Saturday, January 28, 2006

Arctic Circle - Canada's Not Kidding

Further to yesterday's Instahoglets item about the difference of opinion between America and Canada over territorial rights in the Arctic Circle, I thought it might be fun to see how the British Press are reporting it.

Cue first the ultra-liberal Independent newspaper:

Canada's Prime Minister- elect has issued a blunt "hands off" warning to the US over territorial rights in the Arctic...

...With global warming steadily melting the passage, the period during which it is navigable is growing year by year, offering access to untapped fish stocks, and a shipping route that shortens the journey between Europe and Asia by almost 2,500 miles.
But then look at what the Murdoch-owned and conservative London Times has to say - something few others have mentioned. Oil!
The melting of the ice pack is opening up vast reserves of offshore oil and gas, new shipping routes and fishing grounds...Helge Lund, the president of Statoil, Norway’s state oil company, said that a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, 375 billion barrels, lies under the Arctic Ocean. “It will never replace the Middle East but it has the potential to be a good supplement,” he said.
Indeed, some experts think oil reserves in the area claimed by Canada may be equal to those currently owned by Saudi Arabia.

The realpolitik is that no Canadian government, liberal or conservative, will walk away from that kind of revenue base. If they give in to American demands that the oil reserves lie under international waters then they give up the taxation windfall and that's just not going to happen. Lkewise, the current administration isn't going to let it's friends the big oil corporations be taxed if it can prevent it. Add in the revenues Canada could gain from fishing and from tolls on a newly opened NorthWest Passage (which would be at least 12 to 20 days shorter than alternative routes) and the money means that Stephen Harper isn't going to simply be Bush's "pool boy" no matter how much the morons at NRO may try to reassure their readers that he is exactly that.

Recently, the Washington Post ran a humorous and belittling article about US plans to invade Canada back in the 1930s. I sniff a Pentagon psy-ops plant of the kind they say they only run abroad. A symposium of U.S. Naval types in 2001 began from the assumption that the differences between the U.S. and Canada over Arctic sovereignty could "lead to conflict". A book by an officer of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in 2002 recommended keeping an entire aircraft carrier battle group and an amphibious ready group with embarked special-operations-capable Marine expeditionary unit and supporting forces on station in the ice-free Arctic Ocean against "the possibility of a peer competitor intent on aggressively confronting U.S. interests". A paper for "Defense Horizons" in 2003 noted challenges associated with easier access to Arctic sea routes.
Easy access to both the Northwest Passage (through the Canadian Archipelago) and the Northeast Sea Route (across the top of Russia) will assuredly invoke major legal issues with both Canada and Russia under the United Nations Law of the Seas. Easier access to the Arctic also invites other nations, including their militaries, to ply these seas. That would present the US with another coast to defend and necessitate devoting or creating forces capable of safe and effective operations there.
It continued to note how unprepared the U.S. Navy was for this, having cut down on it's Arctic capabilities drastically at the end of the Cold War. There are undoubtably more up-to-date plans to invade Canada.

This is not a case of Bush's pool boy saying something inflammatory to cajole Canucks into a sense of ease. In fact, the situation has a potential to become a lethal issue no less than the press for war with oil-rich states in the Middle East that are demonized prior to "liberation" by America's neocons.

It's a serious issue that will only get more pressing over time.