Military cooperation and war over resources in the Arctic

I found this article from The Voice of Russia on my way to Moscow. China starts to get interested in the Arctic too now: “Ottawa is considering the construction of the Royal Canadian Air Force base at Resolute Bay, Nunavut, which is to have a 3,000-metre paved runway to accept heavy cargo aircrafts and ensure stable government and military operation in the North. The Arctic states and some other global players, including China, are now looking for their political, economic and military interests to be satisfied in the region.

Late last year, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that his country would expand its military presence in the Arctic. Last week Canadian National Defence Minister Peter MacKay presented a report headlined The Arctic Council: Its Place in the Future of Arctic Governance (PDF Download here!), in which he outlined Ottawa`s position on the problems currently faced by the North.

Resolute Bay is one of key base for Canada`s Arctic operation. As soon as it gets the 3,000-metre paved runway, it will be used as a transportation hub linking remote areas. Speaking about the countries involved in a rivalry for Arctic resources, one cannot ignore China. Beijing has already launched the negotiations with Denmark over access to Greenland resources. Copenhagen, in turn, supports China`s bid for permanent observer statuson the eight member Arctic Council, which comprises the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Iceland and Finland.

Competition for Arctic resources has always had a military undertone. The regional neighbours, even allies, such as Iceland and Great Britain, both NATO member states, have had conflicts over fishing and oil and gas exploration on the shelf.

Russia enjoys the most advantageous geographical location of all Polar nations and has the largest territory bordering the region. It, however, gives no grounds for not bothering to replace wornout infrastructure and urgently deal with environmental problems. Pollution from radioactive waste has turned into a very thorny issue, which is now being addressed by the Russian government.

It should not be ignored that most Arctic facilities serve both civil and military purposes. While Canada and the U.S. are considering expanding their exiting facilities and building the new ones, Russia must do its best to preserve what it already has on the ground. Ineffective commercial use of the Northern Sea Route is just the tip of the iceberg.

All these problems require a comprehensive approach. The Arctic states` governments and their think tanks should develop a long-term program for Arctic exploration. The future of the Russian Arctic now fully depends on how realistic and well-conceived this program is.

Image above from AWI


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