A conflict over resources

Nonetheless, if Russia does succeed in carving out a stake in the Arctic's High North and then claiming any natural resources as its own, then its new prize would completely fail to meet the challenges that confront its energy sector. The country does not currently lack the large reserves that the Arctic might perhaps have to offer. But it does totally lack the skills and expertise to extract oil and gas from its existing offshore wells and would also be highly dependent on foreign oil...

An Arctic resource war

Revelations that the Arctic is home to untapped quantities of petroleum have prompted speculation that the region could be the setting for a future resource war waged for control of its oil. As fears mount that the world is starting to run dry (the theory goes), governments will be more tempted than ever to rely on military force to seize areas deemed to be rich in petroleum. Fortunately, however, this gloomy scenario is likely to paint too pessimistic a picture. The most important reason why...

Future sources of oil

In September 2008, the European Union (EU) energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, argued that the Western energy firms would need to look to the Arctic region in order to acquire energy security. 'You even need to go into hostile environments' such as the Arctic, he claimed. 'You can't say this is a sanctuary because it will not work . . . otherwise where will we get energy from ' Provided 'all environmental precautions' were taken, Piebalgs continued, he was supportive of the position taken by...

Oil and governments

Although it is an exaggeration to say that an Arctic 'resource war' over oil is probable, the interest of foreign governments in the region is perfectly understandable. There are two quite different benefits that oil gives any government that can claim title over it security of supply and export revenues. Some countries are still haunted by memories of the desperate situation in which the United States and its strategic allies in the Western world found themselves in the wake of the Arab oil...

Russias energy challenge

Russia does not stand in dire need of finding large-scale deposits of natural resources. Pumping out around 10 million barrels of oil every day and exporting around three-quarters of this amount, its output is currently surpassed only by Saudi Arabia. And it also has enormous untapped reserves, although estimates of the size of these deposits vary considerably. Analysts at BP estimate that it has around 80 billion barrels, giving it the world's seventh-biggest oil reserves, while a 2008 survey...

The lure of the Arctic

Why, then, should these three distinctive historical traits - territorial acquisitiveness, a strong sense of strategic vulnerability and a feeling of 'exceptionalism' - prompt American eyes to turn northwards, to the Arctic, over the coming decades rather than in any other direction Part of the answer is that the region is thought to have so much oil and gas, but a more important consideration is its hugely important strategic location. If the Arctic region does have the very large reserves of...

Sea Lanes and Strategy

In the summer of 1997, an American businessman by the name of Pat Broe astonished almost everyone by making an investment that seemed pointless at the very least, and one that would probably distract him from other, much more fruitful, opportunities. His purchase, for the nominal price of just seven dollars, was the port facilities at Churchill, a tiny, windswept outpost on the southwest coast of Hudson Bay, below the Arctic Circle, that almost no one wanted to buy and almost everyone was...

Russian national security

Invaded three times by Western powers in the space of less than 150 years, with many millions of its citizens dead as a result, Russia is arguably one of the most peace-loving nations in the world. But it is also one of the most fearful, harbouring immense mistrust of any foreign power that might potentially pose a threat to its national security. In the eyes of Russian strategists, the retreat of the Arctic's ice potentially offers a would-be aggressor a gateway through which to attack....

The impact of climate change

The impact of climate change on the fishing stock in these, and other areas, is very difficult to predict. Scientists admit that 'it is not clear how climate change will affect . . . the most important zooplankton species that acts as food for fish in Arctic waters', the calanus finmar-chicus, which they consider to be a 'crucial question'.22 And as the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment emphasizes, the adaptability of these, and every other life form, is simply impossible to guess, leading to 'a...

Incidents in the Barents

There have already been quite a few minor incidents between Russia and Norway over fishing rights. One of the best known was a dramatic chase that took place near the Svalbard archipelago in October 2005, when two Norwegian fishing inspectors intercepted and then boarded a Russian trawler, the Elektron, that they suspected had been fishing illegally. The authorities ordered the captain, Valery Yarantsev, to head for the Norwegian port of Tromsoe for questioning, but to their horror they watched...

Looming Resource

For a few brief weeks in the summer of 2008, it seemed that everyone's worst fears for the future were being realized with an alarming rapidity. The price of oil surged, reaching new heights that just months before would have been unthinkable even to the most reckless Wall Street trader. Across the world demonstrators took to the streets, demanding immediate government action to alleviate the crippling financial burden that the increase imposed. Tens of thousands of Spanish truckers blocked...

Notes

1 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (1982), Article 56, (1), (a). 2 UNCLOS (1982), Article 76, (6). A coastal state does not have such unconditional rights over natural resources found in this extended economic zone (EEZ). See Conclusion pp. 222. 3 UNCLOS first came into effect on 16 November 1994, having first been signed on 10 December 1982. Switzerland signed the Convention on 1 May 2009, becoming the 158th state to do so. 4 By April 2009, 22 countries had applied to...

Piracy

From their bases along the coasts of Somalia, heavily armed and well-organized pirates have, in recent years, proved highly adept at seizing international freight as it moves through the Gulf of Aden and off the coasts of East Africa, and demanding high ransoms in exchange for both the crew and the cargo. In the course of 2008, a multinational task force that included warships from NATO members and from the United States Fifth Fleet had started to patrol the region, but met with only limited...

Implications for international shipping

Governments and businessmen have long been aware of just how much an Arctic Bridge might have to offer them. In 1957, they had watched with great interest as three icebreakers of the US coast guard became the first ships to cross the Northwest Passage, covering 4,500 miles of semi-charted water in 64 days. Twelve years later a number of Western oil companies sent a specially reinforced super tanker, the Manhattan, through the Passage to get a more accurate idea of whether it was a viable route...

Nationalism in Greenland

But while serious international disputes between Iceland, Denmark and Norway over the Arctic's natural resources are very unlikely, there are already serious disagreements closer to home. Not only is there a bitter controversy in Norway between environmentalists and the supporters of the oil lobby but, as an earlier chapter has noted, a growing political conflict over who has a right to rule Greenland.25 The disagreements between Greenlanders and the government of Denmark have hitherto been a...