Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Ice War Cometh?

Our Glasgow/Edinburgh branches' blog Socialist Courier has posted numerous times over the always developing situation in the Arctic Circle. 

Arctic ice has receded by 65 percent over the past four decades opening up access to natural resources and shipping routes.

Barack Obama is on a visit to Alaska where he will be no doubt re-asserting American influence on the region. At the GLACIER summit in Anchorage, the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience will be attended by Alaska natives and officials from the US and other Arctic countries, including Russia. GLACIER is hosted by the US Department of State, and is unrelated to the US chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The Americans have gone to great pains to remind everybody that this is not an Arctic Council meeting. Its overall effect is taking away emphasis from some of the international governing systems

Obama has repeatedly said that the world is not moving fast enough on climate change, but that it can still act to avoid lasting damage. "We're not acting fast enough," he said. "Even if we cannot reverse the damage we’ve already caused," Obama said, "we have the means ... to avoid irreparable harm.”
Yet he is very happy to risk irreparable damage to the near-pristine conditions of the Arctic environment by permitting Shell exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Environmentalist groups have denounced the decision. Obama has shrugged off the criticism, arguing that domestic oil production was vital to US jobs and energy independence.

Both Russia and NATO have held massive military drills in the Arctic earlier this year, deploying new hardware and forces in the region. Former US navy Admiral Gary Roughead suggests that in the race for energy resources Russia and US are polar (no pun intended) opposites.

“The military capabilities that are being developed are very powerful,” Rob Huebert of the Center for Military and Strategic Studies told RT, “and of course, are going to entirely change the security structure of the Arctic region." 

Canada’s foreign minister said earlier that Canada is concerned with Russia's building up its military capacity in the Arctic, and therefore it’s ready to defend its interests militarily. But so have the Norwegians been beefing up their military. Rob Huebert explains a wider picture:
“ What you are starting to see is not so much a fight for the Arctic, but recognition of the centrality of the Arctic for the strategic balances of the major powers. In other words, it is not about fighting about oil and gas, or the fish resources, or the melting ice cap, but it is more of a reflection of the reality that for the Russians their major nuclear deterrent has to be Arctic-based. I mean the Murmansk bases are what serve their submarine forces. That of course is creating a response from the NATO countries. What you are seeing - and this is what confounds a lot of observers - is that you are really seeing a buildup of military capabilities, because of the deteriorating relationship between the West and Russia.  Because of the geography, the Arctic immediately becomes involved.” 
In other words another Cold War (no pun intended)

The US has also been expressing concerns about the build-up of a Chinese presence in the region. The Chinese have been investing in the Arctic; they have been making it clear that they planned to be in their terms a “near Arctic power”. Since the Russians are there, since the Americans are there it only makes sense from a Chinese perspective that they will be there.


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