Walruses Once Got U.S. and Russia to Agree on Something

Russia has announced the creation of a new national park that paves the war for a joint U.S.-Russian nature reserve on both sides of the Bering Strait. The new park will be in Russia’s remote Far Eastern Chukotka region, which is bordered by the Arctic and the Pacific and has few inhabitants; it is sometimes referred to as “the edge of the earth.”

The idea for the joint nature reserve was proposed by Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of state of the Soviet Union who was in power during the dissolution of its empire from 1988 to 1991. Gorbachev emphasized cooperation with the U.S. and moved away from Cold War rhetoric and politics. But when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton agreed last September on the joint reserve, U.S.-Russian relations had fallen to a definite low and remain there.

Last week, Russia put the names of 71 U.S. nationals on what it is calling “The Guantanamo List.” This list is described as a “retaliatory measure” after the U.S.imposed sanctions — a visa ban and asset freeze — on Russian officials who have been tied to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer, and other abuses of human rights. Magnitsky, who worked for London-based Hermitage Capital, was arrested in 2008 after charging Russian officials with $230 million in tax fraud. He was denied medical treatment during 11 months in pre-trial detention on trumped-up tax evasion charges and died while in custody in 2009.

In response to the U.S. sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children on December 28. He has also criticized the U.S. for its efforts to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and for supporting pro-democratic protests against him, including those by the feminist punk band Pussy Riot.  The name of the Guantanamo List evokes Putin’s own description of conditions there as “like in medieval times.”

But the pronouncements of politicians are not a concern for the rich wildlife of the Bering Strait. These include migrating polar bears, walruses and huge colonies of seabirds. As World Wildlife Fund arctic expert Mikhail Stishov says, “We just wanted the national park.”

A 53 and a half mile strait separates Russia and Alaska. It is thought that a land bridge once connected the two continents and allowed people to migrate. The U.S.’s Bering Land Bridge national reserve has existed since the 1970 and is one of the most remote in the U.S., with populations of muskox, caribou and other “signs of ice age life.”

The joint U.S.-Russia venture is key to preserve wildlife in an ecosystem that provides one of the world’s richest feeding grounds for marine animals. But the region is now threatened by climate change; by waste from the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant and from other power plants that could cause radioactive pollution; and by industrial exploitation of its deposits of oil, natural gas, gold, silver and platinum. Increased cooperation on environmental monitoring is one of the benefits of the joint nature reserve; it can also help to preserve ties among indigenous peoples.

The new park in Eastern Chukotka is a reminder that the U.S. and Russia did once seek to work in concert. That it seems so hard to imagine the two nations joining together in pursuit of common goals underscores how political differences can impede the preservation of priceless ecosystems.

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Photo from Thinkstock


Celine P.
CĂ©line P5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Sheri D.
Sheri D5 years ago

Thanks for letting everyone know.

Ro H.
Ro H5 years ago


Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

Bettin G. Lumping in with others Putin's Russia, Venezuela and Cuba who actually have done commendable things for their environments (in contrast to immoral countries like US, Canada, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc..who are world polluters committing atrocities against wildlife and animals for selfish geed) is just "politically correct" exaggerated western propaganda and not fair to those countries. Cuba has been made a victim of decades of US isolation, oppression and propaganda (and btw countries like the US and Canada are no way democracies, they're slaves of corporate greed just like China) I have no problem with Cuba, Russia or Venezuela going their own way and telling the US to go to hell.. those countries have been mostly environmentally aware compared to "western capitalists". Cuba has many parks and is one of the few countries that has preserved its coral reefs due to organic farming, and Putin has been a hero for Russia's environment and animals

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

So glad the tit for tat diplomacy did not interfere with this joint project

Bettina Galo
Bettina Galo5 years ago

More dictatorial governments and terribly cruel to humanity have been left in something positive, so they are still terribly cruel. Governments are distinguished by being consistent with respect for the freedom and dignity or not. And as for the vast majority of governments around the world, you can not say that they are. Now I will not stop using the power of a totalitarian bloodthirsty as Putin, governments or USA, or France, Venezuela, Cuba and China to name a few if at least manage to do something good. It's why I support them. Not so the deified, are far from parties and governments that are handled in profundoa respect human rights. These same countries are causing billions of starved people living in subhuman conditions, helping to kill the other governments trying to get out of the scheme they have created. Respect for life, respect for all life. Whenever governments as they make these efforts I wonder, why not do the same when it comes to curb violence, murder, rape of women and children in countries such as Gongo where his interest is deposited in looting minerals from the soil at the cost of blood and extreme violence fostered on people? Or Syria or Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Bolivia, Caracas, Haiti, Mexico, Palestine where people have gone as South Arabia to be things for the sole purpose of being exploited as slaves, without forgetting Indonsesia. Well the list is too long to enumerate to say: What good are good and that these rulers in front of such powerful

Linda Jarsky
Linda Jarsky5 years ago

Martin Luther King Jr. is quoted as saying, “Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

jules r.
jules r5 years ago

thanx for sharing