NATO, for the first time, officially claimed a role in the Arctic, when Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told member-states to sort out their differences within the alliance so that it could move on to set up “military activity in the region.”
“Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance,” he said at a NATO seminar in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January 2009.
Since then, NATO has held several major war games focussing on the Arctic region. In March this year, 14,000 NATO troops took part in the “Cold Response 2010” military exercise held in Norway under a patently provocative legend: the alliance came to the defence of a fictitious small democratic state, Midland, whose oilfield is claimed by a big undemocratic state, Nordland. In August, Canada hosted its largest yet drill in the Arctic, Operation Nanook 2010, in which the U.S. and Denmark took part for the first time.
Russia registered its firm opposition to the NATO foray, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying the region would be best without NATO. “Russia is keeping a close eye on this activity,” he said in September. “The Arctic can manage fine without NATO.” The western media portrayed the NATO build-up in the region as a reaction to Russia’s “aggressive” assertiveness, citing the resumption of Arctic Ocean patrols by Russian warships and long-range bombers and the planting of a Russian flag in the North Pole seabed three years ago.
It is conveniently forgotten that the U.S. Navy and Air Force have not stopped Arctic patrolling for a single day since the end of the Cold War. Russia, on the other hand, drastically scaled back its presence in the region after the break-up of the Soviet Union. It cut most of its Northern Fleet warships, dismantled air defences along its Arctic coast and saw its other military infrastructure in the region fall into decay.
The Arctic has enormous strategic value for Russia. Its nuclear submarine fleet is based in the Kola Peninsula. Russia’s land territory beyond the Arctic Circle is almost the size of India — 3.1 million sq km. It accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s natural gas production, 60 per cent of oil, and the bulk of rare and precious metals. By 2030, Russia’s Arctic shelf, which measures 4 million sq km, is expected to yield 30 million tonnes of oil and 130 billion cubic metres of gas. If Russia’s claim for a 350-mile EEZ is granted, it will add another 1.2 million sq km to its possessions.
A strategy paper Mr. Medvedev signed in 2008 said the polar region would become Russia’s “main strategic resource base” by 2020. Russia has devised a multivector strategy to achieve this goal. First, it works to restore its military capability in the region to ward off potential threats. Russia is building a new class of nuclear submarines, Borei (Northern Wind) that will be armed with a new long-range missile, Bulava. Navy Chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said recently he had also drawn up a plan to deploy warships in Russia’s Arctic ports to protect polar sea routes. (via The Arctic’s strategic value for Russia By Vladimir Radyuhin.)
Thin ice …
Some sixteen months ago, 2ndlook speculated that West’s redemption may come from oil – from the Arctic. With receding Arctic ice-caps, the West may find itself sitting on large oil reserves. Production from these discoveries may take 10-25 years – climate permitting.
Climate change, I don’t believe in. How long will these weather patterns persist? The West is skating on thin ice – but then what can they do. Slavery is not an option – not for another 50-100 years at least. Dig mother earth, is the second and only option they have believed in.
For the last 3000 years at least.
- Russia and Norway resolve Arctic border dispute (guardian.co.uk)
- Russia, Canada in rivalry over Arctic resources (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Russia, Canada make competing claims to Arctic resources (foxnews.com)
- Russia to boost Arctic research (blogs.nature.com)
- Senior Nato commander warns of potential conflict over Arctic resources (guardian.co.uk)
- Russia, Canada in rivalry over Arctic resources (ctv.ca)
- Russia, Canada and Denmark to file Arctic claims to UN (theglobeandmail.com)
- Canada, Russia expect to win Arctic claims at UN (cbc.ca)
- Coast Guard: Russia makes inroads in Arctic, and we should, too (chron.com)
- Military forces ‘will keep the Arctic safe’ (telegraph.co.uk)