When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


How The War In Ukraine Could Overturn Everyone's Plans For The Arctic

Russia owns 60% of Arctic coastline and half of the region's population. In recent history, NATO has not been overly concerned with the defense of the Arctic region because the U.S. military has been focused on the Middle East. This is all changing since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Photo of employees walking through frozen installations at the Utrenneye field in Murmansk Region, Russia.

At the Utrenneye field in Murmansk Region, Russia.

Kateryna Mola


KYIV — As important as the Arctic is for studying climate control and ecology, various states have eyes on it for another reason: resources. Climate change has made the Arctic more accessible for mining, and much of that area is in the Russian Arctic. In order to exploit these potential natural resources, Russia turned to foreign investors and foreign technology, from both the West and China. The war in Ukraine is throwing all of that into question.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine will have a profoundly devastating impact on the development of Russian Arctic infrastructure, as well as shipping routes through the Arctic. Western companies have left or are about to leave the market, and counter-sanctions threaten those who still cooperate with the Russians.

Given that Russia does not produce the sophisticated equipment to operate in such a complex region and soon will not even be able to repair the equipment it possesses, we can expect Russia's activity in the Arctic to slow down.

Yet, Vladimir Putin has continued to emphasize the Arctic as a priority region, and extended invitations to cooperate to both India and China.

Putin's confidence is based on the fact that the Arctic is a critical region with limited points of access. Many want to be involved in Arctic politics and economics but have no legal grounds upon which to do so.

A hunt for rare earth elements

Photo of a tanker in Murmansk, Russia, with snowy mountains behind it

Nuclear-powered icebreaker Sibir arrives in Murmansk, Russia

Lev Fedoseyev/TASS/ZUMA

Such countries are granted access by Russia, which allows them to develop mineral resources, test their high-tech products, and participate in scientific research on its territory. The 2014 sanctions did not have much impact on Arctic cooperation, and even today, Russian partners are very reluctant to withdraw from Arctic projects.

In addition to oil and gas, the Arctic has significant deposits of rare earth metals, which are the main element for manufacturing batteries for smartphones, computers, and electric vehicles. Currently, most of the explored deposits of rare earth elements are located in China, with others in Latin America, Quebec, and Northern Europe and Greenland.

Despite the potential for rare earths outside of China, the vast majority of the world's current supply chain is China-based--that is, global technology and environmental progress is heavily dependent on resource supplies monopolized by authoritarian regimes.

Gorbachev had proposed to turn the Arctic into a "zone of peace."

In October 1987, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, proposed to turn the Arctic into a "zone of peace." At that time, the Russian part of the region was crammed with military bases and fortifications, as the USSR believed that America would attack the Soviets from this side.

That same year, the Finnish government launched the Rovaniemi Process, which in 1991 turned into the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy. This created the basis for cooperation between the eight Arctic states (Canada, the United States, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Russia) to solve common environmental and economic problems. In 1996, these states formed the Arctic Council, a collective supranational body that jointly takes care of the Arctic region.

When Finland and Sweden join NATO, all Arctic countries except Russia will be members of the Western military alliance .

​Who owns the Arctic

Since its establishment, the A.R. has been declared a non-political organization; however, in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine, Russia had to leave Arctic Security Forces Roundtable (AR). In response, Russia strengthened its military presence in the Arctic. The number of weapons disproportionately increased, and the Russian military regularly conducted undeclared exercises while violating the Nordic countries' national maritime borders and airspace.

In early March 2022, the Arctic Council countries condemned Russia and announced a boycott of the meetings and a temporary suspension of the AR's activities. This is the first political statement of the Arctic Council since its inception.

But without Russia, the Arctic cannot be governed, as it owns 60% of the coastline and half of the region's population.In recent history, NATO has not been overly concerned with the defense of the Arctic region because the U.S. military has primarily involved in conflicts in the Middle East. This is changing given recent Russian military investment in the region, and particularly as a result of the changed geopolitical situation brought about by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Since 2014, Russia has built at least 475 military facilities along its northern border, and has started to actively develop the port of Severomorsk in the Barents Sea above the Arctic Circle (the main base of the country's Northern Fleet) and the port in Vladivostok.

​Militarization of the Arctic

Murmansk Region, Rusia, July 2022. A member of the Arctic cleanup expedition, on Kildin Island.

© Sergei Fadeichev / TASS via ZUMA Press

Russia thawed 50 mothballed military bases from the Cold War, including 13 air bases and ten radar stations. In addition, Moscow tried, contrary to its international agreements and without any permits, to build a military base on the Norwegian Spitsbergen, where, according to international law, the existence of military bases, even Norwegian ones, is forbidden.

Norway has forbidden the Russians to continue construction, and it is currently unknown what conditions these facilities are in.

Russia has also tested specialized hypersonic cruise missiles and nuclear-powered underwater drones in the Arctic. The country's Northern Fleet, which consists of nuclear submarines, battleships, landing craft, icebreakers, and support ships, has been significantly strengthened over the past decade and has become the leading power in the north, according to NATO's 2017 Arctic Strategy.

Russian activity has sparked an arms race among other Arctic states: both Canada and Norway have recently begun to rearm and conduct more frequent military exercises in the region. The United States has also started to give more strategic priority to the Arctic.

If Russia loses the war

Following the invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries launched Arctic military exercises, which have not been seen since the Cold War. Arctic countries are actively arming themselves and coordinating their actions. Recent events in Norway confirm that Russia poses a threat in the north. Explosions on the Russian "Nord Stream 1" gas pipeline, active reconnaissance activities carried out by Russia at Norwegian military and industrial facilities, and the exposure of Russian spies in Norway, are all evidence of Russian threats to nations beyond Ukraine.

Sanctions could deplete Russia to the point that it will have to mothball its military bases in the Arctic.

Arctic countries, without exaggeration, are the flagships of assistance to Ukraine in the war. The region, which most influential countries perceive as crucial, is now held hostage by Russia. Sanctions could potentially deplete Russia to the point that it will again have to mothball its military bases in the Arctic. The development of natural resources would then stop due to a lack of technical capabilities.

Perhaps Russia will admit defeat, and the world will see a subsequent redistribution of power or the creation of a new system of global security. In that case, it is imperative to understand that the Arctic will be one of those regions which, under the further distribution of forces, will be claimed by many international players.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest