Medvedev: “Russia is a weakening oil autocracy”

Political science professor Sergei Medvedev belives that a total ban on any exploitation on the Arctic shelf is appropriate.

Putin calls political science professor Sergei Medvedev a “moron” after he claimed that the Arctic territory should be under international protection.


In October, Putin called Medvedev “a moron”. Last week the state controlled television channel NTV introduced him as one of the main enemies of the state, with the aim of tearing Russia apart. 

It all started when Medvedev, who teaches at Moscow Higher School of Economics, wrote a comment on Facebook claiming that the Arctic territory should be under international protection, and that economic development plans should be stopped. 

National anti-hero
Within hours his message reached President Putin during a meeting with party activists. Soon he became a national anti-hero. 

“I was so pissed off by all the comments concerning the arrested Greenpeace activists that I wrote that the Arctic should be given to the world, just like Antarctica,” Medvedev says in a phone interview with BarentsObserver.

In September 30 Greenpeace activists protesting an oil-drilling platform in the Russian Arctic, were arrested and jailed

“My line of argument is that Greenpeace tried to defend Russian national interests”, says Medvedev. “And that the Russian oil Company, Gazprom, is working against Russian interests,” Medvedev continues. 

According to the professor an oil spill in the Arctic is far more dangerous than one in the Gulf of Mexico, given its potential environmental implications. The Prirazlomnaya platform, where the Greenpeace activist were arrested, has a 100 000-ton storage tank, because tankers have difficulties coming out there.  

“A leakage here would be a total catastrophe”, Medvedev underlines. 

The whole area is covered by ice.  Oil doesn’t decompose in freezing cold water as it does in the warm seawater. “It will stay there for decades, killing every living organism in the vicinity,” says Medvedev.

Worried about Norwegian plans
There are many worst-case scenarios that could happen in the Arctic. Nuclear submarines and nuclear icebreakers can leak radioactivity out in the Arctic Ocean. Shipping through the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic Ocean is also a huge risk, according to Medvedev. 

He is also worried about the Norwegian government’s oil extraction plans for the Barents Sea, because he thinks it would represent the wrong message to humankind.

“The national states have to lean towards a green economy. The Arctic should be seen as valuable capital the national states shouldn`t spend, but rather save”, says Medvedev. ”We must stop thinking within such a small time frame. It is fundamentally wrong.”  

Oil dependent autocracy
Medvedev believes Russia has a special responsibility when it comes to protecting the Arctic as it started the race by planting the Russian flag on the North Pole.

 “Instead we continue the race by taking the Olympic fire to the North Pole and arresting peaceful activists,” he says, arguing that it`s extremely important for Russia to show muscles right now.

“Russia is a weakening oil autocracy,” says Medvedev. “Real power has nothing to do with the numbers of missiles, tanks in the red square, or police men in the streets,” he goes on.  

“The country`s economy is tremendously inefficient. It is totally dependent on raw materials, the politicians are unable to govern, the corruption is increasing and the population is decreasing. Schools and hospitals are cut down. Even the Academy of Sciences is shrinking due to huge image campaigns such as rebuilding the Russian army, The Olympics or World Championships,” says Medvedev.

Marking territory
“Russia is marking territory on all levels,” Medvedev exclaims. “It`s part of the state`s image campaign,” he says, highlighting that an important aspect of the campaign is to create new enemies, both domestic and abroad.

“Recent examples to keep in mind is the new adoption law, preventing American citizens from adopting Russian children, the NGO-law against foreign agents, the law against homosexual propaganda, and now the arrest of environmentalists,” says Medvedev.      

According to him the Greenpeace activists are treated harsh in order to scare other perpetrators from violating the Russian sovereignty and to discipline foreign countries – to make them understand that Russia won`t follow orders.

“I think the Greenpeace activists will be given real prison sentences,” says Medvedev. “Russia will never give in to the international pressure. On the contrary, more international pressure reconfirms Putins rightness and the Russian conspiracy theory about the West wanting to destroy Russia,” he continues.     

Enemy of the state
Medvedev himself is presented as an enemy of the state by the federal news agency NTV.

“They claim I work in accordance with the US state department. My aim, according to them, is to split the Russian state, and destroy the Russian sovereignty,” Medvedev says.

He argues that Russia is going back full speed to the Soviet Union.    

“Just like then it is important for the authorities to create enemies in order to consolidate the nation,” he says. 

“They are creating a new state ideology based on patriotism and orthodoxy.”