Saturday, April 29, 2017
$35 Trillion Antics in the Arctic
The United States, Canada, Denmark (Greenland) and Russia have borders with and the right to assert claims against the land under the rapidly-melting Arctic ice pack, particularly the increasingly navigable Northwest Passage. Norway and China are looking for their stakes in the area as well.
There could be as much as $35 trillion dollars of natural resources in this environmentally delicate region, with the continued existence of so many species, from polar bears to untold numbers of fish and plant life, hanging in the balance. “The Arctic, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates, holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.” DailyMail.co.uk, April 19th.
While the precise legality of who has a right to what has yet to be firmly established, one nation – Russia – has taken steps to claim it all. It started in the summer of 2007 when a Russian submersible descended beneath the North Pole: “Russia has laid claim to the seafloor at the North Pole, planting its national flag underwater in the hopes of securing the Arctic's potential motherlode of natural resources.
“In an unprecedented dive beneath the ice, two three-person submersibles descended 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) to the bottom, where one symbolically dropped a titanium capsule containing a Russian flag.” News.NationalGeographic.com, August 3, 2007. But that was just the beginning.
Russia then began moving increasing numbers of its naval and air forces to bases in the eastern region closest to the Arctic. Russian bombers and fighters have been testing how close to U.S. and Canadian shorelines they can penetrate for years, more frequently taunting Western forces and mapping out NORAD’s detection capabilities to the max. These flights routinely come well-within 200 miles of Canada and the U.S.
As U.S. policy now officially denies the existence of global climate change – the force behind the melting Arctic ice that has opened this region to exploitation – Russia is laughing all the way to… er… rather complete and total military dominance of this region. Even before that Northwest Passage is routinely and continually open year-round, Russia’s maritime and naval capacity have expanded with a growing number of massive, state-of-the-art ice breakers. Compare Russia’s existing fleet of 40 modern ice breakers capable of operating in the area with only two operated by the United States.
But even as Russian-based aircraft and ice breakers operate from within traditional bases on the Russian mainland, Moscow has just expanded its military into a Russian-controlled island chain (pictured right above) quite far from its traditional territory: “Russia has unveiled a new Arctic military base capable of housing 150 troops as well as nuclear-ready warplanes… The triangular complex [pictured left above], painted in the red, white and blue of the Russia's tricolor flag, has been built in remote Alexandra Land in the Franz Josef Archipelago… According to the Moscow Times, it also comes complete with a cinema, table tennis and billiards rooms while a military art studio is also planned…
“Officials have said they may deploy military jets there. MiG-31 fighters, designed to shoot down long-range bombers, or the SU-34, a frontline bomber are seen as options, it has been reported…
“Earlier this year it was reported that Moscow is starting to build nuclear icebreakers as it vies for dominance in the polar region with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.” DailyMail.co.uk. Reindeer mounted Russian troops add to their ability to move and operate in this difficult land.
As China has illustrated with its man-made island expansion in the South China Sea, and as Russia has proven in its unilateral annexation of Crimea in violation of its treaty obligations, nations that build out significant military capacity in disputed (or likely to be disputed) areas tend to be able to force their mandate on other nations that are either unwilling or unable to counter such aggressive moves. So if our policy-makers are unwilling to stem the “big melt” rather directly linked to man-induced global warming – which is particularly evident in the Arctic region – then we are going to have to pay the trillions and trillions of dollars (with concomitant losses) necessary to deal with the consequences of our irresponsible greed and stupidity.
I’m Peter Dekom, and living in an era of science-denial and irresponsible austerity – which are clear and obvious mistakes with massive consequences – is exceptionally difficult when the evidence of what we inevitably will face is so crystal clear.