The resource-rich Arctic will become a new front of confrontation between Russia and the West in the coming years. After Finland and Sweden join NATO, only Russia will remain a country that is not part of the military alliance, which, given the growing tension, creates additional risks in the region. Bloomberg writes about the upcoming long-term confrontation at the North Pole.
Not only geopolitics but also global warming contributes to the growing tension in the region: ice and permafrost are disappearing, facilitating access to the many minerals of the deep north. However, there are no clear prospects for the Arctic, since no one knows what will happen to the main governing body of the region - the Arctic Council. At the moment, it is headed by Russia, but due to the war, none of the meetings took place. The Russian presidency will end on May 11, when Moscow will have to transfer its powers to Norway, but no one understands how this body will work further in the new conditions.
“In principle, Russia is still a member of the Arctic Council and has the right to participate in decision-making. However, no one understands what this will look like in practice, given the current political climate. I don’t have an answer to this question,” says Danish Arctic Ambassador Thomas Winkler.
The agency notes that the growth of political tension actually puts an end to all international studies that have been successfully carried out for decades after the end of the Cold War. Now, the delimitation of zones and attempts to develop the region's minerals are coming to the fore. Bloomberg notes that formally the North Pole is not controlled by anyone, however, three states claim these territories in accordance with international law: Russia, Canada and Denmark. These countries are trying to draw the border of their own territory with the maximum capture of the territories of the North Pole, although none of these versions has yet been fixed by international agreements.
Moreover, earlier in this club there was also Norway. The four countries insisted that their continental shelves stretched all the way to the North Pole and abutted against the Lomonosov underwater mountain range. Norway later acknowledged that its shelf was ending earlier and renounced territorial claims. The controversy is due to the presence in these waters of gigantic mineral reserves: from billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of gas to rare earth metals so necessary for a successful energy transition. However, mining in the Arctic will contribute to the deterioration of the ecological situation in the region and, as a result, the entire planet. The record rate of glacier melt is already causing irreparable damage to the Earth's climate system, which results in the most powerful cataclysms, and is also reflected in sea level rise.
Therefore, control over the territories in the Arctic is reduced not only to the issue of the extraction of these very minerals, but also to the issue of imposing a ban on this extraction, which, probably, will not suit the Russian side. The agency reminds that in the new Arctic strategy of Russia all provisions on international cooperation are excluded - on the contrary, now Moscow intends to confront and repulse "all unfriendly countries in the region." Separately, the agency highlights the ambitions of Vladimir Putin, who considers the Arctic as one of the strategic priorities for Russia. In addition, the United States may intervene in the dispute between Canada, Russia and Denmark. Washington has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and may still try to challenge the rights of the three countries in the territory in the Arctic Ocean.
“The United States has been collecting data in the Arctic for decades, and we constantly hear that there may be claims from Washington,” says Rebecca Pincus, director of the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center. She believes that the American authorities will try to intervene in this dispute in order to have access or influence on the extraction of at least some resources.
The decision on who actually owns the precious bottom should be made by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). However, she has been considering this issue for about fifteen years, and it is not clear when a final decision will be made. Moreover, most experts agree that countries will have to sit down at the negotiating table and, either on their own or with the participation of a third party, come to some kind of solution. Andreas Oosthagen, a senior fellow at the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen Institute and an expert on Arctic security and geopolitics, notes that the Arctic is a mini-version of global politics.
“Fifty years from now, who knows, maybe we will need the last remaining oil and gas reserves, or we will need new rare earth minerals, and they may be located in this part of the Arctic,” the expert admits, noting that then the competition for the Arctic will intensify. to the limit.
However, the environmental consequences of the development of the Arctic zones can be much more devastating for all mankind. The International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) has come to the conclusion that until 2050 the Arctic will not be able to replenish the ice cover in summer, which is fraught with an increase in the global ocean. The growth of water in the world's oceans leads to an increase in the average temperature on the planet, since water, unlike ice, attracts sunlight and contributes to an increase in temperature. Moreover, the melting of glaciers contributes to the release of additional volumes of carbon dioxide, which also negatively affects the temperature of the planet.
Nevertheless, none of the countries has any real plans for the extraction of minerals yet. Russia, although it has fixed the increase in mining in its Arctic strategy, cannot do this without Western drilling technologies, which are not available to it under the sanctions. The US is restricting offshore production in the Arctic for environmental reasons, although it recently approved a major project in Alaska. In Canada, there is still a ban on exploration and production of resources in the Arctic shelf, moreover, it was recently extended. Denmark completely banned mining in this zone, based on environmental consequences. In Norway, legal proceedings are underway regarding the prospects for the development of deposits in the Arctic zone. Oslo is under pressure from other European countries who want Norway to increase its share and replace more Russian minerals.
At the same time, in February, CLCS determined that a significant part of the geological and geographical data that Russia provided to the organization in order to confirm its validity in the Arctic territories is confirmed, and this makes Moscow the favorite in the race for the North Pole. Other countries require additional confirmation and scientific research, but the primary data so far speak in favor of Russia. At the same time, there is still a chance that the Lomonosva Ridge will be recognized as a common part of all three shelves (Canadian, Danish and Russian), and in this case, the countries will still have to negotiate.