Everybody is afraid of our vastness

Russian Arctic vastness is sad rather than scary.

Russian Arctic vastness is sad rather than scary.

Not a word about the Arctic could be found in the transcript of President Vladimir Putin annual Q&A session, perhaps except the rather abstract assertion that “everybody is afraid of our vastness”  (Kremlin.ru, April 16). It is certainly not the vastness as such, but rather the vast increase of Russian military activities that prompted the five Nordic defense ministers to issue a joint statement committing to a closer cooperation “because the Russian military are acting in a challenging way along our borders” (Aftenposten, April 9). The response from the Russian Foreign Ministry was lame and awkwardly phrased, particularly the point that “rigid confrontational views are enforced on the Nordic public opinion” (MID.ru, April 12). The Defence Ministry opted for a more material response sending a squadron of the Northern Fleet to exercise in the Norwegian Sea (RBC.ru, April 17). The official media, which usually plays up the theme of geopolitical competition in the Arctic, has paid scant attention to the Nordic stance (Kommersant, April 10) and ignored the firm statement from Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb about rejecting Russian “veto” on Finland’s foreign policy-making (Lenta.ru, April 12). Putin has to face the consequences of his attempts to exploit the “position of power” in the High North, but admitting a failure would be so much out of the character that more and much more of the same is probably in the making.

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