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Polar Shares
Putin Makes His Arctic Push

Map by Lindsey Burrows

The warming Arctic region is one of the last frontiers left on Earth, and as rising surface temperatures melt the ice that has kept humans out of those northern reaches for so long, any and every country with even a passing claim on Arctic territory is angling for a slice of the pie. This isn’t just a land grab, though—it’s about control over what promise to be some very valuable new shipping lanes, and a massive cache of hydrocarbons.

To illustrate the Arctic’s rising importance, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit the region in 2015, though he spent much of his visit pointing out the (admittedly real) dangers of climate change. But President Trump is going to need to pay even closer attention to the Arctic, because as its ice and waters warm, other countries are honing in on newly uncovered geopolitical opportunities. No one is focusing more intently on the Arctic than Russia, and as Reuters reports, the Kremlin is beefing up its already dominant Arctic fleet:

[Russia] is building three nuclear icebreakers, including the world’s largest, to bolster its fleet of around 40 breakers, six of which are nuclear. No other country has a nuclear breaker fleet, used to clear channels for military and civilian ships. Russia’s Northern Fleet, based near Murmansk in the Kola Bay’s icy waters, is also due to get its own icebreaker, its first, and two ice-capable corvettes armed with cruise missiles.

“Under (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev and (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin, our Arctic border areas were stripped bare,” said Professor Pavel Makarevich, a member of the Russian Geographical Society. “Now they are being restored.” […]

“The modernization of Arctic forces and of Arctic military infrastructure is taking place at an unprecedented pace not seen even in Soviet times,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow Defense Brief, told Reuters.

This is a shot across Washington’s bow, and we’re not prepared to respond. The Arctic is estimated to contain 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, and as polar ice melts, ships will be able to travel along new, shorter northern routes. The U.S. Navy enforces open seas around the world, but it is woefully unprepared to advance America’s interests along our newest coast.

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  • Frank Natoli

    The warming Arctic region is one of the last frontiers left on Earth, and as rising surface temperatures melt the ice
    The Arctic ice has been six feet thick, unchanged, for more than seventy years.
    Why should anyone take anything in this TAI article seriously after it starts with its own fake news?

    • Disappeared4x

      Because TAI is redeemable? Heavy lift for TAI to clear their foggy implicit bias on climate change, and Russia, hence my reminder this Russian icebreakers is not New News, but an opportunity for a new form of geopolitical co-operation, detached from climate change ideology, via The Arctic Council, in my comment.

      Clear-eyed realists still need some hope.

      • Frank Natoli

        Obviously, I write but don’t take my own medicine. I confess, I find a fair amount of very interesting information on TAI. What I find immensely frustrating is that apparently everyone on their staff then reaches the WRONG conclusions on the basis of that very interesting information. Hope springs eternal?

  • Disappeared4x

    No one should be so surprised. The world should be glad that Russia takes it’s Arctic responsibilities more seriously, without an ideological skew on climate change and indigenous tribal rights.
    The Arctic Council was formed in 1996. The USA finally sent then SecStateHRC to the 6th biennial Ministerial-level meeting in 2011. Time for the USA to treat Russia as normal, in the Arctic. Get a good deal on a used Russian icebreaker, as I doubt the F35 can use lasers to break ice. My expectation is TeamTrump will use the Arctic Council as an opportunity for a new form of geopolitical co-operation, hopefully teaming up with Canada, to work with Russia. Perhaps Finland can lead the Scandinavians to common sense.

    Canada had hosted a smaller meeting in 2010 to focus on search-and-rescue issues amongst the five Arctic Coastal States. I recall the msm coverage at the time focused on how Hillary managed to insult Canada, causing a tense little rift. At the time, my thought was ‘Obama will be remembered as the American president who LOST Canada!’
    “Clinton rebukes Canada at Arctic meeting”
    By Mary Beth Sheridan Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, March 29, 2010; 3:42 PM

    “OTTAWA — It was supposed to be a meeting of polar pals. But a high-level session on the vast opportunities opening up in the Arctic got off to a chilly start Monday, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Canada for leaving several players off the guest list.

    …”Significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region,” Clinton said, according to a prepared copy of her remarks to the meeting, which was closed to press. “And I hope the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new divisions.”

    Canada’s foreign minister, Lawrence Cannon, said it made sense for the Arctic coastal states to meet because of their special
    responsibilities in areas like search-and-rescue. He said the smaller group was not aimed at supplanting the larger Arctic Council.”

  • ——————————

    “Putin Makes His Arctic Push”

    Good…more power to him….

  • rpabate

    I thought that hydrocarbons were formed by the fossilization of ancient plants. That means the arctic at some point was warm enough for long enough to allow for huge forests and plant growth over thousands, tens of thousands or even years. After all ,Greenland was so named because when the Vikings settled there it was green. No, climate change (a.k.a. Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change) is most likely not a threat, at least not one where we should be worried about it any time soon nor one that requires the huge cost of de-industrializing the world’s economies, especially when so much hydrocarbon is yet to be used at affordable prices.

  • M. Stevens

    Our Canadian friends, who have skimped on security and defense, might want to take very seriously the implications here. They have the manpower, technology and wealth to build a first-class navy to defend their interests. All they seem to lack is the will; easier to be a free rider on US defense guarantees.

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