The New Ice Curtain: Rus­sia's Strategic Reach to the Arctic

Heather A. Conley, Caroline Rohloff

This research effort was designed to search for new ways to strengthen U.S.-­Russian bilateral cooperation in the Arctic during the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2015–2017), as well as to explain to U.S. and international audiences why the Rus­sian Arctic is so vital to Rus­sia's future. The early months of our research ­ were very promising, beginning with a major Arctic conference in Moscow in December 2013 hosted by the Rus­sian International Affairs Council, where senior Rus­sian and U.S. officials gave serious pre­sen­ta­tions about enhancing Arctic engagement, and afterwards sat together and planned a promising cooperative roadmap.

Events in Ukraine in February 2014 changed the geopo­liti­cal landscape. Our research project went from promoting new collaborative thinking to identifying ways to preserve and protect Arctic cooperation as EU and U.S. sanctions ­ were imposed after Rus­sia annexed Crimea in March 2014 and U.S.-­ Russia military relations suspended by the United States.Although already under way, significant changes to Rus­sia's Arctic policy occurred in 2014 and continue to this day, which necessitated our research to take yet another turn in order to understand the factors that contributed to the policy change that went from describing Rus­sia's Arctic as "a territory of dialogue" to "challenges and threats to our national security." The report's policy recommendations suggest ways to bring the Arctic back to a region that ensures transparency and begins to rebuild confidence between Arctic and non-­Arctic states alike.