Study: 'Arctic Cold War' Heats Up

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by
Common Dreams

Study: 'Arctic Cold War' Heats Up

Numerous countries are developing military presence in the Arctic

by
Common Dreams staff

© RIA Novosti. Vladimir Baranov

A new report reports that the Arctic shelf, with its disputed territory and vast energy resources, is becoming increasingly militarized. The study, released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, claims that Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway are all developing their military interests there and numerous other nations are seeking better access to the region.

Russia, the report finds, will create its own special armed forces by the year 2015 for the Arctic, aimed at protecting the country’s geopolitical interests in the region.

 "Climate change is making the Arctic region—and its expected natural resources—more accessible. Overlapping claims by the five Arctic littoral states—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States—have led to fears of future conflict in the region," the report concludes. "In recent years all five countries have included increased protection of Arctic territories and claims in their defence policies. All five have also started to increase their military presences and capabilities in the Arctic region by acquiring Arctic-specific equipment, improving military infrastructure or increasing military forces."

 

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The Moscow News reports:

Arctic Cold War Heats Up

The Cold War for Arctic resources is not just heating up – it’s leading to a growing militarization in the remote North.

That’s the conclusion a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which claims that Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway are all developing their military interests there.

Also, more countries are seeking access to the region’s important natural resources and transport routes, such as “outsiders” like China, India and Brazil.

Vast parts of the Arctic shelf are still disputed territory and Russia, which placed its flag on the Arctic seabed at the North Pole in 2007, has lost several territorial battles for Arctic offshore resources with Norway and the United States already.

Amid the emerging tensions over influence in the Arctic, Russia recently launched a new series of expeditions in the far north. On March 27, the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has unveiled the results of its recent expedition to Yamalo-Nenets and the Kara Sea, reporting that vast reserves of gas have been found in the region.

And by 2015 Russia will create its own special armed forces for the Arctic, aimed at protecting the country’s geopolitical interests there.

“If Russia won’t be exploring the Arctic we will lose it,” said Boris Nikitenko, an academic at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “For example, some U.S. parts of the Arctic are much better explored than Russian ones, and the more we wait the less right we will have to be there in future.”

Big investment planned

“The pristine Arctic nature has not been researched yet, and launching any production in the Arctic offshore would kill the natural habitat”Over the last decade, Russia has kept a tight grip on its hydrocarbon- rich Arctic offshore territory, but the government has recently promised that foreign companies will have access to the region.

President-elect Vladimir Putin has said that, to will speed up the development of the Russian Arctic, 21 billion rubles will be spent on modernization and construction of infrastructure there in the next three years. [...]

While the Arctic littoral states are dreaming of vast business opportunities, ecologists and other nations warn of a potential ecological catastrophe.

“The pristine Arctic nature has not been researched yet, and launching any production in the Arctic offshore would kill the natural habitat,” said Alexei Knizhnikov, head of oil and gas ecology at WWF Russia.

The ecology watchdog has recently carried out an ice diving expedition in a Moscow lake as a protest to draw attention to the problem of protecting Arctic ecology.

“For now there is a big technology gap,” Knizhnikov said. “There’s no equipment and infrastructure to remove a massive oil spill in icy conditions, and there are no sanctions on companies in case of an accident. The [tragedy] with the drilling platform Kolskaya showed that we can’t even save people, let alone nature.”

Natural resources officials are in favor of Arctic drilling, however, and say all this talk of a threat to ecology is just politicking.

“The ecologists want to bring us back to the Stone Age,” said Ruslan Bazdyrev, a member of the State Duma Committee for Natural Resources and Ecology. “I’m really skeptical about what they’re doing. In this country, all oil and gas projects undergo proper ecological studies.”

For its part, Gazprom says the company has all the equipment it needs to deal with potential oil spills in the Arctic, and dismisses the idea that an ecological disaster could occur.

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