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Alaska Lt. Governor Lauds Russian Plans for Joint Arctic Development

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In an opinion piece published in Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell relates that last Thursday, he attended a meeting of "Arctic hands," which was held in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk. The meeting was called by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is also chair of the Russian Geographical Society. Putin sketched out Russia’s plans for Arctic development, including:

* Making the Northern Sea Route, "which passes by Alaska’s front door, as important to global shipping and commerce as the Suez Canal";

* Facilitating Russian oil and gas exports by developing Russia’s Arctic Shelf resources (a recent partnership was formed with ExxonMobil), and selling to Asia as well as Europe, by sending shipments through the Bering Sea;

* Increasing Russia’s share of polar air routes by upgrading airports, weather forecasting, and telecommunications.

"Never has a Russian leader," Treadwell notes, "been more determined or prepared to actually accomplish these goals. Putin’s country is behind him. Major sources of capital, foreign and Russian, were in the room. The ministries of resources, environment, transportation, regional governments, and emergency situations, as well as Russia’s Arctic Ambassador, were there to speak to specifics. So were indigenous leaders and Russian governors, including Alaska’s closest regional neighbor, Roman Kopin, Governor of Chukotka."

After comparing the efforts of Russia and Alaska/U.S. toward Arctic development, Treadwell says, "While the Russians are awake to the opportunities of the Arctic, we’re still trying to wake up Washington. And sitting there, listening to Russian leaders, I saw we’ve got a tougher time than our counterparts in the Russian Arctic, where the nation — and the national government — understands the opportunities and the risks." He calls, in conclusion, for Alaska and the U.S. to both compete and cooperate with the Putin team in Arctic development. This timely article becomes all the more so, since a few days after the Arkhangelsk conference, Vladimir Putin announced his campaign to regain the Presidency of Russia.