The West’s cooperation with Moscow in the Arctic, already strained after years of Russian military buildup, has ground to a halt because of the conflict in Ukraine. The eight-member Arctic Council, which Russia currently chairs, has effectively paused operations, shelving a crucial forum for Washington, Moscow and the six other member nations to tackle and sidestep clashes over issues such as climate change, energy and economic resources, and military activity in the high north.
Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his military campaign in Ukraine wouldn’t sidetrack the Kremlin’s quickly expanding Arctic ambitions. Long before the unprovoked Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin saw the region as crucial to Russia’s economic development. The crushing Western sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to its invasion of Ukraine have made the Arctic even more pivotal for Russia’s financial future.