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America conducts subversive activities in friendly territories

November 14, 2010 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from Pravda, Moscow.

America conducts subversive activities in friendly territories
©  Pravda.ru
By Sergei Balmasov and Vadim Trukhachev
November 13, 2010

The United States found itself embroiled in a major spy scandal. As many as five countries caught the Americans illegally spying on their citizens.

Nobody would think it was strange if we were talking about the citizens of Russia, China, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. With these five countries, everything is clear: U.S. officials constantly refer to them as those presenting threats to the national security. But this time the U.S. was caught by quite friendly countries of Northern Europe – Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

The scandal erupted earlier this month. On November 3, Norwegian television channel TV2 released a report which stated that over ten years, a group of Americans have been doing surveillance on 15 to 20 Norwegian subjects – mostly participants of various kinds of rallies. Potential terrorists and other undesirable persons were photographed, and the information was sent to Washington.

The report stated that the purpose of the surveillance was supposedly to prevent terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies. Nordic Governments were not informed of such actions.

The spokesman of the U.S. State Department, Philip Crowley, on November 11 said that the Norwegian authorities have been notified about a covert operation. “We are implementing the program throughout the world and are vigilant against people who can keep track of our embassies, as we understand that our diplomatic missions are a potential target,” he explained.

However, the Scandinavians were not satisfied with this comment. A representative of the American embassy was called to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry for an explanation, but no clear answers were provided. It turns out that the surveillance was conducted without the knowledge of the Norwegian authorities.

If it was limited to Norway, this episode could have been considered an isolated case. Yet, after the Norwegians, Denmark spoke about the surveillance of its citizens. Local newspaper Politiken wrote that all American embassies have groups of employees leading external surveillance of suspicious persons in order to address threats to the U.S. security. It has been suggested that Denmark was hardly an exception.

Former head of the Danish security service PET Jorgen Bonniksen said that he had never heard of such groups: “If this is true, then we have to deal with illegal intelligence operations in Denmark. On Danish territory such operations can be conducted by PET, and PET only,” he stressed.

The current head of PET, Jakob Scharf, made it clear: if illegal activity is determined, “of course, we will take action.” Justice Minister of Denmark Lars Barfoeda has been summoned for an explanation to the Folketing (parliament). The U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, as well as in Oslo, provided no clear comments.

Followed by Norwegians and Danes, Swedes brought up the illegal activities of American agents. According to the Minister of Justice of Sweden Beatrice Ask, people connected with the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm have been spying on people on the Swedish territory since 2000. The Minister stated that it “is not yet known whether in this case Swedish law was violated.” She did not rule out that the objects of the surveillance actually might have been people who pose a threat to the U.S. security.

On his part, head of the local security police Anders Danielsson directly accused the U.S. of violating international norms. He said that the U.S. did not bother to inform the Swedish authorities of their intentions. “The Swedish security police (SÄPO) did not give the U.S. a permission to engage in activities that are contrary to Swedish law,” he said.

Representatives of the U.S. embassy were quick to say that “they have nothing to hide” and that they have notified the Swedish authorities about their actions. However, Sweden is the third country which had been “made aware.” Could the Scandinavian countries have entered into a conspiracy to defame the United States?

When we talk about three countries at once, it looks like a trend. Following its neighbors, Finland grew concerned as well. Local security police SUPO originally said it had not found anything illegal in the activities of the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. However, they immediately proceeded to a more detailed verification. Apparently, the Finns also did not believe the assurances of the Americans.

Only the small Iceland with the population of 320 thousand with no army is lacking to complete the picture. On November 11 it was revealed that the islanders also have questions for the U.S. Local authorities immediately declared that they suspected members of the American Embassy in Reykjavik in espionage. The diplomatic mission is being verified.

This is a stunning picture. The U.S. did not even consider it necessary to inform its allies of its actions on their territory, as if they were colonies. In fact, Denmark, Iceland and Norway joined NATO and, consequently, they entered the circle of the closest allies of the U.S. Finland and Sweden are not members of the North Atlantic alliance, but are working with it very closely. That’s how Americans value their allies.

However, Washington seems to have confused Scandinavians with Poland, Lithuania and Romania. These countries have repeatedly been suspected of placing secret CIA prisons on their territories. The authorities of these states have been blindly following in the footsteps of American politics in the past two decades. This is not true about rich countries of Northern Europe. Given the national pride of the Scandinavians, they are unlikely to forgive the Americans the dismissive attitude.

Denmark is the only country that followed the U.S. without asking questions. Sweden and Finland harshly condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Norway was among the first to withdraw its troops from Iraq, as well as (unlike Americans) has signed an agreement with Russia on the delimitation of the Arctic shelf. Even little Iceland allowed itself to contradict the States when it refused to extradite the late chess player Robert Fisher, who was facing a jail term at home.

The explanation of the incident with the need to combat terrorism, of course, can be taken into account. Radical Islamists are making themselves visible in Denmark and Sweden, as well as Norway and Finland. Yet, the United States could have informed the local security forces of their suspicions as these countries also have qualified staff. And as for surveillance of Icelanders – it is simply ridiculous. They have fewer than a hundred of Muslims, let alone Islamists.

The author of numerous books on the work of intelligence Alexander Kolpakidi commented on the behavior of the U.S. agents in the Nordic countries for Pravda.ru.

“There is nothing surprising here. U.S. intelligence services have always behaved that way around the globe. Virtually all countries of the world, including the members of European Union and NATO, have secret CIA tracking stations. This is not the first scandal of this kind. For example, several years ago, the Greek police found one of these stations having mistaken it for a terrorist base. When the attack began, “terrorists” opened a furious fire, killing a police officer.

Why is America conducting subversive activities in foreign territories, including, apparently friendly countries? This is because in an era of the global crisis, the U.S. changed its strategy. If before it had adhered to the concept of the “golden billion” according to which the good life was allowed to a limited group of countries, mainly Western countries, but now it has changed the strategy to the “golden million,” which implies that the good life is the exclusive privilege of the U.S. “.

[End.]

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Categories: CIA, DEN, EUR, FIN, ICELAND, NATO, NOR, SWE, USA, WORLD

Canada Opens Arctic To NATO, Plans Massive Weapons Buildup

August 29, 2010 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from Rick Rozoff.

Canada Opens Arctic To NATO, Plans Massive Weapons Buildup
©  Rick Rozoff
August 29, 2010

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently concluded the largest of a series of so-called Canadian sovereignty exercises in the Arctic, Operation Nanook, which ran from August 6-26.

Harper, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces General Walter Natynczyk visited the nation’s 900 troops participating in the “Canadian Forces’ largest annual demonstration of Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic”[1] which included “Canada’s air force, navy, coast guard… testing their combat capabilities in the frigid cold.”[2]

Nanook military exercises were commenced in 2007 when Russia renewed its claims to parts of the Arctic and resumed air patrols in the region after an almost twenty year hiatus. They are complemented by two other Canadian military drills in the region, Operation Nunalivut in the High Arctic and Operation Nunakput in the western Arctic.

Canada is formally involved in territorial disputes with two other Arctic claimants: The United States over the Beaufort Sea lying between Canada’s Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory and the American state of Alaska, and Denmark over the Hans Island between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Denmark’s Greenland possession on the other end of the Arctic.

Four of the five nations with Arctic claims, all except Russia, are founders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization whose charter commits member states to mutual military assistance.

With the melting of the polar ice cap and the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans for the first time in recorded history, the scramble for the Arctic – reported to contain 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil according to last year’s U.S. Geological Survey – is under way in earnest. The military value of the navigability of the passage is of even greater and more pressing significance.

The George W. Bush administration’s National Security Presidential Directive 66 of January 12, 2009 states:

“The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests. These interests include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.”[3]

The U.S. insists that the Northwest Passage is open to international navigation while Canada claims it as solely its own. Yet Ottawa has accommodated Washington at every turn while persisting in saber-rattling comments and actions alike vis-a-vis Russia.

Sixteen days after the release of the White House’s Arctic directive of last year NATO conducted a two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Iceland attended by the military bloc’s secretary general, its two top military commanders and the chairman of its Military Committee, and stated that “Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance.”[4]

Although Canada’s territorial disputes in the Arctic are with fellow NATO members the U.S. and Denmark, the three nations have recently coordinated their strategies and in this year’s Operation Nanook have for the first time collectively participated in military exercises in the Arctic region.

In mid-July NATO’s chief European military commanders, Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Sir John McColl, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, arrived in the Canadian capital at the invitation of the nation’s military chief, General Walter Natynczyk. The three consulted on “how to take the Alliance forward” and Stavridis “conveyed his latest appraisal of NATO’s progress in Afghanistan and commended Canada on its contributions to NATO’s efforts around the world.”[5]

Canadian Defence Minister MacKay stated almost two years ago: “We are concerned about not just Russia’s claims through the international process, but Russia’s testing of Canadian airspace and other indications… (of) some desire to work outside of the international framework. That is obviously why we are taking a range of measures, including military measures, to strengthen our sovereignty in the North.”[6]

A year ago Canada and the U.S. conducted a 42-day joint Arctic expedition to survey the continental shelf for future bilateral demarcation, following a more modest effort along the same lines in 2008 and followed this year by one with U.S. and Canadian ships from August 7 to September 3. The latter was announced two weeks after a Russian research vessel left St. Petersburg on a mission to delimit the borders of Russia’s Arctic continental shelf.

The U.S. State Department described the purpose of this year’s expedition: “The mission will help delineate the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean for the U.S. and Canada, and will also include the collection of data in the disputed area where the U.S. and Canada have not agreed to a maritime boundary.”[7] It is being held in the Canada Basin, the Beaufort Shelf, and the Alpha Mendeleev Ridge. The last, along with the Lomonosov Ridge, is the basis of Russian Arctic claims.

On May 14 Canada and Denmark signed a military agreement, a memorandum of understanding pledging to collaborate more closely in the Arctic “through enhanced consultation, information exchange, visits, and exercises,” according to the Canadian Forces.[8] The preceding month Denmark deployed a unit to participate in the Operation Nunalivut exercise in the High Arctic.

The Royal Danish Navy sent the HDMS Vaedderen ocean patrol vessel and the HDMS Knud Rasmussen offshore patrol vessel to join the recently concluded Nanook 10 exercises, where they were joined by the U.S. Second Fleet’s naval destroyer USS Porter and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder “for the purpose of exercising and increasing… interoperability with Arctic allies.”

As for the Canadian contribution, “The Air Force [provided] air movement and mission support through the CC-177 Globemaster III, CC-130 Hercules, CP-140 Aurora, CH-146 Griffon, and CC-138 Twin Otter aircraft.

“The maritime component [included] Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Montreal, Glace Bay and Goose Bay; and Canadian Coast Guard Ships CCGS Des Groseilliers and CCGS Henry Larsen.”[9]

Military personnel involved included “About 900 Canadian troops [who patrolled] parts of the Eastern and Northern Arctic by air, land and sea.” Another “600 military personnel from the Danish Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are also [took] part in the operation.”[10]

In the words of Lieutenant Commander Albert Wong of Canada Command, “They’re our allies. Collaboration is part of what Canada does.”[11]

This year’s exercise was based in Resolute Bay in the Nunavut federal territory where the Harper government is building a new army Arctic warfare training center in Resolute and a deep-sea port for the Nanisivik Naval Facility to be constructed on Baffin Island. Canadian Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Houle said before the event that “2010’s military operation will push further north than in past years.”[12] That is, north of the Arctic Circle for the first time.

“The U.S. Navy 2nd Fleet, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Danish Navy… joined in the war games in an effort to enhance the allies’ capabilities to cooperate in Arctic waters.”[13]

In fact the NATO allies collaborated to an unprecedented degree, as “Danish and American vessels” conducted “ocean exercises throughout eastern Nunavut.”[14]

After visits by Canada’s defense and military chiefs to inspect the multinational war games, Prime Minister Harper arrived in Resolute on August 25, the penultimate day of the 20-day military maneuvers, to – in the words of one of the nation’s main news agencies – rally the 1,500 Canadian, American and Danish troops present.[15]

Harper’s visit to inspect the exercise occurred only hours after another – potentially dangerous – publicity stunt by his government: Dispatching CF-18 fighter jets (variants of the American F/A-18 Hornet) to allegedly ward off two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 (Bear) strategic bombers patrolling off Canada’s northern border, “something the Russian military does frequently.”[16]

Harper’s press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, said “the two CF-18 Hornet fighters visually identified the two Russian aircraft approximately 120 nautical miles north of Inuvik in Northwest Territories,”[17] over international waters.

The timing of the Canadian action, as that of its announcement, was calculated. As was a comparable incident in February of 2009 when then recently installed U.S. President Barack Obama paid his first visit abroad to Ottawa, to meet with Harper, and his host scrambled warplanes to intercept a Russian Tu-95 bomber – on a routine mission thousands of kilometers from the Canadian capital – in a show of bravado and of loyalty to his ally south of the border.

“The Russians said then the plane never encroached on Canadian airspace and that Canada had been told about the flight beforehand.”[18]

Last year Canada’s prime minister and defence minister made the following comments:

Harper: “We have scrambled F-18 [CF-18] jets in the past, and they’ll always be there to meet them.”

MacKay: “When we see a Russian Bear [Tu-95] approaching Canadian air space, we meet them with an F-18.”[19]

A few days before Operation Nanook began, July 28, Canada also deployed CF-18 fighters against Russian Tu-95 bombers “as debate rage[d] over whether Canada needs the next generation of fighter jets to replace the nearly 30-year-old CF 18s. The Harper government has committed to buying 65 F-35 stealth fighters at a cost of $9 billion. Critics have said such Cold War-type jets are no longer needed.”[20]

The same source provided background information concerning what is being fought over:

“Canada is in a race with Russia and other Arctic nations to lay claim to the frozen territory that may hold untold treasures.

“Geologists believe the Arctic shelf holds vast stores of oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold and minerals. A 2007 Russian intelligence report predicted that conflict with other Arctic nations is a distinct possibility, including military action ‘in a competition for resources.'”[21]

Regarding the later occurrence on August 24, “The Prime Minister’s Office used the incident to promote Ottawa’s plan to buy 65 stealth fighter jets for $16 billion.”[22]

The discrepancy in (Canadian) dollar amounts is attributable to Ottawa’s attempt in May to underestimate the actual cost of the purchase when Defence Minister MacKay said “There is eye-watering technology now available, and a fifth-generation fighter aircraft will be brought to Canada after the year 2017.”[23], but failed to disclose the total cost.

When in-service support and other additional outlays are included, the total package will be $16 billion, according to a major Canadian newspaper “one of the most expensive military equipment purchases ever.”[24]

In fact the F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth fighter project also has been estimated to be “the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program” at a cost of $323 billion for 2,443 of the warplanes.[25]

Last month Defence Minister MacKay confirmed that Canada will buy 65 of the Joint Strike Fighters. At the same time Ottawa announced that the $3 billion Joint Support Ship project will be restarted, as “the military [wants] Joint Supply Ships to be capable of carrying army vehicles and to provide support to ground forces ashore. The ships would also have an air-force element on board, having helicopters and repair facilities for those aircraft. A hospital would also be included on the vessels.”[26]

On August 25 Dmitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, trumpeted the news of the non-encounter between Canadian and Russian military aircraft and laid the bravado on thickly – and not without a purpose. His comments included:

“Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces, at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace.

“The Harper Government has ensured our Forces have the tools, the readiness and the personnel to continue to meet any challenges to Canadian sovereignty with a robust response.

“This is true today, it will be true tomorrow and it will be true well into the future.

“The CF-18 is an incredible aircraft that enables our Forces to meet Russian challenges in our North. That proud tradition will continue after the retirement of the CF-18 fleet as the new, highly capable and technologically-advanced F-35 comes into service. It is the best plane our Government could provide our Forces, and when you are a pilot staring down Russian long range bombers, that’s an important fact to remember.”[27]

The Associated Press reported on the above statement that “Soudas noted… Canada’s recent purchase of 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. The $8.5 billion purchase, one of the biggest military equipment purchases in the country’s history, was due to be debated at a parliamentary defense committee hearing on Wednesday. [August 25, the date of Soudas’ comments]. The jets will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of CF-18s.”[28]

According to a Canadian journalist:

“This week… we learned that the Cold War is not, in fact, over and that Russia remains an active threat in the north… Harper’s press spokesman, noted Sovietologist Dimitri Soudas, explicitly turned the Russian flyby into an argument for a $16-billion, sole-sourced upgrade of Canada’s fighter-plane fleet.”[29]

Canada requires an adversary to justify large-scale arms acquisitions. In the past three years it has bought and leased 120 Leopard tanks from Germany and the Netherlands for the war in Afghanistan. It has purchased and used Israeli-made Heron drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for the same war theater and beyond, one of which crashed near a military base in Alberta last month knocking out power lines.

It has also acquired Chinook, Griffon and Mi-8 helicopters for NATO’s war in South Asia, where it has deployed 2,830 troops and where 151 of its soldiers have been killed.

The Polar Epsilon spaced-based satellite project is being developed for the Arctic, and while in Resolute Bay on Wednesday Prime Minister Harper reiterated that the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, a three-spacecraft fleet of satellites that is the centerpiece of Polar Epsilon, “will provide the Canadian military with daily coverage of Canada’s land mass and ocean approaches ‘from coast-to-coast-to-coast, especially in the Arctic.'”[30]

In June defense chief MacKay disclosed that Canada will spend over $30 billion “to build 28 large vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and navy, as well as 100 smaller ships.”[31]

Canada is, as NATO’s top military commander Admiral Stavridis remarked in Ottawa last month, providing the Western military bloc and the Pentagon indispensable services around the world. In the Arctic as much as if not more than anywhere else.

Related articles:

Canada: Battle Line In East-West Conflict Over The Arctic
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/canada-battle-line-in-east-west-conflict-over-the-arctic

Encroachment From All Compass Points: Canada Leads NATO
Confrontation With Russia In North
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/encroachment-from-all-compass-points-canada-leads-nato-confrontation-with-russia-in-north

Loose Cannon And Nuclear Submarines: West Prepares For Arctic Warfare
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/loose-cannon-and-nuclear-submarines-west-prepares-for-arctic-warfare

Canada: In Service To The Pentagon And NATO At Home And Abroad
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/canada-in-service-to-the-pentagon-and-nato-at-home-and-abroad

1) Xinhua News Agency, August 7, 2010
2) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
3) NATO’s, Pentagon’s New Strategic Battleground: The Arctic
Stop NATO, February 2, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/natos-pentagons-new-strategic-battleground-the-arctic

4) Ibid

5) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, July 11, 2010

6) Canwest News Service, September 12, 2008
7) Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 27, 2010
8) Nunatsiaq News, May 24, 2010
9) Xinhua News Agency, August 7, 2010
10) CTV, August 25, 2010
11) Nunatsiaq News, June 16, 2010
12) CBC News, August 3, 2010
13) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
14) CBC News, August 18, 2010
15) Canadian Press, August 25, 2010
16) CTV, August 25, 2010
17) Xinhua News Agency, August 25, 2010
18) Associated Press, August 25, 2010

19) Encroachment From All Compass Points: Canada Leads NATO
Confrontation With Russia In North
Stop NATO, August 5, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/encroachment-from-all-compass-points-canada-leads-nato-confrontation-with-russia-in-north

20) Toronto Sun, Quebec Media, Inc. Agency, July 30, 2010
21) Ibid
22) CTV, August 25, 2010
23) Canwest News Service, May 28, 2010
24) Ottawa Citizen, July 12, 2010
25) PBS Newshour, April 21, 2010
26) Ottawa Citizen, July 12, 2010
27) CBC News, August 25, 2010
28) Associated Press, August 25, 2010

29) Susan Riley, The Russians aren’t coming
Ottawa Citizen, August 27, 2010

30) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
31) Xinhua News Agency, June 4, 2010

[End.]
__________

Rick Rozoff publishes the blog, Stop NATO.

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Nations scramble to stake claims on Arctic territory and resources

July 30, 2010 Comments off

The following analysis is by RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin. Reprinted with permission from RIA Novosti, Moscow.

Scuffling for Arctic boundaries
©  RIA Novosti
By Andrei Fedyashin
July 30, 2010

On July 28, the Akademik Fyodorov research vessel sailed out from Arkhangelsk and is heading to the Arctic on a 100-day expedition aiming to demarcate the Russian continental shelf.

On August 3, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a research icebreaker, and the icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent, the flagship of the Canadian Coast Guard, will also chart a course for the same region with the same objectives.

With all these expeditions, the demarcation of Arctic boundaries is getting underway in earnest.

In August 2007, the Akademik Fyodorov, kitted out with the latest sounding and seismic-reconnaissance equipment, sailed to the North Pole with two deep-sea mini-submarines (Mir-1 and Mir-2) on board. The submarines descended to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean where they dropped a metal capsule containing a Russian flag.

Moscow said the underwater Lomonosov Ridge, which extends through the North Polar Region, was actually a geological extension of Russia’s Siberian continental plate, thus allowing Russia to lay claim to the region under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The United States and Canada, which are Russia’s Arctic neighbors, were more annoyed than scared, by such statements all of which need to be backed up by underwater drilling, seismic reconnaissance, geophysical data and precise measurements.

The Akademik Fyodorov will accomplish all these objectives. This, and subsequent expeditions, are aimed at collecting data so an official Russian claim to the Arctic shelf can be filed with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in 2013. A similar Russian claim, submitted in 2001, was turned down as lacking scientific substantiation. Apart from Russia, Norway is the only Arctic country to file a similar claim, which it did in 2006.

The current expedition comprises experts from the National Research Institute of Oceanography, the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), the Research Institute of Navigation and Hydrography, the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. It is escorted by the nuclear-powered icebreaker Yamal. The project is quite serious. If Russian arguments prove correct, then Moscow would establish control over a 1.2 million square kilometer sector, and would also receive exclusive rights to develop the colossal hydrocarbon deposits in the Chukchi Peninsula – Murmansk – North Pole triangle. This is worth struggling for.

It should be noted that all the Arctic countries became quite excited about the prospect of dividing up the Snow Queen’s Territory, after they learned it contains huge hydrocarbon and other deposits. The United States Geological Survey, an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior, estimates that the Arctic shelf may contain over 25% of undiscovered global oil and gas deposits. Their volumes may even dwarf those of the already explored Saudi Arabian hydrocarbon deposits, making them seem like a barrel of kvass (Russian bread drink) next to an Olympic swimming pool.

But all these oil and gas deposits still have to be located and exploited. This is a very expensive undertaking. Still we should consider the fact that the Arctic is getting warmer and melting faster than any other region of the world. Given this trend, the Northwest Passage, the shortest route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Canadian Arctic, could be opened for all-year-round navigation in the next ten to 15 years, or maybe even earlier. This would halve the distance between Europe and Japan. This seems quite a realistic prospect, all the more so if we consider the ambient air temperatures. It is therefore not surprising that the world has become fascinated with geographical explorations, and that our Arctic neighbors, and other countries, are rushing to demarcate their territories.

It is surprising how many countries are lining up in front of the Arctic gateway. No one will have the guts to prevent China, openly striving to enter the region, from accessing the freezing Polar region’s riches. No other scenario seems possible at a time when the division of colossal Arctic resources is being gradually prioritized. Sea routes in northern Canada and Russia are now open for navigation longer than usual due to global warming. All-year-round navigation along these routes would reduce the distance between China and Germany, China and the U.S. East Coast by 6,000-7,000 km in either direction.

Beijing has already realized this, and is preparing to operate in an ice-free Arctic by starting to convert its scientific Arctic programs into applied research. China’s Xue Long (Snow Dragon) icebreaker, the largest conventional icebreaker in the world, already sails to the Arctic. Built in Ukraine in 1993, it is the first Chinese ship in this class and has now been completely overhauled.

China lacks any legal grounds for claiming the right to own parts of the Arctic continental shelf, but would like to see littoral states improve the relevant legal framework, stipulate clear and understandable navigation rules and demarcate regional boundaries, oil and gas fields, and so on. This would allow the world’s largest economy to invest lavishly in regional projects and conduct export-import operations.

Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark and Norway have always prioritized ownership of Arctic Ocean territories and will now be expected to present their official claims. But this will prove more difficult than discovering the North Pole in the first place, because their concepts of Arctic-demarcation are as different from each other as the tip of the iceberg is from its real dimensions.

Canada has always proposed the sectoral principle, with Russia supporting this concept until 2001. Ottawa believes that regional borders should pass from the most northerly national territories along meridians all the way to the North Pole. In that case, the Arctic would be divided like the top of a watermelon. Russia would receive the largest chunk measuring about 5.8 square kilometers and would be followed by Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway and the United States.

However, this principle does not suit Washington which has so far failed to ratify the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and which ignores its restrictions.

The United States is demanding the right to control territories stretching 600 nautical miles from Alaska to the North Pole and proposes retaining a three million sq. km. “no man’s land” on the top of the world where everyone would be able to catch fish and extract mineral resources.

Denmark probably voices the most unusual claim to the Arctic region. Copenhagen would like to demarcate local borders in accordance with equidistant lines from claimant-country coasts. As Greenland is located closer to the North Pole than any other regional territory, Denmark would be able to control the top of the world, as well as a sector almost as large as the Canadian Arctic.
__________

Andrei Fedyashin is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

[End.]

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