Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Global Powers Engaging in Struggle for Arctic

    Kola Bay, Arctic Ocean

    Global Powers Engaging in Struggle for Arctic

    © Sputnik/ Mikhail Fomichev
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    On March 29-30, the Russian city of Arkhangelsk is hosting an international forum called the "Arctic: Territory of Dialogue." The main issues on the agenda are human resources, investments to the region, exploration of the Artic and environment protection.

    This year’s event is the forth in its history and this year the forum is focused on social and economic problems, rather than politics. 
    It is expected that Russian President Vladimir Putin, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Icelandic President Gudni Th. Johannesson will deliver closing speeches.
    The forum in Arkhangelsk is taking place a month before the Arctic council, an intergovernmental platform for the Arctic nations. This year, the council will meet in Fairbanks, the United States. It will involve representatives of the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
    The council was established in 1996 to address the problems faced by the Arctic countries and the indigenous people. At the same time, the Council cannot discuss military issues.
    Why the Arctic is Important
    According to actual estimates, oil reserves in the Arctic Region are nearly 10 billion tons, which accounts for 13 percent of the global proven reserves. Moreover, the region is believed to have some 44 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
    In addition to fossil fuels, the region has reserves of drinking water, gold, platinum, chromium and manganese.
    It is nearly possible to overestimate the military and strategic significance of the Arctic. For example, it is almost impossible to detect the launch location of a sea-based missile. The Arctic’s ice sheet prevent from detecting nuclear submarines. In addition, missiles launched from the region would have a much shorter time to target.
    Furthermore, major transportation routes could soon run through the Arctic Region. The melting of ice due to global warming facilitates navigation in the region, particularly along the Northeast Passage.
    "As a whole, the logistics potential, the military factor and natural resources are important not only for the Arctic states, but also for other countries. In the current economic system all countries are involved in global processes. For example, many countries are interested in transportation routes in the Arctic," Russian senator Igor Chernyshenko told RT.

    The Russian fleet of icebreakers comprises 40 vessels, including nuclear-powered ones. As a comparison, the US has only four icebreakers. Canada has six icebreakers, with another five vessels planned to be built.
    Washington also considers expansion of its fleet of icebreakers. In March, the US Coast Guard unveiled $20 million for the development of a new-generation icebreaker. Moreover, American shipbuilding companies want to speed construction of such vessels.
    As for Russia, the Arktika, the world’s most powerful nuclear-powered icebreaker, was commissioned last year. Another two nuclear icebreakers, the Sibir and the Ural, are expected to be ready finished in 2019 and 2020. Moreover, the Russian fleet has received three diesel-powered icebreakers – the Vladivostok, the Murmansk and the Novorossiysk.
    Construction of heavy-duty nuclear-powered icebreakers is also part of the Russian state Arctic development program. 
    A formidable fleet of icebreakers is one of the main reasons why Russia has the strongest potential in exploring the Arctic.

    Russian Military in the Arctic
    In recent years, the Russian Defense Ministry has been actively rebuilding Soviet-era infrastructure facilities in the Arctic Region. Over 100 facilities are expected to be built by the military above the Arctic Circle in 2017. As for December 2015, six Russian military bases had been established in the region, including on Franz Josef Land, the Novaya Zemlya archipelago and Wrangel Island.
    The Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine
    Earlier, the command of the Russian Aerospace Forces said that a radio-radar shield would protect the Arctic from possible cruise missile launches. By 2018, full-fledged army groups will be established in the region.
    The weather and climate conditions in Russia’s Extreme North are a harsh test not only for personnel, but also for military hardware. The Russian defense industry is developing several types of military machines designed to operate in such conditions. For example, the Russian military recently received several Mi-8AMTSh-VA helicopters. The Mi-8AMTSh-VA twin-engine helicopter is specially designed to perform missions for the Russian Armed Forces in Arctic environmental conditions.
    In February, tests of Russian military equipment specially designed for the Extreme North conditions kicked off in the Arctic.

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