Melting Ice Sets Off Cold War in the Arctic
• Russia, U.S. concerned about China’s new interest in North Pole region.
By Richard Walker —
A cold war is already on in the northernmost parts of the world, with the major superpowers—the United States, Russia and China—already moving to divvy up parts of the Arctic region and position military assets in the area.
Russia will hold one of its largest ever military drills in the Arctic later this year while the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and some of its Arctic allies will continue to make secret preparations for a future conflict in the region. Even China, which is determined to project its military footprint across the globe, has strategic plans to exploit a region that holds a third of the world’s energy resources and could provide new shipping routes to transport Chinese goods more quickly to Europe.
The militarization of the Arctic and surrounding countries has been ongoing for a decade with Russia re-fitting over 50 abandoned bases and placing large numbers of special forces close to the Arctic Ocean. At the same time, NATO has been working secretly with Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark to boost security close to their Arctic Ocean boundaries.
Before one can fully appreciate the significance of what is taking place it is important to explore some misconceptions.
Russia’s focus on the Arctic has always been on the Arctic Ocean. Along with Canada, Russia shares the largest border with that ocean. Other countries bordering the ocean include the U.S. (Alaska) and Denmark, because it controls Greenland, which reaches into the ocean. Other nations such as Sweden and China claim a right to it even though they do not border it.
The Scandinavian countries support a strange logic adopted by Washington to define the Arctic. According to D.C., the Arctic is everything above the Arctic Circle, ignoring, of course, the fact that the Arctic Circle is imaginary. It is not a geographical boundary. It is a circle used by astronomers and other scientists to indicate celestial and climate patterns surrounding the North Pole. Nevertheless, the U.S. definition means the Bering Sea, which borders Alaska, is an integral part of the Arctic, thereby giving Alaska and Washington a larger Arctic coastline. In that way, Alaska becomes a bigger “shareholder,” enabling it to claim a greater slice of the disputed Arctic Ocean.
Russia, on the other hand, says the Arctic Ocean has real boundaries and the U.S., meaning Alaska, does not touch them.
Only four nations—Russia, Norway, Denmark and Canada—have actually presented claims to the United Nations (UN) to specify how far the continental shelf of each nation reaches into the Arctic Ocean. Russia was the first to do it over a decade ago in accordance with UN Law of the Sea protocols, which the U.S. has not recognized. Russia is awaiting confirmation of its claim, which would give it a massive slice of the Arctic Ocean.
The U.S. meanwhile has also contested Moscow’s claim to the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which runs through the ocean, along the Russian coast. As ice melts, Russia’s more than 40 icebreakers will soon make the route more navigable, allowing Moscow to charge ships using it. Washington, in contrast, regards NSR as a free passage, a position Russia is prepared to challenge, with force if necessary.
The U.S. is in possession of only one ice breaker with President Barack Hussein Obama promising another one “soon.” By soon, he means years into the future at a cost of $1 billion. Obama made the promise at a recent conference on the climate in Alaska. The conference was organized by the State Department even though it holds no brief for handling climate issues, a fact ignored by the mass media. This is an important point, given that Washington pretends its interest in the Arctic is about climate issues. The truth is that Washington wants to make the Arctic Ocean available to Western energy giants and U.S. commercial shipping.
Washington also has a military agenda. Melting ice will create new sea routes, bringing the Chinese navy and its submarines closer to the West. What some in Washington refuse to recognize is that Russia is gearing up militarily because it is more worried about China moving into its backyard than NATO, which is already there.
Russia suspects China may adopt the Washington position that Moscow has no right to control the NSR economically or to police a large slice of the Arctic Ocean where it runs along its exclusive economic zone.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.
Melting Ice Sets Off Arctic Military Buildup
By Dave Gahary
The natural warming and cooling cycles that the Earth goes through as a result of short- and long-term celestial movements has led to significant melting of ice in the Arctic region, which has set off a scramble to claim territory never before seen by modern man. In fact, the interest shown in that part of the globe by the world’s top powers is unprecedented, and the biggest buildup there since the Cold War.
The media has again been focused on the Arctic since September 3, when the Pentagon reported that five Chinese navy ships came within 12 nautical miles of the coastline, although they “complied with international law and didn’t do anything threatening.” The Chinese were ostensibly returning home after joint exercise training with Russia in late August.
The U.S. Department of Defense is concerned that “China is building a ‘blue-water’ navy capable of operating far from its shores, while also developing missiles and other capabilities designed to prevent the U.S. Navy from intervening in a conflict in Asia,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
The Arctic, home to the North Pole, the northernmost part of the Earth, “consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden,” and has vast petroleum and mineral resources. No country can lay claim to the region, and is limited to a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts, although that doesn’t stop them from trying.
Recent interest in the region was kicked off by Russia in 2007, when two submarine-type devices descended to the Arctic seabed to place a Russian flag there, a first ever event. The Russians announced plans last year to reopen 10 “Soviet-era military bases along the Arctic seaboard, including 14 airfields, that were closed after the end of the Cold War,” which has some U.S. officials on edge.
Alaska’s governor has recently complained about the U.S. military drawdown.
“It’s the biggest buildup of the Russian military since the Cold War,” Governor Bill Walker told reporters while President Barack Hussein Obama paid a three-day visit to his state, becoming “the first U.S. president to visit a community above the Arctic Circle,” another sign of the region’s growing strategic importance.
The U.S. war machine has been hard at work in the Arctic as well, where “most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned analysts to work full time on the Arctic,” and spy ships are being overhauled to deal with the new threat to U.S. hegemony.
“The Marjata, an advanced spy ship specifically built to collect electronic intelligence, has been getting new equipment and systems since April at U.S. Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Adjacent to the facility, Camp Peary, the Central Intelligence Agency’s training base for “clandestine operatives.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series. He prevailed in a suit brought by the New York Stock Exchange in an attempt to silence him.