Recent reports out of Moscow staking Russia's claims to vast resource-rich regions of the Arctic underscore that the battle lines of future conflict between nations are emerging along the fault lines of the polar ice caps of our planet. An international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, is being accelerated by the impact of global warming on Earth's frozen north.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic has as much as 25
per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. Moscow reportedly
sees the potential of minerals in its slice of the Arctic sector
approaching $2 trillion. Major petroleum companies are now focusing
research and exploration on the far north. Russia is developing the
vast Shkotman natural gas field off its Arctic coast.
The melting ice cap could open the North Pole region to easy navigation for five months a year, according to the latest Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, revolutionizing shipping the way the Suez Canal did in the 20th Century. Up until recently, reports said it would take 100 years for the ice to melt, but new studies say it could happen in 10-15 years, and the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway have been rushing to stake their claims in the Arctic.
In 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the sovereignty issue "a serious, competitive battle" that "will unfold more and more fiercely."
Russia has raised the stakes in the international scramble for the Arctic by announcing it will boost its military presence in the region to protect its "national interests," according to a report posted by The Telegraph's Adrian Blomfield in Moscow.
The defense ministry said naval vessels would be sent to the Arctic Ocean, which is believed to be home to 25 percent of the world's untapped energy resources, as part of a Summer training zone.
Gen Vladimir Shamanov, the head of the combat training directorate, stated that Russia had "highly trained military units" prepared for Arctic warfare. He revealed that Russia would expand its naval presence in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as part of a strategy to flex the country's growing military strength.
"The summer training program envisions the increased presence of the Russian navy not only in the Atlantic but also in the Arctic and the Pacific," Gen Shamanov said. "We are also planning to increase the operational radius of the Northern Fleet's submarines."
Disquiet over the Kremlin's intent in the Arctic, Bloom continued, is likely to grow still further after Gen Shamanov, a prominent military hawk who was accused of war crimes in Chechnya, suggested that the focus of Russia's military strategy would shift towards "protecting national interests" in the Arctic.
Russia had the capability, he said, to defend its claim to roughly half of the Arctic Ocean – including the North Pole. "We have a number of highly professional military units in the Leningrad, Siberian and Far Eastern military districts which are specifically trained for combat in the Arctic regions," he said.
Despite occasional outbreaks of imperialist rhetoric, the Kremlin has consistently promised not to colonize the Arctic unilaterally and has pledged to abide by international adjudication on its territorial rights in the region.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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