28 June 2007

Russians Encroaching on North Pole?

Bourque today has a link to the UK Daily Mail report on Vladimir Putin launching a highly controversial claim on the Arctic and the North Pole. Given that Canada is sending up the HMCS Corner Brook to that very area as we speak, no doubt this is highly intriguing. Canada, the US, Russia, and other countries all have competing claims on the Arctic region, which is going to grow in importance in the coming years if the global warming crowd is correct. Shipping lanes, new oil and gas exploration, diamonds, and who knows what all else are all going to be going up for grabs in the coming decades, and it is important for all parties who have a stake in the future of the Arctic to demonstrate the legitimacy of their claims.

Not surprisingly, Canada and the US both issued strong statements against the move by Putin. Things between Washington and Moscow have been deteriorating lately, and this will likely only futher rile the two former superpower rivals. We know that Stephen Harper has made concerted efforts to establish Canada's legitimacy in the Arctic, and this Russian endeavour certainly may be interpreted as encroaching on Canadian territory. Very interesting to see what, if anything, develops out of this.


John M Reynolds said...

While of course the USA will be interested, I wonder just how interested they will be. They are already having trouble getting a pipeline through Alaska. Going farther north is not going to help them with the current mindset of the general public. This of course is assuming the primary reason for wanting the arctic is for its oil reserves.

RGM said...

While economic and energy interests are always on the minds of Americans, there's also a lot of strategic concern about the Arctic on their part (and ours too, which is why Harper's been very strong and assertive regarding Canada's claims to the North). Once some of the ice melts and it gets easier for shipping to get through by going over the top, that's a new military line of defence that has to be opened up, for both us and them. We've been fortunately isolated from external attack from Europe, Asia, etc. for our entire history, but the opening up of the North calls that into question and will require some strategic assessments somewhere down the line.

Back to the oil reserves: I know that the Americans would be much happier if it was Canadian- (or even better, American-) than Russian-controlled. Oil and gas exploration may not be the primary strategic reason for interest in the Arctic, but it's almost certainly in the top five on any list, and with the current frost on relations between Washington and Moscow the idea of the Russians gaining even more access to energy isn't a welcoming idea for the US. There's going to be a bit of a crunch in the coming years as the US looks to alternatives to propping up corrupt Middle East dictatorships via petrodollars, and having secure access to alternative sources such as Canada would be greatly beneficial for them. Of course, all of this begs the question: how much is up there, and can it make a profound impact?

John M Reynolds said...

I wonder if the opening of the arctic is why Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signed onto the theory of anthropogenic global warming. Doing so justifies the building of the military strength of the north. Although, when I look at Google Maps, the satellite shots of the far north show it as open in the summer. While the North west passage opens every year, the key will be if it stays open all year round.