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Prepare to project "credible combat power" in the new era of "strategic competition".
If the Arctic was an important stage in the Cold War, in the new geopolitical tension its progressive thawing even accentuates its strategic characteristics. In 2019, the US Defence department adapted its Arctic strategy to the new rivalry with Russia and China, and then it was up to the forces most involved in the region to implement it: in 2020 the Air Force presented its own document and in 2021 the Navy did so, also involving the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. The guidelines seek to ensure the projection of "credible combat power".
The crew of the submarine USS Connecticut at the ICEX 2020 exercises [US Navy].
article / Pablo Sanz
The Arctic is important because of the untapped natural wealth contained in its subsoil (22% of the world's hydrocarbon deposits, or 90 billion barrels of oil) and because of its strategic position on the globe: the two great continental masses of Eurasia and America converge here. The opening of new maritime routes thanks to the progressive melting of the ice is not only a commercial advantage, but also makes it possible to act militarily more quickly in this and other scenarios.
Many countries are interested in promote cooperation and multilateralism in the region, and this is done from the committee Arctic; however, the complex security environment of the Arctic Circle has led the major powers to set strategies to defend their respective interests. In the case of the United States, the Defence department updated in June 2019 the Arctic strategy it had developed three years earlier, in order to bring it into line with the new approach that emerged with the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and carried over into the 2018 National Defence Strategy (NDS), documents that leave behind the era of combating international terrorism and elevate the relationship with China and Russia to 'rivalry', in a new geopolitical status of 'strategic competition'.
The Pentagon's strategy for the Arctic was then fleshed out by the air force in its own report , presented in July 2020, and then by the navy in January 2021. Along the same general lines, these approaches framework are aimed at three objectives:
1) As an "Arctic nation", because of its sovereignty over Alaska, the United States must ensure security in its territory and prevent polar positions from threatening other parts of the country.
2) The United States seeks to establish and lead alliances and agreements in the Arctic in accordance with international law in order to maintain a stable status in the area.
3) The United States commits to preserving free navigation and overflight in the Arctic Circle, while limiting Russian and Chinese interference contrary to this general freedom of access and transit.
To achieve these objectives, the Pentagon has defined three mechanisms for action:
i) Raising awareness of the importance of the area: the ability of the Defence department to detect threats in the Arctic is a prerequisite for deterring or responding to activities of strategic competitors in the region.
ii) Enhance and promote operations in the Arctic: department Defence will improve the ability of its forces to operate in the Arctic through regular exercises and deployments to the region, both independently and with allies. Some exercises will be conducted within the NATO context while others will be bilateral or multilateral.
iii) Strengthen the rules-based order in the Arctic: department Defence will continue to work with US allies to maintain and strengthen the freedom of navigation and overflight regime. This will help deter aggressive acts in the area.
From the new NDS the Defence department states that the US military must be able to solve the main problem identified - the erosion of the competitive edge against China and Russia - by being able to "deter and, if necessary, defeat great power aggression". To do so, it must develop a force that is "more lethal, resilient, agile and ready", which in the Arctic region must achieve "credible deterrent power".
US military doctrine warns that the Arctic's character as a 'strategic buffer' is 'eroding', becoming 'a pathway of threat to national territory due to the advances of competing great powers'. It also 'hosts critical launching points for global power projection and increasingly accessible natural resources'. However, it warns that "the immediate possibility of conflict is leave".
Thus, in the context of implementing the national defence strategy, the Pentagon states that it will continue to prepare its units to ensure that the Arctic is a secure and stable region in which US national interests, regional security and the work joint efforts of the nations involved to address common problems are safeguarded.
The US Air Force and Navy documents outline supporting measures to ensure the ability to deter hostile actions in the Arctic by other regional competitors in the area, while prioritising a cooperative and continuous approach that preserves the rules by which the Arctic is governed.
Air and sea
Because the Gulf of Mexico current heads towards the European side of the Arctic, the North American side of the Arctic suffers even harsher environmental conditions, with less maritime infrastructure and land routes. As a result, the Air Force's role in the defence of this area is clearly greater, accounting for 80% of the resources the Pentagon devotes to the region.
Its operations are based at a number of locations. Six of these are in Alaska: the large airborne instructions at Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson; the early missile notice facility at Clear and the missile defence radar at Eareckson; and other coordination, training and survival school sites. Two others are in Greenland: the Raven training range for LC-130 aircraft and the Thule early missile notice site. In Canada, it has a system of some fifty radars shared by NORAD (North American Air Defence Command).
The air force intends to improve these capabilities, as well as command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C3ISR) capabilities. It has also set goal to enhance refuelling conditions. Once the F-35 deployment at Eielson is complete, Alaska will host more advanced fighters than any other location in the world.
For its part, the US Navy is positioning itself around the concept of the "Blue Arctic", thus graphically expressing the progressive homologation with the rest of the world's oceans of what has historically been an impassable white cap. The navy envisages increasing its presence, both with manned ships and new unmanned vessels. In its strategy document, it warns that the research in new capabilities "may not be fully realised and integrated into the naval force for at least a decade".
The increased naval presence in the region will also be realised through increased operations already routinely conducted in the Arctic by the Second and Sixth Fleets and through synchronisation with the Marine Corps and Coast Guard based in Alaska. To ensure this operational augmentation, the Navy will undertake an upgrade of docking facilities and attendance for its ships.
The Navy document, which does not specify specific preparations, also does not include the Coast Guard's announced plans for a new fleet of icebreakers. There are currently only two in service and the plan is to build three medium and three heavy icebreakers by 2029.
In doing so, Washington is trying to counter the accelerated efforts of its closest competitors. In July 2020, department warned of growing interest in the Arctic from Russia and China, accusing them of engaging in "increasingly aggressive" competition and lamenting that those countries that want "peace, freedom and democracy", including the United States, have been "naïve".
Russia and China
Russia has the largest land mass and population within the Arctic Circle, a region from which Russia derives 25 per cent of its GDP. No other country has such a permanent military presence above the 66th parallel; no other nation has so many icebreaking ships, a fleet Moscow wants to increase with fourteen new vessels, one of them nuclear-powered.
Russia formed its joint strategic command of the Northern Fleet in December 2014. "Since then, Russia has gradually strengthened its presence by creating new Arctic units, refurbishing old infrastructure and airfields, and establishing new military instructions along the coast. There is also a concerted effort to establish a network of air and coastal defence missile systems, early notice radars, rescue centres and a variety of sensors," according to the US defence report strategic Arctic department . The US also warns that Russia is attempting to regulate maritime traffic in the Northern Route in ways that may exceed its authority under international law.
China, on the other hand, without being an Arctic nation (Mohe, its northernmost city is at the same latitude as Philadelphia or Dublin) wants to be a major player in the region. It is an observer country of the committee Arctic and claims a "near-Arctic nation" status that Washington does not recognise. In 2018 it produced the first white paper on its Arctic policy and has integrated this area into its New Silk Road initiative.
China's diplomatic, economic and scientific activities in the Arctic have grown exponentially in recent years. At the moment its operational presence is limited: it has one Ukrainian-built polar-capable icebreaker (the Xuelong; it has recently built the Xuelong 2), which has sailed in Arctic waters on operations that China describes as research expeditions.
The opening of Arctic sea lanes is in China's interest, as it could shorten trade shipment times to Europe and reduce its dependence on flows through the particularly vulnerable Strait of Malacca.
Lately, China has been engaging in increased diplomatic activities with the Nordic countries and has research stations in Iceland and Norway, as well as mining resources in Greenland. This highlights Beijing's growing interest in consolidating its presence in the Arctic despite its remoteness from the region.
Russia's great financial capacity also means that it is counting on China to develop energy and infrastructure projects in the region, such as a liquefied natural gas facility in Yamal. According to Frédéric Laserre, an expert on Arctic geopolitics at Laval University, Russia has no choice but to accept Chinese capital to build and develop the infrastructure needed to exploit the resources due to Western economic sanctions.
Beijing has announced the construction of a fifth base, matching the US base at issue .
While there is widespread international monitoring of the major powers' position-taking in the Arctic, given that global warming opens up trade routes and possibilities for resource exploitation, geopolitical movements around Antarctica go more unnoticed. With any national claims to the South Pole continent frozen by existing agreements, the steps taken by the superpowers are minor but significant. As in the Arctic, China is a new player, and is stepping up its stakes.
▲ Shared camp for research science in Antarctica [Pixabay].
article / Jesús Rizo
Antarctica is the southernmost continent and at the same time the most extreme due to its geographical and thermal conditions, which seriously limit its habitability. Human presence is almost impossible in the so-called East Antarctic, which is two thousand metres above sea level and makes up more than two thirds of the continent, making it the highest altitude continent average. Moreover, since Antarctica is not an ocean, as is the Arctic, it is not affected, except in its continental perimeter, by the increase in sea temperatures due to climate change.
To these difficulties for human presence are added the limitations imposed by international provisions, which have applied a moratorium on any claim to sovereignty or commercial exploitation, something that does not happen in the Arctic. Action in Antarctica is strongly determined by the Antarctic Treaty (Washington, 1959) which, in its articles I and IX, reservation the continent for research scientific and peaceful purposes. In addition, it prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste (article V), and any non-peaceful military action (article I).
protocol This treaty is complemented and developed by three other documents: the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR, Canberra, 1980), the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCFA, London, 1988) and the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection (Madrid, 1991), which prohibits "any activity related to mineral resources, except for scientific research " until 2048. At final, the so-called Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) "shields" the Antarctic region from exploitation of its resources and increased international tensions, as it also freezes territorial claims for as long as it is in force. However, this does not prevent global powers from also seeking a foothold in Antarctica.
The most recent action corresponds to the People's Republic of China, which aspires to play a major role in the area, as is the case in the Arctic. Already with four scientific instructions sites on the southern continent (the Antarctic instructions Great Wall, Zhongshan, Kunlun and Taishan, the first two permanent and the last two functional in summer), last November it announced the construction of its fifth base (thus equalling the United States at issue ). The new facility, in the Ross Sea, would be operational by 2022.
In relation to these scientific stations, since Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China has been seeking to create a Specially Managed Antarctic Zone for the protection of the environment around the Kunlun base, something resisted by its regional neighbours, as it would give Beijing dominion over the activities carried out there. This is China's most important base, essential for its programs of study at subject astronomy and, therefore, for the development of the BeiDou, China's satellite navigation system, which is essential for the expansion and modernisation of its armed forces and rivals the GPS (US), Galileo (EU) and GLONASS (Russia) systems. In this respect, and in view of the military implications of Antarctica, the Treaty established the possibility for any country to carry out inspections of any of the instructions sites there, as a way of ensuring compliance with the provisions of agreement (article VII). However, the danger and cost of these inspections have meant that they have been considerably reduced, not to mention that the Kunlun base is located in one of the most climatically hostile regions of the continent.
On the other hand, China currently has two icebreakers, the Xue Long I and the Xue Long II, the latter built entirely on Chinese territory with the Finnish Aker Arctic attendance . Experts believe that, following the construction of this vessel, the People's Republic could be close to building nuclear-powered icebreakers, something that is currently only undertaken by Russia and which would have global consequences.
But the importance of Antarctica for China is not only reflected in the technical and technological advances it is making, but also in its bilateral relations with countries close to the southern continent such as Chile and Brazil, the former with original consultative status and with a territorial claim in the ATS, and the latter with consultative status only. Last September, the Andean country held the first meeting of the Joint Antarctic Cooperationcommittee with the People's Republic, in which, among other matters, the use of the port of Punta Arenas by China as a base for the supply of staff and materials to its Antarctic installations was discussed, conversations that will require further deepening. business As for Brazil, China's CEIEC (China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation) financed a new Brazilian Antarctic base worth $100 million in January.
Approximate location of the main Antarctic instructions . In blue, the US instructions , in red, the Russian , and in yellow, the Chinese .
Finally, it is worth analysing the weight of the US and Russia in Antarctica, although China is likely to be the most important player in the region, at least until the opening of the Madrid protocol for review in 2048. The United States has three permanent instructions (the instructions McMurdo, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Palmer) and two summer only (the instructions Copacabana and Cape Shirreff), so the construction of the new Chinese base will equal the issue total of the instructions US bases.
For its part, Russia, the dominant power in the Arctic, is also the dominant power in its southern counterpart, at least in terms of issue of instructions, since it has six, four of which operate annually (Mirni, Novolazarevskaya, Progrés and Vostok) and the other two only during the summer (Bellingshausen and Molodiózhnaya). However, it should be noted that Russia has not opened any Antarctic bases since the collapse of the USSR, the most recent being Progrés (1988), although it has tried, for example, to reopen the Soviet base Russkaya, without success. The United States also established most of its Antarctic instructions at the height of the Cold War, in the 1950s and 1960s, except for the two summer ones (Copacabana in 1985 and Cape Shirreff in 1991).
China, by contrast, opened the Great Wall base in 1985, the Zhongshan base in 1989, the Kunlun base in 2009 and the Taishan base in 2014 and, as mentioned above, has a new one pending for 2022.
In addition to the countries mentioned above, another twenty countries have instructions of research in Antarctica, including Spain, which has consultative status in the Antarctic Treaty. Spain has two summer instructions sites in the South Shetland Islands, the Juan Carlos I base (1988) and the Gabriel de Castilla base (1998). It also has a temporary scientific camp located on the Byers Peninsula of Livingston Island.
Chinese companies develop four mining projects on the island; Trump offered to buy it out
The melting of the Arctic ice opens up new sea routes and makes certain territories, such as Iceland and especially Greenland, whose enormous size also conceals vast natural resources, particularly valuable. Chinese mining companies have been present in the 'Green Land' since 2008; the Danish government has sought to curb Beijing's increasing influence by directly taking over the construction of three airports instead of having them placed under management . Copenhagen veiled fears that China will encourage Greenlandic independence, while the White House has offered to buy the island, as it has tried to do at other times in history.
▲ Population of Oqaatsut, on the east coast of Greenland [Pixabay].
article / Jesús Rizo Ortiz
Greenland is the largest island in the world, with more than 2 million square kilometres, while its inhabitants are less than 60,000, making it the least densely populated territory in the world. This reality, together with the natural wealth still to be exploited and the geographical location, give this Green Earth great geostrategic importance. Moreover, global warming and the struggle for the new world order between the US, China and Russia place this territory dependent on Denmark at the centre of geopolitical dynamics for the first time in its history.
Due to the melting of the Arctic Ocean, new communication routes are emerging between the American, European and Asian continents. These routes, although they will remain subject to limitations in the future, are becoming more and more accessible for longer periods of the year. Greenland is a strategic control and supply point for both the Northern route (following the northern contour of Russia) and the Northwest route (through the northern Canadian islands), not only for goods and commercial ships, but also in terms of security, as the melting of the ocean ice significantly shortens the distances between the main international players.
Greenland's geographical position is core topic, but also what lies beneath the ice that covers 77% of its surface. It is estimated that 13% of the world's oil reserves are found in Greenland, as well as 25% of the so-called rare earths (neodymium, dysprosium, yttrium...), which are essential in the production of new technologies.
Interest from China and the US
The prospects opened up by the increased possibility of navigation through the Arctic have led Arctic powers to develop their strategies. But also China, interested in a Polar Silk Road, has sought ways to be present in the Arctic circle, and has found a gateway in Greenland.
China's foreign policy is largely focused on implementing projects in areas where its financial power is needed, and it is doing so in places where it is needed, such as Africa and Latin America, development . This subject action is also being carried out in Greenland, where Chinese companies have been present since 2008. The main Danish political parties view this connection with Beijing with reticence, but the reality is that many of the Greenlandic population, more than 80 per cent of whom are of Inuit origin, value positively the possibilities for local development investment opened up by Chinese investment. This different perspective was particularly evident when in 2018 the Greenland government promoted three international airports (expansion of the airport in the capital, Nuuk, and construction in the tourist sites of Ilulimat and Qaqortog), which together represented the largest public works contract in its history. Although an offer from the state-owned construction company CCCC was quickly received from China, Copenhagen finally decided to provide Danish public funds and to participate in the ownership of the airports, given the misgivings about the Chinese initiative.
China is in any case present in four previous mining-related projects run by both state-owned and private companies, all of them following the geopolitical purposes of the Chinese government, whose Ministry of Information Technology and Industry has expressed its interest in Greenlandic activity. These four projects are the Kvanefjeld project for rare earth mining, mainly financed by Shenghe Resources; the Iusa project for iron ore mining, fully financed by General Nice; the Wegener Halvø project for copper mining, supported by Jiangxi Zhongrun after a agreement with Nordic Mining in 2008; and finally, the so-called Citronen Base Metal project, at position of China Nonferrus Metal Industry's Foreign Engineering and Construction (NFC).
The United States is not lagging behind in its interest in Greenland. As early as the 1860s, US President Andrew Johnson highlighted Greenland's importance in terms of resources and strategic position. Almost a century later, in 1946, Harry Truman offered the Danish government to buy Greenland for $100 million in gold. Although Denmark rejected the offer, it did agree to the establishment of a US air base at Thule in 1951. This is the northernmost military base in the world, which was core topic during the Cold War and is still in operation today. This base gives the US an advantage not only in the face of the commercial opening of new sea crossings, but also in the face of a hypothetical Sino-Russian coalition seeking to dominate the Northern route. In other words, given Greenland's dual importance (natural resources and security), it is understandable that someone as unconventional as Donald Trump has once again suggested the possibility of buying the huge island, something that Copenhagen has declined to do.
Projected pathways through the Arctic; the top row corresponds to the melting that could occur with low emissions, the bottom row in the case of high emissions [Arctic Council].
At the centre of a 'Great Game
Aside from the current unfeasibility of such an operation subject without taking into account, among other things, the will of the population, it is true that a Great Game is taking place between the main international players to count Greenland among their geostrategic cards.
1) The US already has a military presence in Greenland, as well as good relations with NATO members Denmark and Iceland, so control of the Denmark Strait is guaranteed, as well as the space between Greenland, Iceland and the UK (known as the GIUK Gap), which connects the Arctic with the North Atlantic. However, Washington will have to change its strategy if it wants to take control of Greenland, starting by improving its relations with the Danish government and funding projects on the island.
2) Although not prominent in relation to Greenland, Russia enjoys pre-eminence in the entire Arctic region. It is by far the country with the largest military presence in the area, having reused some of the Soviet installations. It is the hegemonic power along the entire Northern route, considered by the Kremlin to be the main national communication route. Given Russia's absolute empire over this route, the ice that still covers it for much of the year, and US control of its Atlantic side, this route will not (at least in principle) be a real and profitable alternative to the Strait of Malacca, much to China's discomfort.
3) China presented its Arctic policy white paper in 2018, in which it defined itself as a 'quasi-Arctic power'. For the time being, it has set its sights on Greenland as a key point on its Polar Silk Road. The northern route would cut transport time between Asian and European ports by about a week and would be a much-needed alternative to the Strait of Malacca. The big island has so far focused on resource extraction, following its own cautious modus operandi. Moreover, the Chinese funds provide Greenlanders with an alternative to absolute dependence on Denmark, which additionally favours the island's nationalist pretensions.
States are torn between securing national sovereignty and cooperation between neighbours.
No other region of the world is likely to be as important a geopolitical game-changer as the Arctic. The melting ice opens up huge logistical prospects and enhances the value of territories north of the Arctic Circle because of the access they provide to untapped natural resources. Many issues are being agreed by the eight members of the Arctic committee , although of these it is Russia, Canada and the United States that are seeking to exert the most influence in the region. Let us examine the Arctic strategy being pursued by these three countries.
article / Martín Biera Muriel
The Arctic Circle comprises 6% of the Earth's total surface, covering 21 million square kilometres. As temperatures rise and the effects of global warming worsen, the Arctic ice sheet is shrinking, revealing an area rich in raw materials and natural resources, and increasing its strategic importance for the maritime connection between Europe and Asia. This has made the Arctic a region of great geopolitical significance in the 21st century International Office .
Agencies from various countries, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US National Snow & Ice Data Center, as well as international organisations and companies of different nationalities, point out that the ice cover on the Arctic shelf has been considerably reduced due to the consequences of climate change and rising temperatures. This allows states with sovereignty over these waters and islands easy access to the region, providing an opportunity for the exploitation of oil, natural gas, minerals, fisheries, shipping and tourism.
As early as 2008, the US Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic contained approximately 240 billion barrels of oil and natural gas, a figure that constitutes about 10 per cent of the world's existing resources; this does not take into account the amount of resources that, for practical reasons, have not yet been discovered. In total, it is estimated that undiscovered resources would comprise 16% of the world's oil reserves, 30% of the world's gas reserves and 26% of the world's natural gas reserves; about 84% of these resources are offshore. Estimates suggest that 10 trillion barrels of oil and 1.55 quadrillion cubic metres of natural gas may exist in the Arctic subsurface.
The Arctic committee
The Arctic committee , established in 1996, is a high-level intergovernmental forum for policy discussions on issues common to the governments of the Arctic states and their inhabitants. It is the only circumpolar forum for policy discussions on Arctic issues. All Arctic states are members, with the active participation of their indigenous peoples. It has eight members: Iceland, Denmark, Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Norway and Finland. In terms of its functioning, it is divided into different groups of work and task forces, each of which has its own fields of action and functions. Thus, there is the Artic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), whose function is to promote mechanisms for states to reduce pollutant emissions, or the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR), which seeks to protect the environment from possible accidental releases of pollutants. Although their presence is very limited, it is worth noting that on numerous occasions the different task forces and groups of work have managed to achieve the objectives they had planned, such as, for example, a reduction in CO2 emissions.
Of the eight countries that are part of the Arctic committee , Canada, the United States and Russia have the most influence in the region. What strategies are each of them pursuing?
Canada: more means to patrol the waters
For Canada, the Arctic is not only central to its national identity, but represents a potential for the country's future, especially in subject geopolitics. The Canadian government sees the Arctic as a area of opportunities and challenges, which it groups into four areas: exercising its sovereignty, promote the development economic and social, protecting the environment, and improving its governance in the northern regions. These four pillars of Canada's Arctic policy are manifold: resolving territorial disputes, maintaining sovereignty and security in the Arctic territory, promote the conditions for sustainable development and addressing governance of emerging issues such as public safety or pollution, among others.
Since 2007, Canada has strengthened its defence efforts to ensure sovereignty over its Arctic territory. That year it announced measures to increase its capabilities in the area, which have included the launch of the RADARSAT-2 satellite to monitor the Arctic and the deployment of 1,500 troops to patrol Arctic waters. For the latter role, icebreakers and maritime patrols have been added. The government also announced increased investment in the Canadian Ranger Corps to improve its presence in the area and to work with the North American Aerospace Defence Command to monitor Canada's northern airspace.
United States: Pentagon sets out its Arctic Strategy
US activity in the Arctic, a region to which it has belonged since the purchase of Alaska, encompasses a broad spectrum of activities, from resource extraction and trade to science and national defence operations. The strategy of the US Arctic Defence department is to maintain a secure and stable region, where US interests are safeguarded and its sovereign space protected, and where nations work together to address a range of challenges, including, most notably, climate change. The US strategy has two objectives:
Ensuring and supporting security and promote defence cooperation.
Prepare for a wide range of challenges and contingencies.
In addition, the department Defence stated in a document called Arctic Strategy that these objectives should be achieved through innovative approaches, with low budget and through multilateral exercises with other countries, such as the Search and Rescue Exercise. To achieve these goals, the Defence department set out a number of strategies: exercising sovereignty in its territory, engaging public and private sector entities to improve domain awareness in the Arctic, partnering with other Departments, agencies and nations to support human and environmental security, and so on. The department Defence, at partnership with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, developed an analysis and reporting programme to monitor regional activity and anticipate future trends so that future investments can sustain human activity in the region over time.
Russia: more coastline, greater access to resources
Russia is the polar state with the longest coastline, which gives it much greater access to certain resources, such as oil, than other countries, including Canada, which is the second most coastal polar state. In recent months Russia has seen an increase in natural resource production in the Arctic, especially hydrocarbons. It is worth noting that international sanctions over the Crimean crisis have meant a challenge for Russian production, which is why the Arctic is core topic for its development. Russia' s policy in the North Pole is based on two levels, military and defence, with the following objectives:
Use the resources in the region, mainly oil and gas, to promote Russia's economic development .
Maintain the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation.
Preserving ecology in the Arctic.
The northern route to be recognised as a transport route.
On the military side, the need to maintain troops in case of attack in the region continues. instructions In recent years Russia has therefore developed radar systems to monitor its domain, and has also encouraged the construction of small military airfields, ports and airfields to protect its territory. Notably, the port city of Severomorsk is home to the headquarters of the North Sea Fleet, one of the world's largest submarine fleets and the world's only nuclear Wayside Cross , called Peter the Great.
Notwithstanding this emphasis on military and defence issues, Russia also proposes the option of reaching agreements with other Arctic states, regardless of their size, to enhance cooperation.
Environment, development economic, defence
The elaboration of specific Arctic strategies by the countries present in the region shows that area is a relevant scenario for geopolitics and International Office in the 21st century. The states involved move on two levels: that of cooperation with their neighbours, in matters such as environmental protection and commitment to a sustainable economic development , and that of defence of their own interests, particularly in terms of ensuring sovereignty over their Arctic territories and preserving the rights that these may grant them in a future shared exploitation of the area .
If we look at the theories of International Office, the Arctic states play on the realist plane of taking positions vis-à-vis others, thinking about any future competition, and at the same time on the liberal plane of willingness to cooperate and jointly solve problems.
[Admiral James Stavridis, Sea Power. The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans. Penguin Press. New York City, 2017. 363 pages]
review / Iñigo Bronte Barea [English version].
In the era of globalisation and its communication society, where everything is closer and distances seem to fade away, the body of water between continents has not lost the strategic value it has always had. Historically, the seas have been both a channel for human development and instruments of geopolitical domination. It is no coincidence that the great world powers of the last 200 years have themselves been great naval powers. The dispute over maritime space is still going on today and there is nothing to suggest that the geopolitics of the seas will cease to be crucial in the future.
These principles on the importance of maritime powers have changed little since they were set out in the late 19th century by Alfred T. Mahan. Today, Sea Power. The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans, by Admiral James G. Stavridis, who retired in 2013 after leading the US Southern Command, the US European Command and the supreme command of NATO.
The book is the fruit of Mahan's early reading and an extensive degree program of nearly four decades on the seas and oceans with the US Navy. At the beginning of each explanation of the different sea spaces, Stavridis recounts his brief experience in that sea or ocean, then continues with the history, and the development they have had, until arriving at their current context. Finally, there is a projection of the near future of the world from the perspective of marine geopolitics.
Pacific: China's emergence
Admiral J.G. Stavridis begins his voyage in the Pacific Ocean, which he categorises as "the mother of all oceans" because of its immensity, since it alone is larger than the entire land surface of the planet combined. Another remarkable point is that in its vastness there is no considerable landmass, although there are islands all over the world subject, with very diverse cultures. This is why the sea dominates the geography of the Pacific like nowhere else on the planet.
The great dominator of this marine space is Australia, which is very much aware of what might happen politically in the island archipelagos in its vicinity. It was Europeans, however, who explored the Pacific well (Magellan was the first, around 1500) and tried to connect it with their world in a way that was not merely transitory and commercial, but stable and lasting.
The United States began its presence in the Pacific with the acquisition of California (1840), but it was not until the annexation of Hawaii (1898) that the huge country was definitively catapulted into the Pacific. The first time this ocean emerged as a total war zone was in 1941 when Pearl Harbour was massacred by the Japanese.
With the return of peace, the Japanese revival and the emergence of China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong caused trans-Pacific trade to overtake the Atlantic for the first time in the 1980s, and this trend is still continuing. This is because the Pacific region contains the world's major powers on its shores.
degree program At area geopolitics a major arms race is taking place in the Pacific, with North Korea as a major focus of global tension and uncertainty.
Atlantic: from the Panama Canal to NATO
As for the Atlantic Ocean, Stavridis refers to it as the cradle of civilisation, since the Mediterranean is included among its territories, and even more so if we consider it as the nexus between the peoples of the Americas and Africa and Europe. It has two great seas of great historical importance, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Undoubtedly the historical figure of this ocean is Christopher Columbus, since his arrival in America (Bahamas 1492) initiated a new historical period that ended with practically the entire American continent being colonised by the European powers in the following centuries. While Portugal and Spain concentrated on the Caribbean and South America, the British and the French concentrated on North America.
During the First World War, the Atlantic became an essential transit zone for the war development as the United States transported troops, war materials and goods to Europe during the conflict. It was here that the idea of an Atlantic community began to take shape, leading to the creation of NATO.
As for the Caribbean, the author sees it as a region that is rooted in the past. Its colonisation was characterised by the arrival of slaves to exploit the region's natural resources for purposes of economic interest to the Spanish. In turn, this process was characterised by the desire to convert the indigenous population to Christianity.
The Panama Canal is a driving force for the region's Economics , but Central America is also sailing along the coasts of the countries with the highest violence fees on the planet. Admiral Stavridis sees the Caribbean coast as a kind of Wild West, which in some places has evolved little since the days of pirates, and where drug cartels now operate with impunity.
Since the 1820s, with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States carried out a series of interventions through its navy to bolster regional stability and keep Europeans out of places such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Central America. In the 20th century, politics was dominated by caudillos, and soon communism and the Cold War came with them to the Caribbean, with Cuba as ground zero.
Indian Ocean and Arctic: from unknown to risky
The Indian Ocean has less history and geopolitics than the other two great oceans. Despite this, its tributary seas have gained geopolitical importance in the post-World War II era with the rise of global shipping and the export of oil from the Gulf region. The Indian Ocean today could be seen as a region for wielding smart power rather than hard power. While the slave trade and piracy have dwindled almost everywhere, they are still present in parts of the Indian Ocean. It is a region where countries around the world could work together to combat these common problems.
The history of the Indian Ocean does not inspire confidence about the potential for peaceful governance in the years to come. An important core topic to unlock the region's potential would be to resolve the existing conflicts between India and Pakistan (a conflict with the risk of nuclear weapons) and the Shia-Sunni divide in the Persian Gulf, issues that make it a very volatile region. Due to tensions in the Gulf countries, the region is today a kind of cold war between the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites, led by Iran, and between these two sides, the United States, with its Fifth Fleet, is at the centre.
Finally, the Arctic is currently an unknown quantity. Stavridis sees it as both a promise and a danger. Over the centuries, all oceans and seas have been the site of epic battles and discoveries, but there is one exception: the Arctic Ocean.
It seems clear that this exceptionality is coming to an end. The Arctic is an emerging maritime frontier with increasing human activity, rapidly melting ice shelves and significant hydrocarbon resources coming within reach. However, there are major risks that will dangerously condition the exploitation of this region, such as weather conditions, unclear governance due to the confluence of five bordering countries (Russia, Norway, Canada, the United States and Denmark), and geopolitical competition between NATO and Russia, whose relations have deteriorated in recent years.
Melting ice has caused icebergs to break off and pose a risk to navigation, but in Antarctica, geopolitics is partially frozen.
Rising temperatures are opening up the Arctic to trade routes and to competition between countries for future control of its subsoil riches. In Antarctica, with lower temperatures and slower melting, what lies beneath the white mantle is not an ocean, but a continent far from shipping lanes and the direct interests of major powers. There are reasons why major international actors prefer to keep any claims about the South Pole on the fridge.
ARTICLE / Alona Sainetska [English version].
Antarctica is a continent with mountain ranges and lakes, surrounded by an ocean and with a total area of 14 million square kilometres. Because of its location at opposite poles, Antarctica is often compared to the ice mass of the Arctic Ocean, which is instead a sea ice surrounded by land. In those northern parts of Eurasia and America, north of the Arctic Circle parallel, about 4 million people live. In contrast, Antarctica, with its average temperature of -49°C, is absolutely uninhabitable and is today considered a natural sanctuary that attracts the attention of many countries in the international community.
Despite not presenting, at first sight, significant elements of conflict in the global system as a whole, the sovereignty of its territory has never been free of disputes and territorial claims by countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, France, Argentina and Chile. Although later left at Fail, the claims of these countries did not interfere with each other, except in the case of Argentina and Chile, whose claims were over land with higher concentrations of Antarctic shrimp or krill and which had already been claimed in whole or in part by England.
The interests of the aforementioned countries and also those of the non-claimant superpowers, such as the United States and the USSR, which showed little desire to turn both the continent and the maritime space into an object of political-military confrontation, coincided in a transcendental way on this issue. This fact greatly facilitated negotiations on the future legal status of "the frozen continent".
The first attempt to establish a special legal regime for Antarctica was made by the United States in 1948. However, this idea failed when confronted with the civil service examination of countries wishing to extend their sovereignty to Antarctic territories. It was only two years later that the continent again aroused the interest of the major powers when the USSR announced that it would not accept any agreement on Antarctica in which it was not represented.
Faced with the need to reach a consensus, and as a result of the enormous efforts of the world's academic community , a climate of cooperation and international dialogue on Antarctica was born, which allowed free access to the continent for scientists of any nationality, as well as the exchange of the results of their research. This new context led to the Antarctic Treaty (AT), which entered into force on 23 June 1961, signature on 1 December 1959. Any possible modification, by majority vote, was postponed until a lecture planned for 30 years after its entry into force; when 1991 arrived, not only were no changes implemented, but safeguards were added.
In the AT, the countries involved undertook to recognise a special legal regime for Antarctica, giving it the status of "terra nullius". It also provided for the demilitarisation of the Antarctic continent, which reserved the frozen space exclusively for peaceful purposes and prohibited the establishment of instructions military.
On the other hand, it proclaimed the freezing of all claims to territorial sovereignty over Antarctica, and during the period of validity of the treaty no new claims could be made or those previously made extended.
It also established the right to appoint observers to ensure compliance with the objectives of the treaty and provided for periodic meetings of the original signatory states to the AT, plus other states granted consultative status for carrying out important scientific missions in Antarctica.
Scientific and economic potential
In 1991, a further step was taken in the conservation of the frozen giant. goal With the aim of responding to issues such as climate change and the need to protect the special ecosystem that the continent represented, the so-called protocol "complementary" to the AT on environmental protection was signed in Madrid. The condition for its entrance entry into force was that it be ratified by all the consultative members of the Antarctic Treaty. It prohibited any subject exploitation of mineral resources other than for scientific purposes. This ban could only be lifted by a unanimous agreement and it kept the continent away from possible plundering of its vast natural resources. Antarctica thus became a unique place in the world for the coexistence of man and nature.
However, recent decades have introduced many strategic changes that have given rise to serious doubts and concerns about the effectiveness of the AT. Its scientific and economic potential, together with its enormous biodiversity and wealth of natural resources, have greatly increased Antarctica's importance. The increased interaction and interdependence of the different national, international and transnational actors that make up the global community has also multiplied the desire to influence and participate, in different ways, in the pursuit of particular interests in this part of the world.
Thus, alongside projects to guarantee environmental conditions, such as the discussion on the creation of a large natural preservation area in the Ross Sea, controversial initiatives are sometimes launched to make use of Antarctic resources, such as the one suggested by the United Arab Emirates to tow icebergs that break off the Antarctic ice mass to the Middle East in order to combat drought and meet the needs of its population (Antarctica contains 80% of the planet's freshwater reserves).
Such icebergs, on the other hand, can pose a threat to shipping and trade, especially if they are large, as may be the case with the Larsen C ice shelf, which is increasingly close to collapse, leaving a huge 5,800 square kilometre iceberg adrift.
Countries with different weights
Although a possible exploitation of Antarctica is not envisaged in the short or medium term deadline and remains hypothetical for the time being, thanks to the disadvantages resulting from the continent's remoteness and its harsh and unfavourable conditions, there is a risk of a future deployment of economic activity in the Antarctic region on a global scale. The latter will depend on international alignments that may emerge.
The alignments in relation to Antarctica take their cue from the management structure imposed by the Treaty, which includes three categories of membership:
The original signatories (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States) which participate as of right in the consultative meetings of the TA where decisions are taken ( plenary session of the Executive Council ).
Those States wishing to join and which, having developed significant scientific activities, obtain consent to participate in the Consultative Meetings (e.g. Poland, Germany, India, Brazil, China and Uruguay).
States that join, but which, because they do not carry out significant scientific activity, cannot participate in decision-making (Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Hungary, Bulgaria, Peru, Italy, New Guinea, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Romania and Finland).
status A similar collision of interests on the part of international actors is taking place at the opposite pole of the Earth, the Arctic. Its climatic conditions are much warmer, allowing its sensitive ice sheet to thaw. Thus, global warming-induced thawing makes the Arctic's energy wealth increasingly accessible (it is estimated to hold 13 per cent of the world's remaining oil and 30 per cent of its remaining natural gas) and thus intensifies the battle for the rights to exploit it by countries such as Denmark, Canada, the United States, Norway and Russia. On the other side is China, for whom the thaw has multiple positive consequences, such as the opening of a new, much shorter inter-oceanic shipping route between northern Europe and Shanghai, or easy access to mining in areas such as Greenland.
The abundance of key minerals in technology, the opening of new shipping routes, and the fact that the land around the Arctic Circle is habitable, with benevolent conditions and increasingly easy access, make it highly likely that the Arctic will be integrated into the global economic structure sooner than the Antarctic.