Russia’s perspective on energy and climate change in the Arctic

Yesterday Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen gave a talk “Russia’s perspective on energy and climate change in the Arctic” at the panel “Sectors and projects of connectivity: opportunities and risks” during the meeting of the “Nordic-Baltic connectivity with Asia via the Arctic” project. The project is conducted by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute/ International Centre for Defence and Security in cooperation with the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

The Arctic region is of increasing strategic importance for the Nordic-Baltic countries. It is also becoming more and more an area of great power competition, involving Russia, the US, and the growing role of China. Furthermore, it is becoming more important as a region that connects Northern Europe with Asia. The project will focus on the risks and opportunities involved in increased connectivity and interdependence between the Nordic-Baltic countries and Asia via the Arctic region. It will analyze the interests of the Nordic-Baltic states and other major stakeholders in the region, looking especially at the (potential) connectivity projects in different sectors and the related security risks. Conceptually, it will build on the theories of geoeconomics and liberal interdependence as alternative approaches to connectivity. The topic is highly timely, as the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format (Nordic-Baltic 8 or NB8), chaired by Estonia in 2020, has made connectivity, including regional energy and transport projects, a key priority. Finland will take over the chair in 2021. The project will involve experts from the Nordic and Baltic states and Japan with knowledge of the Arctic region and the interests of Russia, China, US, EU, Japan and Nordic-Baltic states in the region. The main outcome will be an edited report/book including articles on different aspects of Nordic-Baltic connectivity with Asia and the role of the Arctic region.

More information is available online.


ASEEES Convention takes place online this year, and our team participated in it this weekend virtually.

On Friday, the 6th of November, Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen was a discussant at the “Evaluating Energy Development in the Russian Arctic” panel. The aim of the panel was to evaluate energy development in the Russian Arctic from various viewpoints, including those of indigenous societies, businesses, governments, and foreign companies.

The next day, he and Elena Gorbacheva participated in the “Environment and Contemporary Culture IV: Discourses of Energy/Waste” panel. Professor Tynkkynen presented a paper “The ‘Visibility of Energy’ and Energy/Hydrocarbon Culture in Petrostates, and What We Can Learn from it in the Era of Climate Change“:

Oil and gas dependent countries tend to fortify the regime in power by several direct means that can be characterized as ‘naked’ power. Despite the fact that many regimes in Petrostates are highly authoritarian, and have the means and will to control the people by force, this form of power, however, is not sufficient nor efficient enough to maintain power. Therefore, oil and gas dependent countries, such as Russia, Nigeria and UAE, lean on a large spectrum of biopolitical objectives that are entangled with the narrative and practices concerning energy. The outcome is a specific form of geo-governmentality where the materialities and spatialities of oil and gas are utilized to produce a comprehensive narrative including economic, political, and identity-related justifications. Thus, a hydrocarbon culture is being constructed to produce loyal citizens that do not question the economic, political or environmental rational of the Petrostate.
Therefore, the era of climate change is a major challenge to the Petrostates’ regimes to maintain power, as the global energy transition ultimately aims at leaving the fossil era behind. Stitching oil and gas to the nationalistic narratives of Petrostates, aiming to build a hydrocarbon-culture identity, is a process that can, however, teach on a broader front how to combat climate change. The key is that within hydrocarbon cultures the materialities and spatialities – the geology, chemistry, geography and engineering – are made visible for the citizens: people in Russia and United Arab Emirates know, as they are taught by the national energy companies and ministries, how oil and gas is produced, refined and transported, and how these forms of energy are interwoven in the social, political and economic fabric of the society.

Elena Gorbacheva presented a paper “Environmental Mobilization in Russia: Case-study of Protests Against the Shies Landfill Construction”. The paper aimed to understand the dynamic of protest mobilisation against the Shies landfill construction (Arkhangelsk region, Russia) through the frames the protesters utilised.

The next day, on the 8th of November, Alla Bolotova gave a talk  “Soviet Mining Villages and Their Afterlife: From Rural to Urban and Back” at the panel “Late Soviet Village II: Things and Infrastructures between Rural and Urban“:

Mining industrialisation played a key role in formation of the structure of settlements in the Soviet Union. While mining cities attracted some attention among researchers, smaller mining villages were almost not studied yet. This paper deals with histories of several small mining settlements in the Soviet Arctic (Murmansk region), focusing on sense of place and interaction with the environment among residents.

Russian attitudes towards environmental issues

Margarita Zavadskaya and our team member Elena Gorbacheva wrote a piece on the changing attitudes of Russians towards environmental issues for RBC Trends section “Eco-nomica”. In their article, the researchers analysed the results of the World Values Survey and European Values Study over the past 20 years and outlined how Russians’ perceptions of certain environmental questions have been shifting. The researches addressed issues such as the importance of environmental protection over economic growth, the trust in environmental organisations, and the attitudes towards climate change. One of the interesting findings was that during 1994-2014, environmental protection was seen as an issue with more priority compared to economic growth.

The full version of the article is available in Russian.