Cold War Over Arctic Heats Up Amid Melting Polar Ice

In mid-August 2015, the Obama administration gave the green light for Royal Dutch Shell to start drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean, off Alaska’s northwest coast.

[Photo: Arctic Drilling]
[Photo: Arctic Drilling]
The well is approximately 70 miles from the coast of Alaska and is thought of by oil companies as having great prospects for tapping into oil reserves. This region is thought to have an undiscovered 13% of the world’s total reserves of oil and 30% that of gas. The fears from climate activists are that Arctic drilling will further impact the polar ice melt as well as lead to oil spills in the resource-rich region.

“The Arctic region’s energy resources factor into a core component of our national security strategy.”

– US National Strategy for the Arctic Region

[Photo: Shell drilling areas]
[Photo: Shell drilling areas]
[Photo: F-22 Raptors fly over Alaska]
[Photo: F-22 Raptors fly over Alaska]
This announcement from Obama comes just weeks after NATO forces [US] held a massive military exercise, called “Northern Edge”, across 42,000 nautical miles of the Alaskan coast. In northern Europe, NATO countries bordering the Arctic have held multiple military exercises (such as Norway’s “Joint Viking” and “Arctic Challenge”) in preparation for a possible conflict over the disputed polar territory and its resources. Meanwhile, Russia has been busy rebuilding the entirety of its former-Soviet defense infrastructure in the Arctic region.

“The US military is the largest single consumer of fossil fuel in the world.”

– Center For Global Justice

[Photo: Russia claims 1.2 million sq km of Arctic in 2007]
In April 2014, President Vladimir Putin called for the creation a new government branch to deal exclusively with the execution of Russia’s Arctic policy, including the efficient transference of military commands for future operations. Russia began construction of new bases on Wrangel Island (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Cape Schmidt (the closest geographic point to the United States), using 34 prefabricated modules. The star-shaped bases include residential, commercial, administrative and recreational units for Russia’s Arctic forces, as well as their latest model of nuclear attack submarines.

“The Arctic is a region that should be of great interest to the Alliance (NATO). Not because it is in any type of crisis or drama, rather the other way around: This is an area of cooperation, but it is also an area which is opening up to new activities which we did not see before because of the (melting) icecap.”
– Norwegian Foreign Minister, Espen Barth Eide

[Photo: US soldiers train in arctic warfare]

“Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to this region, for the economic opportunities it presents…”

– President Barack Obama

In April 2015, Canada held a “high Arctic” military exercise (Operation NUNALIVUT 2015) to train their forces in Arctic warfare. A year prior in August 2014, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird raised the alarm on Russia’s military buildup in the region, vowing that it would not hesitate to defend Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. Speaking to Canadian troops on Baffin Island, the prime minister Stephen Harper reassured them that they would always be needed to fend off threats to Canada in an increasingly changing environment. The prime minister also made Arctic sovereignty a focal point of last year’s northern tour, with remarks and announcements meant to demonstrate Canada’s control over its northern regions.

[Photo: Three Polar bears approach a US Navy nuclear-powered fast attack submarine near north pole]

“…the new sailing routes, connections, resource race… There are enormous fossil fuel resources for instance. We always took an interest in areas with fossil fuel, like in the Arab world.”
– Norwegian Foreign Minister, Espen Barth Eide

[Photo: USS Hampton at the North Pole]
In late August, 2015, Obama flew to Alaska for the GLACIER Conference (Global leadership in the Arctic Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement & Resilience). While the Obama administration states the conference is a lead up to the COP-21 climate talks in France, the presidential visit comes on the heels of his highly controversial decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell to begin Arctic drilling. As new shipping routes melt open and access to resources increase, it is no wonder why this trip is the first of its kind by any sitting US president.

[PHOTO: U.S. Coast Guard Representatives Vice Commandant Michel and Rear Admiral Abel Deliver Remarks and Answer Questions Regarding the U.S.C.G.’s Operations in the Arctic Region]


#ArcticDrilling #NATO #ClimateChange #MilitaryIndustrialComplex





Written by Andrew Neef




National Strategy for the Arctic Region (PDF)


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