The current fury may
be 'motivated in part
by a desire to exercise
sovereign control over
the Arctic region's
accessible oil and gas
The American Spark
What’s Behind the ‘New Cold War’? Probably Arctic Oil
By Cliff Montgomery - May 31st, 2018
You hear it almost every day now: A litany of unproven accusations shuttled between the U.S. and Russian
governments that paints one nation or the other as a blot upon civilization. The accusations may lack proof,
but they sure are emotional.
Some have called this recent chill between the two countries a ‘new Cold War’. We at the Spark won’t say
that, but it is clear that the oligarchs who run these countries no longer play nice with each other.
We also know that when the wealthy leaders of a country start making accusations about the government of
some other nation, and start crowing the ‘human rights’ of the ‘poor, long-suffering people’ of that place, often
those wealthy accusers are only interested in grabbing the other nation’s natural resources.
A recent, little-discussed Congressional Research Service (CRS) report reveals that “record low extents of
Arctic sea ice over the past decade” provides a previously unknown “access to mineral and biological
resources in the Arctic.”
Thus the current fury between the two countries appears to be “motivated in part by a desire to exercise
sovereign control over the Arctic region’s increasingly accessible oil and gas reserves,” admits the CRS study.
Below, The American Spark quotes the summary of the report:
“The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened
interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future.
“The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The
United States held the two-year, rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council from April 24, 2015 to May 11,
“Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links
to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have
potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the
Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.
“The five Arctic coastal states—the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (of which
Greenland is a territory)—have made or are in the process of preparing submissions to the Commission on the
Limits of the Continental Shelf regarding the outer limits of their extended continental shelves. The Russian
submission includes the underwater Lomonosov Ridge, a feature that spans a considerable distance across
the center of the Arctic Ocean.
“The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-
Arctic sea routes—the Northern Sea Route close to Russia, and the Northwest Passage—though the rate of
increase in the use of these routes might not be as great as sometimes anticipated in press accounts.
International guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters have been recently updated.
“Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures will likely allow more exploration for oil,
gas, and minerals. Warming that causes permafrost to melt could pose challenges to onshore exploration
activities. Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism (cruise ships) in the Arctic increase the risk of
pollution in the region. Cleaning up oil spills in ice-covered waters will be more difficult than in other areas,
primarily because effective strategies for cleaning up oil spills in ice-covered waters have yet to be developed.
“Large commercial fisheries exist in the Arctic. The United States is currently meeting with other countries
regarding the management of Arctic fish stocks. Changes in the Arctic could affect threatened and
endangered species, and could result in migration of fish stocks to new waters. Under the Endangered
Species Act, the polar bear was listed as threatened on May 15, 2008.
“Arctic climate change is also expected to affect the economies, health, and cultures of Arctic indigenous
“Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar ice-breakers—Polar Star and Polar Sea—have exceeded their intended
30-year service lives, and Polar Sea is not operational. The Coast Guard has initiated a project to build up to
three new heavy polar ice-breakers. On May 12, 2011, representatives from the member states of the Arctic
Council signed an agreement on cooperation on search and rescue in the Arctic.
“Although there is significant international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is increasingly being viewed
by some observers as a potential emerging security issue. Some of the Arctic coastal states, particularly
Russia, have announced an intention or taken actions to enhance their military presences in the high north.
U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region in
their planning and operations.”
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