Russia has consistently tried to downplay rhetoric of a looming conflict over resource shortages
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Finally, is there a “Russian question” looming behind all of these issues? Whether we choose to proceed by strengthening and extending the existing framework where we must, or to develop new solutions, will Russia choose to participate within that system? As noted at several points above, Russia, by and large, is already doing so. Moreover, Russian officials have been at pains to counteract the characterization of the Arctic described at the beginning of this article: the faulty notion of the Arctic as a future battleground between Russia and the West. For example, the Russian Foreign Ministry has publicly stated that discussion of “a possible military conflict for Arctic resources is baseless” and that the problems facing the region will be resolved “on the basis of international law.”97 Even the provocative figure at the head of Russia’s North Pole expedition has sought to downplay the situation, remarking that “[n]obody’s going to war with anybody” and that while Russia will “defend [its] economic interests . . . a conflict in the near future” is unlikely.98 Moreover, the United States has largely acknowledged that Russia is adhering to the applicable rule of law, in particular with respect to the extended continental shelf.99 Simultaneously, Russia appears to be engaged with the international community when it comes to the Arctic: through the Arctic Council, through the IMO, and in bilateral and multilateral efforts with its fellow Arctic states.100
Despite the rhetoric, disputes over Arctic resources are unlikely to devolve into conflict as states have to date been operating in a cooperative manner and there are sufficient international forums and structures (including UNCLOS) in place to manage disputes if they should occur.