Russia attacks US's 'confrontational' Greenland policy

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Russia attacks US's 'confrontational' Greenland policy
Vladimir Barbin (left) and Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (right) at a meeting of the Arctic Council in 2017. Photo: Arctic Council/Flickr

Russia has criticised the US's announcement of a $12.1m aid deal with Greenland last as "confrontational" and "inappropriate", in a sign of growing competition over the world's largest island.


When the deal was announced on Thursday, Carla Sands, the US's ambassador to Denmark, said it was designed to protect Greenlanders from "malign influence and extortion" from Russia and China. 
In an opinion piece published in Denmark's Politiken newspaper on Sunday evening, the country's ambassador to Denmark Vladimir Barbin said that US's shift in policy and rhetoric over Greenland was threatening peace in the Arctic. 
"Now the United States instead of dialogue and cooperation relies exclusively on the policy of confrontation in the region, hoping thereby to achieve dominance in this part of the world," he complained. 
Barbin was appointed ambassador to Denmark and Greenland in December 2018, after four years as Ambassador-at-large to the Arctic, and a diplomatic career stretching back to a posting in Finland in 1979. 
In the article, he claimed that Russia had long sought to avoid competition in the Arctic, instead aiming to preserve it as "a region of peace and cooperation", with dialogue taking place through the Arctic Council and other regional platforms.


Regular meetings between those commanding the armed forces of countries with Arctic frontiers had, he argued, been "an effective security and confidence building measure" in the region.  
"The military component of the Russian presence in high latitudes was formed exclusively for defensive purposes," he maintained. 
The US's recent aid deal, taken together with Sands' rhetoric, "contradicts the letter and spirit of the Ilulissat declaration of 2008," he wrote. 
This declaration between the five countries with coastlines on the Arctic Ocean focused on climate change, the protection of the marine environment, maritime safety, and division of emergency responsibilities as new shipping routes are opened. 
Barbin particularly reacted to Sands' aggressive rhetoric. 
"Allocation of financial assistance is the sovereign right of any member of the world community," he conceded. "However, accompanying such a step with statements directed against one of the neighbours seems inappropriate. 
"Such rhetoric does not benefit the task of maintaining low tension in the region as well as securing good neighbourly relations in the Arctic." 
Hans Mouritzen, a researcher in Danish foreign policy at the Danish Institute for International Studies, told the newspaper that Barbin's statment was harshest rhetoric he had yet seen from Russia over the Arctic. 
"The US has been criticising Russia's actions in the Arctic for some time, but so far the Russian response has been to talk the conflict down," he told Politiken. "This is the first time the Russians have verbally responded with such a harsh tone." 
US Ambassador Carla Sands dismissed Barbin's criticism as "categorically wrong", stressing that the US's aim remained a stable and secure Arctic free of conflict.


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