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The New Race for the Arctic:
Topic: The New Race for the Arctic: (Read 3228 times)
The New Race for the Arctic:
August 03, 2007, 10:22:09 AM »
New Race for the Arctic
By ERIC POSNER
August 3, 2007; Page A8
Melting polar ice and the high cost of energy are creating a new battleground at the top of the world. Yesterday a Russian mini-sub released a capsule containing a Russian flag onto the seabed at the North Pole. This was the climax of a research expedition whose purpose is to support Russia's claim to what could be billions of tons of oil and gas reserves in an area of the Arctic twice the size of France. Russia has already been setting up new military and civilian posts, such as in the Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa archipelago in the northeastern Barents Sea.
Meanwhile, Canada has reasserted its claim over the melting Northwest Passage, a portion of the Arctic Ocean linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its recent announcement that it will build patrol vessels in order to establish sovereignty over the passage had a belligerent tone uncharacteristic of our peaceful neighbor.
The United States has long resisted both claims. The international legal arguments are esoteric, but boiled down they amount to this: Russia's claim is based on the principle that a coastal nation controls the mineral resources of its continental shelf, and the as-yet unproved assertion, which the U.S. disputes, that the continental shelf abutting Russian territory extends deep into the Arctic. Canada argues that the straits composing the Northwest Passage amount to inland seas, and therefore are subject to Canadian sovereignty, just as the U.S. controls Lake Michigan. The U.S. replies that these straits are part of the high seas, and thus anyone can enter them without obtaining Canada's consent.
Power, not international law, will settle the issue. Indeed, international law recognizes this fact by making title dependent on a nation's ability to exert control over an area. That is why Russia is sending ships into the Arctic, and why Canada is saying that it will patrol the Northwest Passage. As long as such expressions of power are credible, other nations, disadvantaged by distance, will generally acquiesce and sovereignty will be extended accordingly.
Russia's expression of power is credible; Canada's is not. Canada cannot prevent other countries from sending ships up the Northwest Passage, as the U.S. has demonstrated from time to time for just this purpose. The melting of the Northwest Passage will significantly shorten the sea route between oceans, as well as open up access to energy resources. The U.S. does not want Canada to reap all the benefits of control of the passage, but this is a side show. The real threat is the Russian bear, not the Canadian beaver.
The world is divided into two types of space: areas controlled by states and areas that are uncontrolled. Oceans are mostly uncontrolled, with the significant exception of territorial seas, where states have been able to exert some control with naval resources. International law has long recognized states' control over their coastal seas (which extend about 12 miles), which means they can block and regulate foreign shipping in those areas. The high seas, however, are free to all.
The major naval powers have always advanced the principle of freedom of the seas for the simple reason that their naval forces dominate them. But "commons" are subject to overexploitation, and overfishing has been the predictable consequence of uncontrolled oceans. Predictable and unavoidable: If no one can control the oceans, then the problem cannot be solved by giving a country nominal title to them.
Where a state can exert control, it is best for it to do so, because this avoids the commons problem. It is in the world's interest for Canada to control the Northwest Passage, even if it will profit and has the formal power to keep the rest of the world out. Canada has an interest in protecting the passage and exploiting its resources, which the rest of the world can purchase. But given its military weakness, Canada cannot have this control without the support of the U.S.
Russia's claims present a different case. It is re-emerging as a global troublemaker, and its claims are far more ambitious than Canada's. At some point, Russia, the U.S. and other countries will carve up the Arctic into mutually exclusive economic zones. Russia is positioning itself to take the lion's share. Russia has major advantages over Canada and the U.S. in the battle over the Arctic. Control over the seas is determined by two things: power and propinquity. With respect to the Arctic, Russia has both. The U.S. has power but not, for the most part, propinquity; Canada has propinquity but not power. As long as the U.S. and Canada are at loggerheads over the Northwest Passage, they will have trouble resisting Russia's claims to the rest of the Arctic.
If the U.S. supports Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage, in return for some sort of guarantee of U.S. military and civilian access, the two countries will strengthen their position vis-à-vis Russia. As the world heats up, the two countries need to prepare themselves for the re-emergence of old rivalries, and in the battle over control of the Arctic, the U.S. and Canada are natural allies.
Mr. Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago, is co-author of "The Limits of International Law" (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #1 on:
September 20, 2007, 03:44:43 PM »
A Russian expedition has proved that a ridge of mountains below the Arctic Ocean is part of Russia's continental shelf, government officials have said.
The August expedition planted the Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole and gathered soil samples.
Russia's Natural Resources Ministry said early test results on the soil samples showed Russia is geologically linked to the Lomonosov Ridge.
The Arctic is thought to be rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves.
"Results of an analysis of the Earth's crust show that the structure of the underwater Lomonosov mountain chain is similar to the world's other continental shelves, and the ridge is therefore part of Russia's land mass," a statement from the ministry said.
Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic has been challenged by the other nations with territory bordering the ocean - including the US and Canada.
Competition for territorial and economic rights in the Arctic has heated up as melting polar ice caps have opened up the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Reply #2 on:
August 17, 2008, 11:47:02 AM »
A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: August 16, 2008
A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.
The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States’ two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one smaller ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.
And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon’s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country’s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.
In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world’s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.
Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska’s Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce — and potential conflict and hazards — like never before.
“All I know is, there is water where it didn’t used to be, and I’m responsible for dealing with that,” Admiral Allen said in a recent interview. Given the 8 or 10 years it would take to build even one icebreaker, he added, “I think we’re at a crisis point on making a decision.”
The cost of building icebreakers and keeping the older vessels operating until the new ones have been launched could easily top $1.5 billion, according to several estimates. Arguments for new ships include the strategic, like maintaining a four-seasons ability to patrol northern waters, and the practical, like being able to quickly reach a disabled cruise ship or an oil spill in ice-clogged waters, Admiral Allen said.
Even with the increasing summer retreats of sea ice, which many polar scientists say probably are being driven in part by global warming caused by humans, there will always be enough ice in certain parts of the Arctic to require icebreakers. Admiral Allen and members of the presidential U.S. Arctic Research Commission have been pressing lawmakers for support and urging the White House to issue a presidential directive that emphasizes the need for increased oversight of the Arctic and for new ships.
Shipping traffic in the far north is not tracked precisely. But experts provided telling snapshots of maritime activity to legislators and other officials from Arctic countries at an international conference last week in Fairbanks, Alaska. For example, Mead Treadwell, who attended the conference and is an Alaskan businessman and the chairman of the research commission, said officials were told that more than 200 cruise ships circled Greenland in 2007, up from 27 in 2004.
Lawson W. Brigham, chairman of the three-year Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment that is scheduled to finish work this year, told the gathering that more than 5,400 vessels of 100 tons or larger operated in Arctic waters in the summer of 2004. During that summer there were 102 trips in the Northwest Passage and five complete transits of that legendary route, he said.
The growing Pentagon support for the Coast Guard, which is within the Department of Homeland Security, followed several highly publicized maneuvers by Russia aimed at cementing its position as the Arctic’s powerhouse, including sending a pair of small submarines to the seabed at the North Pole a year ago.
White House officials said they have been reviewing Arctic policies for several years and were nearly finished with a new security policy on the region — the first since 1994. Bush administration officials said last week that it could be issued within a few weeks, but they declined to discuss what it would say.
The enduring question is where the money would come from for rehabilitating the older ships and building new ones. The Department of Homeland Security is still mainly focused on preventing terrorist attacks. The Coast Guard is stretched thin, Admiral Allen said, protecting facilities in the Persian Gulf, seeking drug smugglers and patrolling coastal waters elsewhere.
In Congress, the issue has mainly been championed by lawmakers from Alaska and Washington State. The Polar Sea, Polar Star and Healy are based in Seattle.
As early as 2001, the Navy issued reports saying that it had limited ability to operate ships and planes reliably in the Arctic. But with two costly wars under way, the region has remained a low priority with Navy budgets for polar analysis declining.
The letter from the three military commands to the Joint Chiefs last spring said reliable icebreakers were essential to controlling northern waters and to maintaining American research stations in Antarctica. But the Arctic was clearly the commands’ biggest concern, with the letter citing “climate change and increasing economic activity” as reasons for upgrading the icebreaker fleet.
With no current program aimed at upgrading ships and no new ones planned, the letter said, “The nation’s icebreaking capability has diminished substantially and is at risk of being unable to support our national interests in the Arctic regions.”
On Friday, a Pentagon spokesman said that the military’s leadership recognized the importance of the issue and was arranging for Admiral Allen to give a presentation to the Joint Chiefs on Arctic security this year.
Russia plans new military force
Reply #3 on:
March 29, 2009, 08:03:40 AM »
Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies
Russia plans military force to patrol Arctic as 'cold rush' intensifies
Tom Parfitt in Moscow
Saturday 28 March 2009
Russia has released plans to create a dedicated military force to patrol the Arctic, where it is laying claim to billions of tonnes of hydrocarbons.
Countries in the northern hemisphere are vying for control of the polar region, which is thought to contain up to a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. The presidential security council issued a strategy document which outlined Russia's plans for defending its vast swath of polar territory up until 2020.
A major component of the strategy was the creation of a group of general-purpose units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and other military units and agencies, primarily border guard agencies to ensure security.
The Kremlin has engaged in sporadic tub-thumping over its right to the Arctic's resources ever since two mini subs planted a titanium Russian tricolour on the seabed under the North Pole in 2007. President Dmitry Medvedev said in September that the region must become Russia's strategic resource base for the 21st century.
Moscow's bold assertion that it will militarise the region comes as Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) lobby UN bodies to decide jurisdiction over the region.
The five countries with an Arctic coastline have exploitation rights over a 200 mile zone extending north of their borders, but the Kremlin is claiming a much bigger territory on grounds that an underwater ridge running towards the North Pole is connected to Russia's continental shelf.
The "cold rush" for the Arctic's resources has intensified as global warming opens up new shipping routes and eases the difficulty of offshore exploitation and drilling.
Artur Chilingarov, the polar explorer who is Russia's envoy on international co-operation in the Arctic and Antarctic, said this month that the country was justified in laying claim to waters off its Arctic coast. "We are not squeezing anyone out," he said.
However, other states have said they are unnerved by the Kremlin's "aggressive" stance. Earlier this month the Canadian government demanded an explanation after Russian bombers and a submarine were recorded entering its Arctic zone.
In turn, Moscow has reacted angrily to suggestions by Nato that it could enter the fray in the far north. The Nato secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said in January that the security alliance needed a military presence in the region to defuse tensions. "I would be the last one to expect military conflict - but there will be a [Nato] military presence," he said, adding: "It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political and economic co-operation."
Russia's envoy to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, said yesterday he would not discuss military co-operation with Nato in the Arctic because it was "totally absurd" for countries not abutting the region to get involved.
The security council sought to play down its strategy document later on Friday, saying its emphasis was on improving the border guard service and its co-operation with other states in "combating terrorism in the sea, seeking to prevent illicit trade and illegal migration, and in seeking to protect aquatic biological resources."
WSJ: Russia to send two brigades
Reply #4 on:
July 02, 2011, 09:33:52 AM »
By ALAN CULLISON
MOSCOW—Russia plans to deploy two army brigades in the north to defend its interests in the Arctic regions, where governments citing climate change have made competing claims over natural resources.
Russia's defense minister said officials haven't yet worked out the details of troops or weaponry, but that the brigades, which usually number a few thousand troops, would be cobbled together with an eye toward the experience of Russia's northern neighbors—Finland, Norway and Sweden—which already have such northern forces.
"The location will be determined, as well as weapons, numbers and infrastructure for the brigades," said Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, according to Russian news agencies. "They could be put in Murmansk, Archangelsk or another place."
Russia has staked a claim to a large part of the Arctic, which is thought to hold as much as a quarter of the world's oil and gas reserves, arguing that an underwater ridge running from its northern Siberian shores leads directly to the North Pole.
As Arctic ice melts amid rising global temperatures—surface temperatures in 2010 tied those of 2005 as the warmest on record, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies—countries abutting the Arctic Circle are vying for new shipping routes and fishing grounds, as well as oil and gas drilling opportunities.
To cap its claim, Russia floated a small submarine under the ice caps four years ago and planted a titanium flag on the ocean floor, an act that had more symbolic than legal significance.
Lately Moscow has been resounding its claims, and on Thursday Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a pro-Kremlin party congress in the Ural Mountains that Russia would build a $33 billion year-round port on the Yamal Peninsula, in the Russian Arctic.
Mr. Putin said Russia was "open to dialogue" with its northern neighbors, but will "strongly and persistently" defend its interests in the region.
Russia's claims mostly antagonize Canada and Denmark, whose ambitions most closely overlap Russia's in the region.
By deploying forces in the north, Moscow is again sending a message, mostly symbolic, that its claim to the Arctic regions is serious, said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based Russia in Global Affairs magazine.
"The Russian position is that in order to be respected they need to have some forces there," said Mr. Lukyanov. But he added, "I don't think that Russia feels it will ever need these forces to defend its interests."
In May, the eight nations abutting the Arctic Circle, the Arctic Council, tried to sound a note of civility by signing an agreement to coordinate search-and-rescue missions in the region. At its meeting in Greenland, the council tiptoed around the tougher issue of territorial claims. But the U.S. said it hopes the agreement could be a template for solving future security issues.
The council is comprised of Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
Reply #5 on:
September 01, 2011, 08:38:39 AM »
If you think BP was bad in the Gulf of Mexico, just wait until it is regulated by the Russians in the Arctic , , ,
By RUSSELL GOLD
Exxon Mobil Corp.'s blockbuster $2.2 billion deal to drill for oil in the frigid waters north of Russia with OAO Rosneft is the latest sign of the energy industry's white-hot interest in exploring above the Arctic Circle.
The region encompasses about 12 million square miles—just 6% of the earth's land mass. But it is estimated to contain the oil and natural-gas equivalent of 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.
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.More recently, thinning ice has made it easier to work in some parts of the Arctic. And the persistently high price of oil, along with political constraints elsewhere, has encouraged Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Cairn Energy PLC to invest billions of dollars on previously unexplored areas.
The challenges, however, are daunting. The extreme weather and ice flows during colder months could wreak havoc on oil-industry platforms. Cleaning up an oil spill would be a huge effort. The seas there don't support the microbes that can break down oil droplets. Existing air strips, ports and villages in the Arctic couldn't accommodate the type of massive response that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
The Arctic is largely untouched by industrial development and, due to its year-round cold, would be least resilient to an oil spill, notes the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum of nations bordering the region.
Exxon Mobil and OAO Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil giant, reached a sweeping strategic alliance Tuesday that will give the U.S. titan access to potentially huge oil fields in the Arctic Ocean. Russell Gold has details on The News Hub.
.Despite such environmental objections, arctic exploration is poised to move ahead quickly. Exxon and Rosneft, for instance, hope to begin preliminary exploration work next year.
A Rosneft official said on Wednesday that the two companies hope to drill their first exploratory well by 2015 and, if everything goes well, could begin production in the region by early next decade.
Rosneft estimated the areas it hopes to explore over the next few years have estimated recoverable reserves of 4.9 billion tons of oil, or about 36 billion barrels.
Exxon, Rosneft Drilling to Begin in 2015
Exxon in Arctic Deal; U.S. Access for Russia
Exxon's Arctic Deal Is Black Eye for BP
Heard on the Street: Russia's Need Is Exxon's Opportunity
Heard on the Street: BP Counts Cost Of Russian Missteps
.Shell has received conditional U.S. approval for up to 10 wells over the next couple of years in shallow waters off Alaska, although the Anglo-Dutch company still needs additional permits.
Off the western coast of Greenland, operating on both sides of the Arctic Circle, Scotland's Cairn Energy has drilled three wells and plans another four this year.
The two parts of the Arctic that are thought to contain giant deposits of oil and gas are north of Alaska and Canada's Northwest Territories as well as the waters north of Russia, stretching from its boundary with Finland and continuing east for more than 1,000 miles.
"All around the coast of Russia, geologists salivate over what they see from the little exploration that we have and salivate over the opportunity to drill," says Peter Robertson, a retired Chevron vice chairman and independent oil advisor to consulting firm Deloitte LLP. "There is the potential for very large finds. It's a great opportunity."
Marilyn Heiman, director of the U.S. Arctic Program at the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, cautions that the energy industry is moving faster to start drilling than most countries are moving to craft appropriate regulations for the region.
"The Arctic is one of the most dangerous places to drill in the world and we need to have standards in place to prevent oil spills," said Ms. Heiman.
WSJ's Liam Denning breaks down the $3.2 billion deal struck between Exxon Mobil and Russia's OAO Rosneft to explore for oil in the Arctic's Kara Sea.
.Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the risks are manageable and the company plans to have oil-recovery vessels staged and ready to respond to any accidents.
"We could respond to any incident within an hour," she said. In addition, the wells that Shell plans to drill are not considered complex by oil industry standards, she said. "Pressures encountered in the Gulf of Mexico are five times greater than what we would encounter in offshore Alaska wells," she said.
There are other challenges for arctic hopefuls. For instance, designing permanent platforms to manage producing wells will require steel that can withstand years of extreme cold without turning brittle.
Border nations are laying the groundwork for more activity. Recently, countries have been clarifying often ill-defined maritime borders above the Arctic Circle, in preparation for expected oil and gas development. Norway and Russia ended decades of negotiation last year and agreed on their border.
Lawson Brigham, a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said several countries that border the Arctic, including Norway and Russia, have economies whose future growth is dependent on developing its oil and gas resources. "The key to the Arctic," Mr. Brigham said, "is that there is a lot in the Arctic that can be sold."
WSJ: Exxon and the Russians
Reply #6 on:
September 02, 2011, 01:01:19 PM »
Few companies wring more earnings from a dollar of investment than Exxon Mobil, so we assume CEO Rex Tillerson knows the risks he's taking by getting into business with Vladimir Putin to explore for oil in the Russian Arctic. Exxon's official partner may be Rusneft, the Russian oil company, but in Moscow the de facto chairman of every board is Mr. Putin. If he turns against you, your investment may vanish faster than you can say Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
That well-known political risk makes it all the more disconcerting to see a U.S. oil company committing to invest billions of dollars in Russia's Arctic Sea, while much of America's own Arctic territories remain off-limits for political reasons. Exxon has long experience drilling in Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is less risky or costly than drilling in the Arctic Sea will be. But Democrats in Washington have barred that and elsewhere in Alaska from energy exploration.
The Obama Administration is using regulations to thwart development in the American far north. The primary gambit is to sit on lease permits. Conoco spent five years to get at one of its leases in the National Petroleum Preserve, only to be denied by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps denied an Exxon permit on the North Slope. Shell this year threw in the towel in the Beaufort Sea after a five-year fight for a permit with the EPA. No wonder Exxon Mobil decided to do business with the Russians. What's the alternative?
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #7 on:
September 02, 2011, 05:26:51 PM »
Who would have guessed just a short time ago that Russia and China would be better places to do business than America?
Oh, I did when Obama was elected.
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #8 on:
September 02, 2011, 09:59:43 PM »
Russia has been setting this up for years...
International Editionupdated 6:43 a.m. EDT, Sat August 4, 2007Russia plants flag on Arctic floorStory Highlights
A Russian sub plants the country's flag on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean
The mission aims to symbolically claim the region, believed to be rich in oil
The second submersible is expected to reach the seabed soon Next Article in World »
Read VIDEOMAP MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Russian explorers have dived deep below the North Pole in a submersible and planted their national flag on the seabed to stake a symbolic claim to the energy riches of the Arctic.
The Akademik Fedorov research ship carried about 100 scientists to the region.
A mechanical arm on Thursday dropped a specially made, rust-proof titanium flag painted with the Russian tricolor on to the Arctic seabed at a depth of 4,261 meters (13,980 feet).
"It was so lovely down there," Itar-Tass news agency quoted expedition leader Artur Chilingarov as saying as he emerged from one of two submersibles that made the dive.
"If a hundred or a thousand years from now someone goes down to where we were, they will see the Russian flag," said Chilingarov, 67, a top pro-Kremlin member of parliament.
Russia in Arctic Sea oil and land grab
Russia wants to extend right up to the North Pole the territory it controls in the Arctic, believed to hold vast reserves of untapped oil and natural gas, which is expected to become more accessible as climate change melts the ice.
President Vladimir Putin congratulated the expedition by telephone on "the outstanding scientific project," local agencies reported.
Boris Gryzlov, who heads the State Duma lower chamber of parliament and the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, hailed the expedition as "a new stage of developing Russia's polar riches."
"This is fully in line with Russia's strategic interests," local media quoted him as saying. "I am proud our country remains the leader in conquering the Arctic. I am proud United Russia members took part in this unprecedented mission."
Major Russian channels aired a message from the Russian crew manning the International Space Station who said "this achievement must inspire the younger generation".
Earlier on Thursday Canada mocked Russia's ambitions and said the expedition was nothing more than a show.
"This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming this territory'," Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told CTV television.
Under international law, the five states with territory inside the Arctic Circle -- Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark via its control of Greenland -- have a 320-kilometer (200-mile) economic zone around the north of their coastline.
Russia is claiming a larger slice extending as far as the pole because, Moscow says, the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by one continental shelf.
"Then Russia can give foundation to its claim to more than a million square kilometers of the oceanic shelf," said a news reader for Russia's state news channel Vesti-24, which made the expedition its top news story.
Russian media have said the move could raise tension with the United States in a battle for Arctic gas.
"I'm not sure of whether they've put a metal flag, a rubber flag or a bed sheet on the ocean floor. Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing or effect on this claim," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.
A Tass reporter on board the mission support ship said crew members cheered as Chilingarov climbed out of the submersible and was handed a pair of slippers.
"This may sound grandiloquent but for me this is like placing a flag on the moon, this is really a massive scientific achievement," Sergei Balyasnikov, spokesman for Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Institute, told Reuters.
Russia says the mission is intended to show that the Lomonosov ridge, a 1,800-kilometer underwater mountain range that extends under the Arctic to near the pole, is a geological extension of Russian territory.
It denied it was a land grab.
"The aim of this expedition is not to stake Russia's claim but to show that our shelf reaches to the North Pole," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Manila, where he is attending a regional security conference.
The Mir-1 submersible reached the seabed at 1208 Moscow time (0808 GMT) and returned to the surface exactly six hours later.
A second Russian submersible, manned by Swedish businessman Frederik Paulsen and Australian adventurer Mike McDowell, reached the seabed 27 minutes later. It reached a depth of 4,302 meters.
Soviet and U.S. nuclear submarines have often traveled under the polar icecap, but until Thursday none had reached the seabed under the pole. E-mail to a friend
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #9 on:
September 03, 2011, 01:47:00 PM »
BTW, see the post that opens this thread.
Sea Route in Russian Arctic
Reply #10 on:
October 18, 2011, 05:58:12 PM »
Soveignty of Islands in Bering Sea
Reply #11 on:
September 16, 2012, 05:12:59 PM »
WSJ: Denmark-Canada reach accord
Reply #12 on:
November 30, 2012, 03:35:50 PM »
POTH: Potential for conflict in Arctic, what to do?
Reply #13 on:
March 13, 2013, 10:18:29 AM »
JUST a quarter-century ago, and for millenniums before that, the Arctic Ocean was covered year-round by ice, creating an impregnable wilderness that humans rarely negotiated. Today, as the effects of global warming are amplified in the high north, most of the ocean is open water during the summer and covered by ice only in the winter.
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This unexpected transformation has radically altered the stakes for the Arctic, especially for the eight nations and indigenous peoples that surround it. But while there has been cooperation on extracting the region’s oil, gas and mineral deposits, and exploiting its fisheries, there has been little effort to develop legal mechanisms to prevent or adjudicate conflict. The potential for such conflict is high, even though tensions are now low.
Several countries, along with corporations like ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, are preparing to exploit the region’s enormous oil and natural gas reserves. New shipping routes will compete with the Panama and Suez Canals. Vast fisheries are being opened to commercial harvesting, without regulation. Coastal areas that are home to indigenous communities are eroding into the sea. China and the European Union are among non-Arctic governments rushing to assert their interests in the region. Some states have increased military personnel and equipment there.
The most fundamental challenge for the Arctic states is to promote cooperation and prevent conflict. Both are essential, but a forum for achieving those goals does not yet exist.
In 1996, eight countries — the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark (which manages the foreign affairs and defense of Greenland) — and groups representing indigenous peoples established the Arctic Council to chart the region’s future. So far, this high-level forum has identified sustainable development and environmental protection as “common Arctic issues.” But another crucial concern — maintaining the peace — was shelved in the talks that led to the council’s creation. The fear then, as now, was that peace implied demilitarization. It doesn’t. But if these nations are still too timid to discuss peace in the region when tensions are low, how will they possibly cooperate to ease conflicts if they arise?
Since 2006, each of the Arctic nations has adopted its own security policy to safeguard its sovereign rights. What they must do now is compare their separate security policies, identify the ways in which those policies reinforce or conflict with one another, and then balance national interests with common interests.
How, for instance, will each nation position its military and police its territory? How will the Arctic states deal with China and other nations that have no formal jurisdictional claims but have strong interests in exploiting Arctic resources? How will Arctic and non-Arctic states work together to manage those resources beyond national jurisdictions, on the high seas and in the deep sea? Without ratifying the Convention on the Law of the Sea, a 1982 treaty governing use of the world’s oceans, how can the United States cooperate with other nations to resolve territorial disputes in the ocean?
NATO’s top military commander, Adm. James G. Stavridis of the United States Navy, warned in 2010 of an “icy slope toward a zone of competition, or worse, a zone of conflict” if the world’s leaders failed to ensure Arctic peace. Whether it is through the Arctic Council or another entity, there needs to be a forum for discussing peace and stability, not just environmental and economic issues. We need “rules of the road” to take us safely into the Arctic’s future.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose economy is reliant on its rich deposits of oil and natural gas, clearly understands the benefits of a northern sea route and of the hydrocarbon deposits on his nation’s continental shelf, and has emphasized the importance of peace and cooperation in the Arctic. So have leaders of other Arctic nations. But we have heard virtually nothing from President Obama, even as he has made the dangers of a warming earth a priority of his second term.
At an Arctic Council meeting in Tromso, Norway, last year, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, said “the world increasingly looks to the North” but did not go much further. She called for “responsible management of resources” and efforts “to prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
As the head of an Arctic superpower and a Nobel laureate, Mr. Obama should convene an international meeting with President Putin and other leaders of Arctic nations to ensure that economic development at the top of the world is not only sustainable, but peaceful.
Paul Arthur Berkman, a biological oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of “Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean: Promoting Co-operation and Preventing Conflict.”
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The Growing Importance of the Arctic Council
May 17, 2013 | 0916 Print - Text Size +
The Growing Importance of the Arctic Council
The Arctic is expected to become more important in the coming decades as climate change makes natural resources and transport routes more accessible. Reflecting the growing interest in the region, the Arctic Council granted six new countries (China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore) observer status during a May 15 ministerial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden. By admitting more observers, the Arctic Council -- an organization that promotes cooperation among countries with interests in the Arctic -- will likely become more important as a forum for discussions on Arctic issues. However, this does not necessarily mean it will be able to establish itself as a central decision-making body regarding Arctic matters.
The Arctic Council was established in 1996 by the eight countries that have territory above the Arctic Circle -- the United States, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Its main purpose was to be an intergovernmental forum (also involving Arctic indigenous groups) that promoted cooperation primarily regarding environmental matters and research. The Arctic Council's central focus has remained on environmental issues in the Arctic, and the body has had no meaningful decision-making power.
However, during this year's meeting, the council's members signed a legally binding agreement coordinating response efforts to marine pollution incidents. The council signed a similar agreement on search and rescue collaboration in 2011. These agreements, as well as the interest from countries around the world in gaining observer status, highlight the growing relevance of the Arctic Council and the Arctic region.
The Arctic's Economic Value
Potential Resources in the Arctic
Satellite data collected since 1979 shows that both the thickness of the ice in the Arctic and range of sea ice have decreased substantially, especially during the summer months. According to the United States' National Snow and Ice Data Center, the amount of Arctic ice (usually at a minimum during September) was 3.61 million square kilometers (1.39 million square miles) in September 2012 -- close to 49 percent lower than the average amount of ice seen between 1979 and 2000. The melting of the ice facilitates natural resource exploration in the high north. U.S. Geological Survey estimates from 2008 suggest that 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas reserves are located in the Arctic Circle.
Moreover, the retreating and thinning of the ice opens up new trade routes. In 2012, 46 ships transporting a total of 1.3 million tons reportedly used the Northern Sea Route, which runs along the northern coast of Russia; this represents a considerable increase from 2011, when 34 ships transported approximately 820,000 tons. In response to the route's growing importance, Russia set up the Northern Sea Route administration in March to supervise shipping.
Potential Shipping Routes in the Arctic
Interest in profiting from greater access to the high north is not limited to countries around the Arctic Circle. Europe has a vested interest in alternative shipping routes to Asia becoming more economically viable, since such routes would allow trade to circumvent numerous bottlenecks like the Suez Canal and increase access to Asia's growing consumer markets. China has also shown a particular interest in the Arctic, and has lobbied the Nordic countries to support Beijing's bid for observer status in the Arctic Council. For countries like China that lack direct access to the Arctic, diplomatic ties and good bilateral relations with the Arctic countries, as well as participation in groups such as the Arctic Council, are important to improving their chances of profiting from the new access to shipping lanes and natural resources. Even though the observer status does not give countries direct influence in council matters, participating in meetings and research helps these countries know what the main Arctic players are planning. Countries may even intensify relations with individual Arctic Council members to gain better access to resources (China's interests in Greenland and Iceland illustrate this).
Sailing along the Northern Sea Route rather than through the Mediterranean Sea and Suez Canal significantly reduces the trip between Rotterdam and Shanghai -- the Northern Sea Route is around 20 percent shorter. This translates into significant savings in terms of fuel and crew costs. But despite the melting of the ice, the difficulty of navigation, seasonal constraints on use, high insurance costs and weak infrastructure along the route will continue to limit the economic viability of the Arctic route.
The Arctic Council's Rising Profile
The Arctic Council is just one of many bodies dealing with regional collaboration in the Arctic. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council, the Nordic Council and the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region also coordinate intergovernmental or interregional collaboration in the Arctic on a number of issues. Allowing six more countries to become observer states shows that the members of the Arctic Council -- even those initially skeptical of expansion, such as Canada and Russia -- see the expansion as an opportunity to give the Arctic Council greater relevance. In the coming years, the debate among member states to determine whether the Arctic Council should move beyond environmental issues and become a forum to address issues related to militarization, natural resources and trade routes will become more prominent.
While the Arctic Council is likely to gain attention as a forum for policymakers to broadly discuss Arctic-related issues, it will struggle to coordinate decision-making as the number of interested parties in the Arctic grows. On May 10, the U.S. government presented its new general strategy for the Arctic. Little concrete information was revealed, but a clearer plan for implementing the strategy reportedly will be worked out in the coming months. This shows that national Arctic strategies are still being defined, and countries are still considering what kind of resources to commit to the region. As the priorities for countries in the Arctic become more concrete, the differences that will have to be resolved and issues that will have to be debated will become more difficult for bodies like the Arctic Council to deal with.
Read more: The Growing Importance of the Arctic Council | Stratfor
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