In the wake of increasing geopolitical tensions with Russia, the Arctic Options project of UC Santa Barbara is taking steps to extend science diplomacy and international collaboration by developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for academic and research cooperation with MGIMO University (Moscow State University of International Relations), which is affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under the agreement, researchers will collaborate on Arctic policy research of international concern relating to emerging issues in the fields of law, political science, economics, and oceanography.
Funded by the US National Science Foundation and French National Centre for Scientific Research, Arctic Options: Holistic Integration for Arctic Coastal-Marine Sustainability is an international project overseen by NCEAS and designed to enhance the effectiveness of governance for sustainable development across an increasingly ice-free Arctic.
The Arctic Options project has an emphasis on three regions: 1) Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia; 2) High Seas of the Arctic Ocean beyond national jurisdictions; and 3) Marine coastal zone of West Greenland. Collaboration with legal experts and scholars from Russia is necessary to support research activities in the Bering Strait, including the Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea, which involves the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation.
“This MOU lays the foundation for the international Arctic Options team to strengthen science-policy connections with their counterparts in the Russian Federation,” said NCEAS director Frank Davis.
Oran Young, an Arctic Options co-PI and research professor at UCSB’s Bren School added, “Maintaining strong cooperation between American and Russian scientists is particularly important during these times of geopolitical stress.”
“Successful international collaborations of this nature require trust developed over time,” said Paul Berkman, UCSB professor and Arctic Options coordinator. “Professor Alexander Vylegzhanin, Director of International Law at MGIMO University, and I have had a long-standing and productive collaboration.”
In 2010, Berkman and Vylegzhanin co-directed the first formal dialogue between NATO and Russia regarding security in the Arctic – NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean – at the University of Cambridge with high-level participants from all Arctic States, Arctic indigenous peoples organizations, and representatives from nine non-Arctic states. In 2011, Berkman and Vylegzhanin were invited to speak to the Norwegian Storting and NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Emerging from this workshop, they also co-edited a book on Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean that was published by Springer in 2013.