Thursday, June 28, 2007

Russia's Arctic Land Grab

By Cernig

While the Bush administration have wasted years denying global warming, other nations have been thinking about how it will affect the geopolitical status quo and aiming to come out ahead of the game.
It is already the world's biggest country, spanning 11 time zones and stretching from Europe to the far east. But yesterday Russia signalled its intention to get even bigger by announcing an audacious plan to annex a vast 460,000 square mile chunk of the frozen and ice-encrusted Arctic.
According to Russian scientists, there is new evidence backing Russia's claim that its northern Arctic region is directly linked to the North Pole via an underwater shelf.

...Under international law, no country owns the North Pole. Instead, the five surrounding Arctic states, Russia, the US, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to a 200-mile economic zone around their coasts.
On Monday, however, a group of Russian geologists returned from a six-week voyage on a nuclear icebreaker. They had travelled to the Lomonosov ridge, an underwater shelf in Russia's remote and inhospitable eastern Arctic Ocean.

According to Russia's media, the geologists returned with the "sensational news" that the Lomonosov ridge was linked to Russian Federation territory, boosting Russia's claim over the oil-and-gas rich triangle. The territory contained 10bn tonnes of gas and oil deposits, the scientists said.

Russia's Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper celebrated the discovery by printing a large map of the North Pole. It showed the new "addition" to Russia - the size of France, Germany and Italy combined - under a white, blue and red Russian flag.
The Lomonosov ridge, the article explains, lies under only 200 metres of water which is very calm by Arctic standards and is getting more accessible as the icecap melts, making it a prime bit of oil-drilling real estate.

Nor has Russia been the only nation planning ahead. Canada is already thinking about the future to the extent of seeing a day when their national interests will clash, perhaps violently, with that of the U.S. over rights to the NorthWest Passage.

I find it incredibly ironic that the very same group of 26%-ers who still see Russia as an imminent threat to U.S. interests and are so gung-ho to revamp Reagan's anti-missile plans because of that fear have handed the prize to Russia by their continued denial of climate change. As long as the neocon think-tankers aren't able to warn about the geopolitical consequences of global warming because they're so busy denying the bleeding obvious, there's no political pressure on the Bush administration to make plans for future reality in the Arctic.

Which means that, in future, we could be treated to the spectacle of a Republican president holding hands with a Russian premier as Bush has with Abdullah, or some Russian merchant prince accepting $2 billion in bribes from Western companies and laundering them through a D.C. bank - because Russia and Canada have the primary claims to having the kind of oil-fuelled political power over the U.S. that has gone to Saudi Arabia over the last four decades.

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