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The New Race for the Arctic:
Topic: The New Race for the Arctic: (Read 7563 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.”
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #14 on:
May 18, 2013, 03:56:48 PM »
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
POTH: Russians shipping natural gas through Arctic
Reply #15 on:
July 25, 2013, 06:19:43 AM »
Polar Thaw Opens Shortcut for Russian Natural Gas
Andrew Kramer for The New York Times
A helicopter view of energy facilities in the Russian Arctic. The company Novatek controls natural gas fields there.
By ANDREW E. KRAMER
Published: July 24, 2013
YURKHAROVSKOYE GAS FIELD, Russia — The polar ice cap is melting, and if executives at the Russian energy company Novatek feel guilty about profiting from that, they do not let it be known in public.
A rendering of Novatek's proposed $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant on Russia's Arctic coast, scheduled to be done by 2016.
From this windswept shore on the Arctic Ocean, where Novatek owns enormous natural gas deposits, a stretch of thousands of miles of ice-free water leads to China. The company intends to ship the gas directly there.
“If we don’t sell them the fuel, somebody else will,” Mikhail Lozovoi, a spokesman for Novatek, said last month with a shrug.
Novatek, in partnership with the French energy company Total and the China National Petroleum Corporation, is building a $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant on the central Arctic coast of Russia. It is one of the first major energy projects to take advantage of the summer thawing of the Arctic caused by global warming. The plant, called Yamal LNG, would send gas to Asia along the sea lanes known as the Northeast Passage, which opened for regular international shipping only four years ago.
Whatever blame for the grim environmental consequences of global warming elsewhere in the world that might be placed on the petroleum industry, in the Far North, companies like Novatek and Total, Exxon Mobil of the United States and Statoil of Norway stand to make profit.
“It’s a reality of what is available today, and commercially it is a route that cuts cost,” Emily Stromquist, a global energy analyst at the Eurasia Group, said in a telephone interview.
Because of easing ice conditions and new hull designs, the tankers will not even require nuclear-powered icebreakers to lead the way — as is the practice now — except through the most northerly straits.
Novatek’s alternative was extending the natural gas pipeline that goes to Europe over hundreds of miles of tundra, at great cost. While shipping the gas from the field on the Yamal Peninsula, one of the long, misshapen fingers of land that extend north of the Urals in Russia, remains expensive, it is relatively cheap to drill and produce from these rich fields, making the overall project competitive.
In addition to making it easier to ship to Asia, the receding ice cap has opened more of the sea floor to exploration. This has upended the traditional business model of using pipelines to Europe. Thawing has proceeded more slowly in the Arctic above Alaska, Canada and Greenland, but one day what is happening in Russia could happen there.
Still, the Arctic waters are particularly perilous for drilling because of the extreme cold. Tongues of ice that descend from the polar cap for hundreds of miles obstruct shipping and threaten rigs. After a rig ran aground last year, Shell canceled drilling this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska.
This is not the first Arctic venture to benefit from newly cleared sea lanes. The decision to open the Arctic Ocean to drilling passed Russia’s Parliament in 2008 as an amendment to a law on subsoil resources. Exxon and Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, are already in a joint venture to drill in the Kara Sea, and last month they agreed to expand to seven new exploration blocks in the Arctic. Fourteen wells are planned.
With these ventures, Exxon has placed itself in the vanguard of oil companies exploring commercial opportunities in the newly ice-free waters.
In Russia, the mining company Norilsk can now ship its nickel and copper across the Arctic Ocean without chartering icebreakers, saving millions of rubles for shareholders.
Norway is also drilling deep in Arctic waters, but has less territory to explore. Tschudi, a Norwegian shipping company, has bought and revived an idled iron ore mine in the north of Norway to ship ore to China via the northern route.
In northwest Alaska, the Red Dog lead and zinc mine moves its ore through the Bering Strait, which is less often clogged with packed ice than in past decades.
(Page 2 of 2)
What is new in the Novatek project is an oil industry business plan that relies explicitly on the Northeast Passage. Though Russian ships have moved goods along the country’s sprawling Arctic coastline for more than a century, and the route was opened to international shipping in 1991, it became apparent only recently that climate change would make the trip profitable.
The German shipping company Beluga made the first international commercial transit in 2009. The first transshipment with fuel, a cargo of gas condensate bound for China, crossed in 2010. By last summer, just three years after the first passage, 50 ships crossed above Russia, including eight tankers chartered by Novatek to test the route.
Novatek has said it needs bank guarantees for $16 billion in project financing, while it and its partners will finance the rest. To secure these loans, the company needs a change in Russian law lifting Gazprom’s monopoly for exports.
President Vladimir V. Putin, in a speech at an economic conference on June 21, said the law would change before this year was out, signaling that Yamal LNG had full Kremlin backing.
If Russia can ship large volumes of gas to Asia, it could send ripples through the Asian markets and put a damper on plans to build liquefied natural gas export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico. The United States and Russia are the world’s two leading gas producers.
Novatek has been experimenting with commercial models to complement the new shipping route. To fulfill contracts in the winter, when the northern route is more hazardous, the company can ship gas west over northern Russia, then around Europe, through the Suez Canal, and onward to Asia.
It has also negotiated with Qatar, a major Middle Eastern natural gas exporter, for a swap arrangement to save tanker fuel and time: Qatar would fulfill Novatek’s Asian contracts during the winter while Novatek, in exchange, would fill Qatar’s contracts to European customers during those months.
The company intends to open the Arctic plant by 2016. It has already asked for bids for two ice-hardened tankers, which should be able to navigate the sea lanes toward China seven months a year and the routes to the west year round.
It says it has mastered building in the Far North where, counterintuitively, Russians labor mainly through the cold polar night in winter, when the tundra is more accessible to heavy equipment.
The company, Mr. Lozovoi said, is keeping an eye on climate studies of the Arctic. He said that because of engineering tolerances built into the ship designs, “even if the climate turns toward cooling, and the ice thickens, we will make money.”
Reply #16 on:
September 25, 2013, 09:24:12 PM »
A Cargo Ship Leads The Way Through Canada's Arctic Waters
Nordic Orion Will Be First Bulk Carrier To Cross Northwest Passage.
more in Canada ».
Save ↓ More .
By CHESTER DAWSON
A coal-laden cargo ship is on track to become the first bulk carrier to traverse the Northwest Passage through Canada's Arctic waters, blazing a trail that shippers hope will become a time-saving route in global trade.
Traveling with a Canadian Coast Guard escort, the Nordic Orion underscores Ottawa's recent efforts to bolster a thin presence in its vast Arctic territory. Experts say the country already has fallen behind Russia, which is developing a series of Arctic ports and has a fleet of ice breakers keeping open its competing Northern Sea Route.
The vessel, which left Vancouver Sept. 17 carrying 15,000 metric tons of coal, is off the coast of Greenland and is expected to dock in Pori, Finland, next week after chugging through waters once choked almost year-round with thick sea ice.
In recent years, the Arctic region has drawn interest on the international stage as global warming makes access to resource development easier and opens these trade routes to more ships, even as questions remain about the Canadian sea lane's commercial viability.
"The melting in various places is alarming, but it's creating opportunities that weren't there before," said Edward Coll, the Newport, R.I.-based CEO of Bulk Partners, the holding company that owns Nordic Orion.
Last year, the amount of Arctic sea ice reached an all-time low of 3.42 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles), though this year it rose to 5.10 million square kilometers, according to the University of Colorado Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center.
"We had a bit of a recovery this year, but it's not going to last," said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze.
Bulk Partners said Nordic Orion's route will shave off four days of travel time, or nearly 1,500 nautical miles, worth up to $200,000 in savings. The dry-goods shipper said despite additional expenses on this journey, being the first across the route, it went ahead due to strong Canadian government backing.
"We had the support of people in the government there to do it, and without them, honestly, we could not have done it, nor would we have," Mr. Coll said.
The government, for instance, covers the roughly $50,000-a-day cost for an ice-breaking escort for any ship traveling north of the 60th parallel, which includes the Northwest Passage, according to the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services.
Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has been keen to assert its sovereignty over the waterway and requires registration for all ships weighing more than 500 tons using it.
Still, the risks and financial costs associated with the extreme climate coupled with continued debate over Canada's sovereignty over a passage some, including the U.S., say is in international waters, ultimately could hinder regular use.
Experts say that Canada has to plough additional resources into the route, including search and rescue services, to attract more commercial traffic. They argue that Ottawa has fallen behind Moscow, which has developed a series of ports and other infrastructure along the competing Northern Sea Route, or Northeast Passage.
In August, a Chinese vessel became the first container-transporting vessel to sail through that seaway, shaving two weeks off a regular journey that takes the vessel south and through the Suez Canal.
The Northwest Passage also has more ice and is a trickier route to navigate than the Russian route.
According to the Northern Sea Route Information Office, 46 cargo vessels carrying 1.3 million tons of goods sailed through the Northern Sea route last year. The Northwest Passage saw 21 vessels, of which there were 18 yachts, two cruise ships and one tanker, according to the Cruising World Magazine.
The passage has been marked as a potential game-changing route since explorers, mainly British, mapped it out in the 19th Century. In 1969, a U.S. tanker triggered a bout of commercial enthusiasm when it sailed through the passage. But its ice-hampered journey deterred others.
"In the next couple of years, it'll be a test to see if it's economically feasible," said Mihaela David, a fellow with the Arctic Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit think tank.
Russia flexes its muscles
Reply #17 on:
October 31, 2013, 02:57:06 PM »
WSJ: New Arctic Passage opens challenges for US military
Reply #18 on:
January 13, 2014, 08:10:02 AM »
Check out the map with this article
Re: WSJ: New Arctic Passage opens challenges for US military
Reply #19 on:
January 13, 2014, 08:31:35 AM »
Surely the Navy, and this left wing Pravada are incorrect since global warming is false.
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 13, 2014, 08:10:02 AM
Check out the map with this article
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #20 on:
January 13, 2014, 08:48:15 AM »
An interesting and witty zinger BD, but IIRC there is a claim that Antarctic ice is increasing? Let me see if I can get Body By Guiness to chime in here , , ,
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #21 on:
January 13, 2014, 10:47:47 AM »
"Surely the Navy, and this left wing Pravada are incorrect since global warming is false. "
I also detected sarcasm though I have been batting 0.000 when trying to read Bigdog's mind.
The WSJ is right wing only on the editorial page and 'mainstream' throughout the rest, IMO. The caption of the map is a good MSM/Pravda example: "Scientists forecast the ice will further extend its annual retreat..." published under ice maps of 2020 and 2030 drawn as if the models are accurate, the science is settled and the lines are already known. By "scientists forecast" do they mean all scientists, or just the literal plural, meaning two or more. US Navy is making plans based on IPCC accuracy? [2013 ice coverage was the] "sixth lowest in recorded history". That refers to what time frame - reliable satellite data goes back to about 1979. What portion of earth's 4,540,000,000 year history is that? The most recent "annual retreat" was the greatest annual ice coverage gain in recorded history, meaning thirty some years, not 4.5 billion.
"incorrect since global warming is false": I don't know anyone who believes global warming is false, but straw arguments can be fun! Wouldn't a person have to deny there was an ice age in order to deny there has been warming? What some of us allege is that the predictions of the models, as illustrated on this map, and the claims of the alarmists, such as that Florida will be mostly under water shortly, are false. 2020 is not that far off. We will see. If the models are correct and global warming is straight line, why the 17 year pause?
The larger point relative to the US Navy, mostly unmentioned in the story, is that there are significant territorial disputes in the Arctic and armed conflicts could arise, ice or no-ice.
Meanwhile, if the cause is warming and the area affected is global, similar routes will be opening in the Antarctic (or did we just find out otherwise):
NASA Announces New Record Growth Of Antarctic Sea Ice Extent, 22 Sept 2013
Sea ice surrounding Antarctica hit a record high in August and is on track for another record-breaking month in September. Clocking in at a stunning 7.2 million square miles (18.7 million square kilometers), last month's sea ice extent was 4.5 percent above the 1981 to 2010 average and the largest extent since record-keeping started in 1979, according to data released today from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its monthly State of the Climate Report.
Re: The New Race for the Arctic:
Reply #22 on:
January 13, 2014, 10:50:58 AM »
(This one is the most interesting to me. Here's why: "The increasing ice is especially perplexing since
the water beneath the ice has warmed, not cooled
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 13, 2014, 08:48:15 AM
An interesting and witty zinger BD, but IIRC there is a claim that Antarctic ice is increasing? Let me see if I can get Body By Guiness to chime in here , , ,
Russia's plans for Arctic supremacy
Reply #23 on:
January 16, 2015, 02:17:06 PM »
Russia's Plans for Arctic Supremacy
January 16, 2015 | 10:30 GMT Print Text Size
Elements from the Russian Army's Guards Engineer Brigade and Engineer Camouflage Regiment train in Arctic conditions, Jan. 19, 2011. (RIA Novosti/Wikimedia)
Although the crisis in Ukraine continues to focus attention on Russia's western border, Moscow is seeking to exploit a more lucrative prize along its vast northern frontage: the Arctic Circle. Melting ice has opened up new transit routes and revealed previously inaccessible oil and mineral deposits. Facing a year of harsh economic constraints, securing exploitable energy reserves remains a top priority for Moscow. The planned militarization of the Arctic is already underway, and funding is secured through 2015 (the Ministry of Defense was the only Kremlin ministry not to be curtailed in the most recent budget.) With Russia aiming to consolidate its strength by the end of the year, surrounding countries are already reassessing their positions in the face of an overwhelming regional force.
Russia's traditional view of the outside world is colored by a deep sense of insecurity and paranoia. This is best exemplified by the events in Ukraine, where the Kremlin acted to preserve its traditional geographic bulwark against the West. This pattern of protectionism is also apparent in Moscow's current understanding and approach to the situation in the Arctic. Of the eight countries of the Arctic Council, five are members of NATO, fueling Russia's suspicion that opposing forces are massing against it. Although friction with Kiev and the West has overshadowed Russia's military build-up in the Arctic, Moscow's long-term ambitions for the region are making other Arctic countries nervous, Norway in particular.
Russia is interested in the Arctic for a number of reasons, though natural resources and pure geopolitical imperatives are the major driving forces behind Moscow's thinking. The Arctic contains an estimated 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil reserves, regarded by Moscow as important sources of foreign investment that are critical to the country's economic development. The Northern Sea Route from East Asia to Europe via the Arctic Ocean provides another economic opportunity for developing infrastructure in northern Russia.
These resources and transit lanes, however, are also attractive to other Arctic countries, potentially turning the region into a political battleground. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea regulates ownership of the Arctic, allowing for exclusive economic zones stretching 200 miles from land and even further if undersea resources sit on a continental shelf. Inhospitable conditions made previous boundary disputes futile, so the Arctic interior remains open to territorial claims and disputes. The interest expressed by other countries feeds Russia's determination to make its role as a central Arctic nation clear by any means possible, including the use of military pressure.
Russia's Arctic Build-Up
Militarizing the Arctic will be a key imperative for the Russian military throughout 2015 and beyond — alongside modernization in general and bolstering forces in Crimea and the Kaliningrad exclave. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Soviet-era bases in the Arctic are being reactivated in response to NATO's renewed interest in the region. The airstrip on the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya is being renovated to accommodate modern and next generation fighter aircraft in addition to advanced S400 air defense systems. Part of the Northern Fleet will also be based on the island chain, which is ideally positioned for operations in the Arctic region. The Northern Fleet represents two-thirds of the entire Russian Navy, which is the only navy in the world to operate nuclear-powered icebreaker ships. In addition, Moscow announced the formation of a new 6,000-soldier military group in the far north consisting of two motorized infantry brigades located in the Murmansk area and the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region. Radar and ground guidance systems are also planned for Franz Josef Land (part of Novaya Zemlya), Wrangel Island and Cape Schmidt. The Federal Security Service plans to increase the number of border guards on Russia's northern perimeter as well.
The recent Vostok 2014 full-scale military exercise — the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union — was a revealing indication of Russia's intentions in the Arctic. Russian troops, sailors and airmen carried out combat training missions in the region, prominently deploying Pantsir-S (air defense) and Iskander-M (theater ballistic missile) weapon systems, among others. Such activities inevitably evoke the atmosphere of the Cold War, when the region was the focus of U.S. and NATO attention. Furthermore, Russia's Northern Fleet announced that its Independent Marine Infantry Brigade will undergo intensive training in the Arctic region throughout 2015.
The Kremlin reiterated its intention to field a formidable combined arms force to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic by 2020. Going into 2015, it is estimated that the Russian armed forces have around 56 military aircraft and 122 helicopters in the Arctic region. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated that 14 military airfields on Russia's Arctic seaboard would be operational by the end of the year. The Ministry of Defense also said some of the 50 modernized MiG-31BM Foxhound interceptors expected by 2019 will be charged with defense duties over the Arctic. Despite the economic problems plaguing Russia, the Ministry of Defense managed to escape the significant budget cuts levied against most other ministries. In fact, the Kremlin has increased defense spending by 20 percent, a clear indication of Russia's priorities for 2015 and a likely indication that Moscow intends to meet its military commitments.
At the end of 2014, Russia established a unified strategic command based around the existing command architecture of the Northern Fleet. The force structure successfully facilitates a military reach across the islands of Russia's northern territories, allowing for better oversight and control of the trade route from China to Norway. This structure also serves the purpose of monitoring — and potentially checking — any military moves by any other power in the region.
Along with the Baltic states and their respective environs, the Barents Sea is under constant surveillance by Russian fighter jets. Russia's dominance in the region was further solidified when, in late December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new military doctrine. In stark contrast to previous dictums, the Arctic region was officially put on the list of Russian spheres of influence for the first time. The same recognition applies to Russia's maritime doctrine, which has two major geopolitical imperatives: a thrust toward the Black Sea and dominion of the near Arctic.
The Norwegian Response
Although Russia's planned expansion in the Arctic may appear aggressive, military authorities in the Kremlin have no desire for an armed confrontation with Western powers. Moscow is aware of NATO's Article 5 agreement, which states that any attack on an individual member country could invoke a unified response from the alliance. Nevertheless, the increased Russian military presence in the region makes neighboring countries uneasy, particularly Norway.
Russia's Arctic Ambitions
Russia's actions in Ukraine, along with its military exploitation of the Arctic, forced Oslo to reassess Moscow's role and intent in the north, specifically in the area of the Barents Sea. Norway backed the Western application of sanctions against Russia, and subsequent motions from Oslo reveal a major shift in the country's strategic perception of Russia as a potential threat, in addition to highlighting the smaller country's inherent vulnerabilities. Yet, Norway is a leader when it comes to promoting NATO's role in the Arctic; it is the only country in the world that has its permanent military headquarters above the Arctic Circle. Although Norway contributed troops to the multinational force in Iraq and more than 500 personnel to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan — and was one of only seven NATO members to actually carry out air strikes during the Libya campaign — the primary force driver for its military is Arctic security. The Norwegians have invested extensively in Arctic defense capabilities, but, in terms of size and means, they are dwarfed by Russia. Because of this, Norwegian officials, both military and civilian, want to see NATO play a larger role in the Arctic.
Despite a tenuous degree of military cooperation between Norway and Russia in the past involving visits of military officials and occasional joint exercises, conventional wisdom dictated that Oslo did not hold any military exercises near its border with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This reticence continued after the fall of the Iron Curtain, yet the Norwegian government recently announced its intent to conduct large-scale drills in Finnmark — a territory on the Russia-Norway border — in March 2015. The proposed maneuvers will be the country's largest military exercises since 1967. There is a growing recognition in Moscow that Norway's policy toward Russia is going through a major shift as a direct reaction to Moscow's push to militarize the Arctic region.
Russia's Perception of the Arctic
Russia appears to be gearing up for any eventuality in the Arctic, but its policy-makers are beginning to debate whether Russian pressure in the Arctic serves as a geopolitical pivot that could alter the regional balance of power. The emergence of a dominant Arctic player will certainly affect trans-Atlantic trade routes and commitments, relations between Russia and the northern European countries and relations between Russia and China. For half a century, the Arctic was an area of U.S.-Soviet friction and the site of numerous incidents that could easily have led to conflict. Even in a post-Cold War world, the region could once again be transformed into a zone of frozen conflicts. The great powers have long competed over the Arctic, and now countries such as China and India are expressing their own interest in the region.
Although Russia faces a raft of internal and external problems such as a strained economy, matters in Ukraine and pressure from the international community, the Kremlin remains wedded to its pursuit of the Arctic. This has forced Russia's neighbors to reassess their own military presence in places like the Barents Sea, as well as territorial claims to disputed parts of the Arctic Circle. Norway will press harder for a larger NATO presence in the northern region, but while military conflict remains a threat, Russia will stop short of instigating hostilities. The Kremlin knows that when it comes to acquisitions, actions speak louder than words, and any attempt to grab the rich, unclaimed territory of the Arctic Circle will have to be backed by force.
Read more: Russia's Plans for Arctic Supremacy | Stratfor
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