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Who Owns the North Pole (Part 87)

Russia has renewed its efforts to get the United Nations to recognise 1.2 million sq km (463,000 sq miles) of the Arctic shelf that it lays claim to. All other countries bordering the Arctic - Norway, Denmark, Canada and the US - reject Moscow's claim. It made a similar move for the resource-rich territory in 2001, but that was rejected by a UN commission because of insufficient evidence. Russia's foreign ministry said the fresh bid is backed by scientific data. "Ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research are used to back the Russian claim," Russia foreign ministry said in a statement. he new move comes a week after the Kremlin said it was strengthening its naval forces in the Arctic as part of a new military doctrine. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the plans included a new fleet of icebreakers. Earlier this year, Russia's military conducted exercises in the Arctic that involved 38,000 servicemen, more than 50 surface ships an…

Who owns the North Pole part 86

The Arctic Cold War Hots Up 

Canada plans to spend billions of dollars on new patrol ships, polar satellites, transport upgrade, and winter gear for its troops amid rising demands for the Arctic’s riches.
In line with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vow to boost the country’s footprint in the Arctic in a bid to spur its economic growth, the Conservative government has announced a multi-billion dollar budget to purchase everything from naval ships to weather satellites, US-based Defense News reported this week.  According to the report, on top of the shopping list are five new patrol ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, which will be outfitted with Lockheed Martin avionics at a cost of CAN $3.5 billion ($3.4 billion), as well as up to $50 million in technical upgrades for the Air Force’s CC-138 transport aircraft. Canada plans to buy up to 100 all-terrain vehicles at an estimated price tag between $100 million and $249 million. The Arctic spending package will also include up to…

Who Owns the North Pole (part 85)

The United Kingdom should select an ambassador for the Arctic or risk being left out of key decisions in the region, a House of Lords report says. It advised the UK should follow the example of nations including France, Singapore and Japan in appointing an ambassador for the Arctic.
Experts have said the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer as soon as 2020, which will give way to extract resources, open up a northern sea trade route and opportunities to “take advantage of the expansion of shipping” on Arctic routes. The committee suggests the interests of British companies need better representation.

Who Owns the North Pole Part 84

Russia may consider protecting its national interests in the Arctic with military means if necessary, the country’s defense minister said, pointing to the increasing interest in the region’s resources by countries with no direct access to the Arctic.
“The constant military presence in the Arctic and a possibility to protect the state’s interests by the military means are regarded as an integral part of the general policy to guarantee national security,” Sergei Shoigu said at a Ministry of Defense meeting. “It’s not a secret that the Arctic is turning into one of the world centers for producing hydrocarbons and is an important junction for transport communications,” he said. “Some developed countries that don’t have direct access to the polar regions obstinately strive for the Arctic, taking certain political and military steps in that direction.” Shoigu said, “To secure the safety of navigation on the Northern Sea Route and of the response to possible threats in the Arctic region, a …

Who Owns the North Pole part 83

Canada is moving ahead on building a fleet of Arctic patrol ships to provide a naval presence in the resource-rich north. The CAN $3.5 billion project (US $3.2 billion with Lockheed Martin handling onboard combat systems, will produce five ships.
Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice Adm. Mark Norman has said the Arctic patrol ships will give the service greater reach into the remote region. "The Arctic offshore patrol ships will enable us to become a truly Arctic, rather than just northern, Navy with the capability to operate in the Canadian Arctic archipelago on a sustained and persistent basis," he told delegates to a naval conference in October.
Defense analyst Martin Shadwick said for the Navy, the contract is significant as the ships will be capable of patrolling farther into the Arctic and stay in the region for longer than the service's existing ships. "For the Navy it is a deal changer," said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University in…

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 82

The People’s Republic of China has systematically increased its activity in the Arctic high north through various avenues. The region’s massive resource reserves, China’s growing presence, Chinese challenges to regional Arctic governance, and the current standoff between Russia and the West are a potentially potent combination. China’s wealth and capital make it an important partner for Arctic nations in developing the high north. China declares itself to be a “near Arctic state” and an “Arctic stakeholder,” even though its northernmost territory lies more than 1,000 miles south of the Arctic Circle. As the most populous country in the world, China claims that it should have a say in Arctic policy and disagrees with Arctic issues being decided by Arctic states alone. More broadly, given the region’s resource reserves, shipping lanes, and implications for global warming, China argues that Arctic state interests and claims must be balanced against international interests in the seas an…

Who owns the North Pole Part 81

Russia's interests in the Arctic go beyond the economic and military advantages offered by the Northern Sea Route. The region is rich in minerals, wildlife, fish, and other natural resources. Some estimates claim that 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and almost one-third of the world's undiscovered natural gas reserves are located in the Arctic region. For now, the Arctic region is an area of low conflict, and it is in everyone's interest to keep it that way. Although the security challenges currently faced in the Arctic are not military in nature, there is still a requirement for military capability in the region that can support civilian authorities. So it should be no surprise that like Russia, other Arctic countries deploy military assets into the region. Even so, Russia has taken steps to increase military capability in the region that seems to be beyond the scope of supporting civilian operations.
Russia's primary military focus in the Arc…

Who owns the North Pole part 79

Russia will address the UN on the expansion of its Arctic shelf next spring. If successful the move would see the country adding an area of 1.2 million sq. kilometers in the Arctic Ocean, holding 5 billion tons of standard fuel, to its territory. The Russians now say they possess all the necessary studies to put an application together and present it to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). For the UN to recognize Moscow’s ownership of those areas, it must be scientifically proven that they are a continuation of the continental crust with the same general geological structure.
The move would permit Russia to increase its potential hydrocarbon reserves by at least 5 billion tons of standard fuel, Sergey Donskoy, the country’s natural resources minister, said, adding that “those are just the most humble assessments, and I’m sure that the actual figure will be a lot larger.”
Over 60 large hydrocarbon fields have been discovered above the Arctic Circle, with 43 of…

Who owns the North Pole part 78

There is a great deal at stake in the Arctic.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of its natural gas. There are also significant coal and iron ore deposits. As the ice retreats, new fishing zones are opening up, and—most importantly—so are shipping routes that trim thousands of miles off voyages, saving enormous amounts of time and money. Expanding trade will stimulate shipbuilding, the opening of new ports, and economic growth, especially in East Asia.
NATO’s top military commander, Adm. James G. Stavridis of the United States Navy, warned in 2010 of an “icy slope toward a zone of competition, or worse, a zone of conflict” if the world’s leaders failed to ensure Arctic peace. Tensions in the region arise from two sources: squabbles among the border states (Norway, Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden) over who owns what, and efforts by non-polar countries (China, India, t…

Who owns the North Pole (part 77)

The Arctic has attracted an increasingly intense gaze from the powerful nations that border it in the past decade, not least because it is thought to contain up to 30 percent of the world’s oil and gas. As technologies have advanced, more and more of those hydrocarbons have become recoverable and viable. The stretch of sea can also provide new shipping lanes for goods traveling between Asia and America and Europe. Russia already has rights to any territories located within 370 km of its border, but has lodged claims on a much bigger part of the territory with the UN, due to the existence of an underwater shelf, which would make a sizeable portion of the Arctic an extension of Russian territory. Canada and other Arctic powers have followed suit, with the exact divisions of territories expected to be decided over the course of the next decade.

Russia will have military control of the entirety of its 6,200 km Arctic coastal zone by the end of 2014, just a year after Moscow announced its…

Who Owns the North Pole (part 76)

The U.S. will assume leadership of the international Arctic Council this week. The Arctic Council consists of representatives from eight countries—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States—plus permanent participants representing indigenous peoples.  For environmentalists, by opening U.S. Arctic waters to oil drilling leases, the Obama Administration hasn't instilled confidence in its stewardship of the complex and swiftly changing ecosystem. A Clean Air Task Force report, "The Last Climate Frontier" said "For climate change, the Arctic is the lynchpin—the future of the Arctic will determine the future of all coastal communities, from Miami to Norfolk to Shanghai."  Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies," told Environment & Energy. "Climate change and the policies around climate change have different meanings to each of the eight Arctic members.…

Who Owns the North Pole (part 74)

“Our government is … expanding our economic and scientific opportunities by defining Canada’s last frontier,” said Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq in a Canadian government statement. “This is important to Canadians, especially those in the North, as this is their future and prosperity at stake.”

Russia's growing military presence in the Arctic is a concern and Canada should not get complacent about it, Canada’s  Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.  Russia is busy rebuilding former Soviet-era military bases in its north, and has a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and icebreakers patrolling its waters. Russian planes have also tested the boundaries of Canadian airspace, Harper said. "I just think we should not be complacent, because we have seen over the period that President Putin has been in power just a gradual growing in aggressiveness of his government toward neighbours and the gradual military assertiveness of that country, and I just think it's something we s…

Who owns the North Pole part 70

A Russian military official told Russian media that the Kremlin was forming a new strategic military command to protect its interests in the Arctic. The formation of the new command follows a December 2013 order from Russian President Vladimir Putin to ramp up Russia's military presence in the Arctic. Putin said Russia was returning to the Arctic and "intensifying the development of this promising region" and that Russia needs to "have all the levers for the protection of its security and national interests."

"The new command will comprise the Northern Fleet, Arctic warfare brigades, air force and air defense units as well as additional administrative structures," a source in Russia's General Staff told RIA Novosti.

Russia created the Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command to protect oil and gas fields on the Arctic shelf.

 Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States — the five countries that have a border with the Arctic — have been…

Who Owns the North Pole (Part 69)

"A great chess game is being played with countries staking claims to the Arctic to make sure they are not left out. Climate change is taking place at twice the global average speed in the Arctic. Some countries, like China, are looking 50 years ahead," said Malte Humpert, director of the Washington-based thinktank the Arctic Institute.

 The Arctic has now become a true strategic hot spot at the centre of global interest. The high north embodies high stakes. A paradigm shift in international politics is taking place," said Sturla Henriksen, head of the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.

The city of Nadym, in the extreme north of Siberia, is one of the Earth's least hospitable places, shrouded in darkness for half of the year, with temperatures plunging below -30C and the nearby Kara Sea semi-permanently frozen. Over the next 30 years climate change is likely to open up a polar shipping route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, cutting travel time to Asia by…

Who Owns the North Pole - Part 68

Canadian officials confirmed Monday that the nation is preparing to include the North Pole as part of its Arctic Ocean seabed claim in the multi-country push to prove jurisdiction over further territory in the resource-rich area.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Arctic Council chair Leona Aglukkaq officially announced Monday Canada’s claim to the extended continental shelf in the Arctic. It was reported by The Globe and Mail last week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper requested a government board charged with assessing Canada’s claims beyond its territorial waterways, per United Nations rules, to seek a more expansive stake of Arctic area to include the North Pole.

"We have asked our officials and scientists to do additional work and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the continental shelf in the Arctic includes Canada's claim to the North Pole," Baird said during a press conference at the House of Commons.

The North Pole …

Who owns the North Pole - Part 67

While many existing oil and gas reserves in other parts of the world are facing steep decline, the Arctic is thought to possess vast untapped reservoirs. Approximately 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil deposits and 30 percent of its natural gas reserves are above the Arctic Circle, according to the United States Geological Survey. Eager to tap into this largess, Russia and its Arctic neighbors — Canada, Norway, the United States, Iceland and Denmark (by virtue of its authority over Greenland) — have encouraged energy companies to drill in the region.

 Arctic drilling poses an unacceptable threat to the region. Any major spill that occurs there is likely to prove far more destructive than the one produced in the Gulf of Mexico by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010, because of both the lack of adequate response capabilities and the likelihood that ice floes and sea ice will impede cleanup operations. As more companies push into the Arctic and accelerate their operati…

Who owns the North Pole Part 66

The United States warns that it will defend its sovereignty in the face of strengthening international interest in newly opening shipping lanes and natural resource extraction opportunities as the region’s ice disappears.

 US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel says experts now expect a tenfold increase over those numbers along what is known as the Northern Sea Route.

“With Arctic sea routes starting to see more activities like tourism and commercial shipping, the risk of accidents increases. Migrating fish stocks will draw fishermen to new areas, challenging existing management plans,” Hagel told a security conference in Canada on Friday, where he announced the new strategy. And while there will be more potential for tapping what may be as much as a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas, a flood of interest in energy exploration has the potential to heighten tensions over other issues.” He added “Throughout human history, mankind has raced to discover the next frontier. And …

Who owns the North Pole 63

Cashing in on climate change 

 In preparation for Arctic routes, shipyards in South Korea, Singapore and India are building ice-strengthened cargo ships and tankers. Some of these are equipped with dual-directional technology that enables them to use a high efficiency bow on open seas, and an icebreaking stern when moving backwards through ice.

 The Chinese media refer to the Northern Sea Route as the "Arctic Golden Waterway". Professor Bin Yang of Shanghai Maritime University estimates the route could save his country $60bn to $120bn per year. The "Malacca dilemma" results from China's dependence on the Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia for over 80 percent of its oil imports. This leaves the country's energy supply vulnerable to interruption. Another major chokepoint is the Suez Canal, which is controlled by politically unstable Egypt. Ships wishing to use it must also transit the pirate-infested Arabian Sea. Then there is the Panama Canal,…

Who owns the North Pole Part 61

The UK is "complacently standing by" as firms start drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, a group of MPs has said. The Environmental Audit Committee said this was despite oil companies being unable to prove "they could clean up an oil spill in such harsh conditions". It called for a halt to new drilling, saying it was risky for the climate and the environment. Exploring for new reserves in the Arctic is therefore "needlessly risky", the MPs argued. "What happens in the Arctic will affect the UK, impacting our weather systems and biodiversity," committee chairwoman Joan Walley said. "Yet this government is complacently standing by and watching new oil and gas drilling in the region." She added: "The rapidly-disappearing Arctic sea ice should be a wake-up call for this government to tackle climate change, not pave the way for a corporate carve-up of the region's resources." Greenpeace UK political director Ruth Davis said th…

Who owns the North Pole - Part 60

US  Congressman Don Young testified in front of Armed Services Committee in support of Alaska national defense priorities.“We must be able to project power into the Arctic environment and extensive Arctic training is needed to do that.”

Canada recently took over the leadership of the Arctic Council and will be succeeded by the U.S. in 2015. There are fears that the Arctic could become an arena for political and military competition. With potential new shipping routes and countries further staking their claims to the vast untapped natural resources, defending strategic and economic interests may lead to rivalries in the region. There is also the possibility that conflicts which originate in other parts of the world could spillover and affect the stability of the Arctic.

 “One issue that has not received much attention is the need to discuss the growing militarization of the Arctic. While the Arctic Council is formally forbidden from discussing military security in the Arctic, the time…