Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Canada Gets Ready To Challenge US Over Arctic Rights

By Cernig

While American conservatives are still denying global warming by any intellectual deception they can reach for, their Canuck cousins are reaching for new territory which the U.S. and others say is in international waters.
Since the end of the Cold War, Canada's modest military and coast guard have only rarely patrolled its northern coast line. Now Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the time has come to re-assert Canada's claim to the north.

At a dockside ceremony complete with brass bands, fluttering flags and sharp white uniforms, the prime minister promised to build at least six new patrol ships with ice-breaking hulls to extend his country's presence into the Arctic Ocean.

That presence, Ottawa hopes, will remind other countries - including the US - of Canada's claim to the waters off its northern coast.

The claim could also have serious economic implications. Natural resources including oil, gas and diamonds are thought to lurk - perhaps in abundance - under the Arctic ice.

And then there is the North-West Passage - the northern shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that European explorers sought for centuries.

With a warming climate, the route may just become viable and lucrative.

A deciding factor in the territorial disputes may be whether Canadians ever actually venture into the areas in question. And so the time has come, Ottawa says, to make sure that they do.
Other Arctic nations, like Russia and Norway, have also taken steps to claim vast chunks of currently frozen waste as their very own. In every case the U.S. and other nations say these land-grabs are extra-territorial. The Arctic nations are banking on their assessment that the U.S. and others have, essentially, no ability to project serious power into the frozen North in pursuit of keeping these areas international.

The geopolitics of climate change has been largely ignored by US foreign policy thinkers, mainly because the impetus for foreign policy planning this last decade and more has come from neoconservative groups while progressive think-tanks have mostly been simply reactive to that neocon impetus. That lack of foresight, brought on by the political imperative of conservative denial over global warming, will eventually bite the US on its ass.

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