Emerging Conflict Over the Arctic

By Rowan Wolf

As the sea ice melts in the Arctic, conflict heats up over who it belongs to. The Russians wasted no time at all in sending a submarine to to plant the flag on the ocean floor.

Expand | There are five nations with Arctic claims – Russia, Canada, United States, Denmark, and Norway. According to the Struck article, these nations had ten years (1982-1992) to agree on the boundaries. They have not, and Russia claims that it the Arctic is theirs.

Of course, Canada claims it is theirs. Further, that Russia is trying to claim territory beyond the 200 mile international limit. The Canadian response is to announce that they are building two military bases in the region.

Not to be outdone, Denmark is launching an expedition to see if they have a claim to some of the region.

Once again, we have the merging issue of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) and global warming. The Arctic ice is retreating rapidly. This is making accessible portions of the ocean floor that have not been accessible for thousands of years. The decreasing global supplies of oil and gas raise the stakes on any of those resources that might be claimed.

The irony of the burning of hydrocarbons causing increased CO2 which is a major contributor to global warming is unavoidable. Using fossil fuels accelerates global warming which causes more ice melt exposing more of the Arctic for exploitation of potential oil and gas reserves. It is nuts, but it is a sure indicator that:

  1. there is no near term plan to move away from fossil fuels, and
  2. there is no serious commitment to addressing global warming.

Can there not be any place on the planet that belongs to everyone (or no one)?

Some might laugh at the “quaintness” of planting the Russian flag on the ocean floor. However, be assured that military conflict over who claims what in the Arctic is not a far fetched fantasy.

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Published in: on 08/11/2007 at 1:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

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