements and conflicts can and should be solved through dialogue and negotiations.
Thus, the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention has already proven its worth. Yet there is still work to be done. Throughout the 20th century, fisheries were the backbone of Iceland’s economy. Although we have diversified our economy, and enjoy a boom in the tourist industry, we still depend on marine resources. The ocean is vitally important to us. In fact, it is vitally important to all humankind. Therefore, I want to draw your attention to some risks and opportunities in this field.
For centuries, humans have used the ocean as a rubbish dump. A few weeks ago, a man who used to work at the president’s residence in Iceland told me how they used to clean the garbage there in the old days. We would put it all in a container, which we then took to the shore and emptied it into the sea. Problem solved. Fortunately, such methods are no longer used in Iceland. But bigger issues confront us.
Today, more than 8 million tonnes of plastics are dumped into the ocean each year, and volume is fast increasing. Unless we act, by 2050, there might be more plastic waste than fish in the sea. And, dear friends, we will not survive on plastic fish, no matter how we will advance and progress in the future.
The plastic threat is clear and present. Ocean acidification is another problem facing us. It is invisible, but equally worrying. The most immediate harm is done to animals such as snails and crabs. Other animals, including marine mammals, will also be hard hit.
In the Kiruna Declaration of 2013, the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council highlighted this concern. Since then, the situation has only deteriorated. Maybe we need another declaration. But let us also recall another Russian proverb (in Russian.): Дела звучат громче слов. Actions speak louder than words.
The third issue we need to address concern increased sea traffic in the Arctic Ocean. Oil- and nuclear energy-driven vessels always carry with them the risk of serious pollution. Cruisers carry tourists, who will need search and rescue facilities if danger strikes. Yes, we do have the 2013 Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution, Preparedness and Response. But we must continue to be on our guard, be prepared for all eventualities.
Finally, let me mention the changing behaviour of pelagic fish stocks, such as mackerel and herring. They swim where they want to. They do not respect borders. Therefore, we believe that it is of fundamental importance for the Arctic nations to reach agreements on how to share these migratory fish stocks. And such agreements need to be based on scientific foundations regarding the stock sizes and yield of each species.
In this regard, we welcome the ongoing discussions on how to manage future fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. Never before have international negotiations on fisheries taken place before the fish were actually there. We are proud to participate in this undertaking. A good example of how to conduct business in the Arctic.
Dear friends, I now move from the ocean to dry land. This conference has highlighted the many opportunities and challenges that confront people in the Arctic region. It is easy to be spellbound by the stunning beauty in the north, and the ways of life that have changed relatively little throughout the centuries.
Still, nature is not only beautiful here, it is also harsh. We need to work together to improve the living conditions of people in the countries of the high north. President Putin actually touched upon this in his opening speech here, and last week, His Excellency also addressed the International Forum and 8th Congress of Small Indigenous Peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East, making the following observation: “It is essential to develop a constructive and mutually beneficial dialogue with the local authorities and influential public organisations, take into account people’s opinions and act in their interests.” Let this be the guiding light in our mutual efforts.
Economic activities must not only be sustainable and harmless to the ecosystem; they should also benefit the local populations, with improved infrastructure, healthcare, school system, communications and other aspects of modern society. And actually, I believe this was also a subject touched upon by President Niinistö.
And here, in the north, as elsewhere, social problems should be faced, not ignored. We need to combat such ills as substance misuse. Here as elsewhere, young and old, male and female should have the right to security in their homes be free from all kinds of violence.
Dear conference guests, Iceland’s Arctic policy is based on a parliamentary resolution approved unanimously in March 2011, six years ago. Its aim is to secure Icelandic interests with regard to the effects of climate change, environmental issues, natural resources, navigation and social development, as well as strengthening relations and cooperation with other states and stakeholders on the issues facing the region. The resolution refers to the importance of international law, especially the need to resolve any differences on Arctic issues on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Dear listeners, President Putin and President Niinistö. In a few weeks, Finland will take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. In two years’ time, Iceland assumes that role, and then Russia will follow, from 2021–2023. We should work closely together, ensure good continuity and common long-term objectives in the Council’s work.
The Arctic region is changing fast. We face environmental changes, and changes in people’s living conditions. Let our impact be positive. Let our Arctic dialogue deliver results. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Finland is our very good neighbour and it has very good experience in organising such important events. The Helsinki process, as you know, began in Helsinki, where very important documents were signed. In this respect, I believe Finland is a very appropriate country and Helsinki is a very appropriate venue for such events.
However, the President of Finland has just said that such events should be well prepared, and prepared by both sides. If this happens, we will be pleased to participate and I will be pleased to take part in such an event. If not, then such a meeting can take place within the framework of our usual meetings of this kind, like the G-20, I think.
Vladimir Putin: No, nothing is likely to change our priorities in this region. There are several factors here. First, even now, companies operating in this region account for 10 percent of Russia’s GDP and their share is constantly growing.
Among the essential circumstances are the growing changes and greater efficiency of new technologies. Today we received the first tanker in the newly built port of Sabetta. It is an absolutely new port that was built from scratch in the Arctic zone, in an empty space, so to speak. Until very recently, it would have been impossible to do this with such quality. The ship that entered this port today is all about modern technology. It breaks through ice up to two metres thick like an icebreaker. This is all about new technologies.
The second essential factor that bolsters optimism on our part is climate change. Now President Niinistö spoke about this, and he spoke very convincingly. The period of navigation along the Northern Sean Route has been significantly expanding recently. This goes to show that transport capabilities are improving.
As you may know, yesterday, I visited an extreme northern region, Franz Josef Land, 900 kilometres from the North Pole. Our specialists, our scientists there told me that they are observing the constant melting of the ice and glaciers, and the President of Finland also spoke about this.
This shows that climate change provides more favourable conditions for economic activity in this region. If these trends continue, we can see what will happen. Today, 1.4 million tonnes of goods are shipped along the Northern Sea Route. By 2035, this will be 30 million tonnes. This is growth for you.
As part of Yamal SPG, one of our major projects (which is further evidence that such programmes can be carried out in these latitudes), an absolutely unique new plant has been built. It is nearing completion. In the old days, it was even hard to imagine such things, but it will be up and running by the end of the year. It is as good as finished. It will produce 16.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas. The volume of shipments via the Northern Sea Route will immediately quadruple. Importantly, it can work in two directions: towards both Europe and Asia.
All of this goes to show that our plans to develop this region are absolutely viable.
Vladimir Putin: First of all, thank God, there are Americans here. I can see Ambassador Tefft. Welcome.
Second, you know, what I am going to say now may not be very popular, but I believe President Niinistö said they will comply with all the Paris agreements. Russia is also determined to do so, just as we complied with the Kyoto Protocol.
However, as Sauli [Niinistö] said, [global] warming will continue all the same, and this is definitely the case.
What is the question? Look, as I already said, yesterday I visited Franz Josef Land. There was an Austrian researcher working there, Mr Pyer. Then he left. He described the glaciers there, among other things. About 20 years later, the future king of Italy went there and took some photos and showed them to Mr Pyer. The latter had a photographic memory. In addition, he had drawn maps, the maps of glaciers, and he discovered that during those 20 years the number of glaciers had declined.
In other words, warming had already begun. There were no such man-made factors, such emissions, at that time, but warming had already begun. The question is not how to prevent it. I agree with those who believe that the question is not how to prevent it, because this is impossible. This may have to do with some global cycles on earth or even some planetary cycles.
The question is how to adapt to it. Mr Johannesson spoke about the distribution of fish, where they go, where they appear. Research is necessary. The question is how do mankind and people who live in this region adapt to it.
So the proposals and positions of those who disagree with their opponents, including – I do not even know the name of the gentleman that you referred to… they are not so silly after all. What did he lead in America? May God give him wellbeing and success, but we should all listen to and hear each other, and only then can optimal solutions to these problems be found, and of course they exist.
<…>Videoconference following first docking of gas tanker at Sabetta port
Vladimir Putin took part in a videoconference marking the first docking of a gas tanker at the port of Sabetta.
March 30, 2017
Videoconference following first docking of gas tanker at Sabetta port.
The tanker arrived at the port of Sabetta and made a test docking at the port after going through ice tests in the Kara Sea and the Ob River Bay.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues,
I would like to congratulate everyone on today’s event. I congratulate the Russian participants and our foreign partners. The arrival of this new tanker, designed for Arctic conditions, is a big event in Arctic development, as is the construction of the port of Sabetta, where the tanker docked today. The port was built entirely from scratch. It involved big investment, and uses advanced technologies that will make it possible to develop the Arctic’s wealth, these rich resources you saw and we discussed yesterday on Alexandra Land, in the Franz Josef Land Archipelago. This is undeniably a great event.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in developing the Arctic’s enormous wealth, our basic principle is not to cause any harm. We realise that this region’s ecosystem is very sensitive to any human interference. But I know your work in detail and I know for certain that the port, the ships that will use it, the production methods used, and the transportation system all use the most advanced technology and meet the highest environmental standards. The first of the new ships docked today. Fifteen of these ships will be built in total, with the involvement of Russian shipbuilders.
If we continue working in this way, and at this pace – and I must admit that I am somewhat amazed at the accomplishments and want to congratulate the builders and everyone working on this project – in that case there is no question that Russia can and will become one of the world’s biggest producers of liquefied natural gas. We have everything we need for this and every reason to believe that we can achieve this goal.
I congratulate you sincerely once again. I hope that all the plans for the Yamal LNG project that we are implementing with our numerous foreign partners (when I say ‘numerous’, I mean not only those who are direct shareholders in the company, but also those who in one way or another are taking part in the project’s implementation), will be completed on time. I hope that by the end of this year, or early next year at the latest, as we planned earlier, the plant will start operation and reach its design capacity of 16.5 million tonnes of LNG, and we will continue development from there.
I was briefed just recently on plans to expand projects of this sort. We will help and support you in every way we can.
VladimirPutin: I would like to thank everyone, our foreign partners as well, above all, of course, our Chinese and French partners, for believing in this project, for taking active part in it and supporting technologically and financially. This is very important. We know that the situation is not the best on the global energy markets right now, but we take the view that demand for energy resources will continue to grow, and we are working for the future.
It is with pleasure that I note that this new ice-class ship, which is one of its kind in the world, bears the name of our late great friend, French businessman and former head of Total, Christophe de Margery, who so tragically left this life. This is very symbolic and it will cement our relations even on a spiritual level, I would say. Let me once again express my hope that this level we have achieved in our work together today will continue to advance our effective cooperation for the benefit of the companies taking part, and for the good of our countries, and will ensure a stable situation on the international energy market and create good conditions for global economic development.
I want to wish you all good luck. Thank you.
Meeting with President of Finland Sauli Niinisto
Within the framework of the international forum Arctic: Territory of Dialogue, Vladimir Putin had a meeting with President of Finland Sauli Niinisto
March 30, 2017
Meeting with President of Finland Sauli Niinistö.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues, friends, welcome to Arkhangelsk.
I would like to thank you once again for accepting our invitation. Your participation in these discussions on the Arctic’s development is extremely important because we are all Arctic countries and this kind of open and free discussion creates an atmosphere of trust and creates conditions for resolving the region’s development issues.
Of course, we also have the opportunity today to discuss our bilateral relations.
We are very happy to see you.
President of Finland Sauli Niinisto (retranslated): Thank you very much. It was with pleasure that we have come here. It is very important that you, Vladimir, support discussion and dialogue on the Arctic, which is a focus of attention now. Finland will soon take on the presidency in the Arctic Council, and all that we take away from here, from this forum, will help us in our further work.
There are also many bilateral issues that it would be useful to discuss. As always, I would be keen to know and hear your view of the world.
Thank you very much for the invitation.