Russia's arctic aspirations

The planting of the Russian flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole on Thursday drew sniggers and ridicule throughout much of the world.

The problem is, the Russian government is not known for its sense of humor – this is serious folks; they do mean big business. This is not North Korea rattling a saber it doesn’t have; Russia is determined and increasingly becoming capable of re-establishing the superpower foothold it once had and the fossil fuel riches of the Arctic would certainly assist them in this goal.

Russia’s actions may be looked back on in years to come as being the first step in a widespread resource war; the types of skirmishes that have been often predicted as a result of global warming related disasters and our civilization’s thirst for oil. Four other countries have Arctic coastlines – Norway, Canada, United States and Denmark (via Greenland). They all have aspirations to expand their reach in the region and none wants to be diddled of what they believe is “theirs”.

The US Geological Survey states that around 25 percent of world oil reserves are believed to be situated above the Arctic Circle – that’s a lot of oil in a world that’s having increasing problems in finding it. Should Russia get its way, through legal means or otherwise, it will gain control over two-thirds of the fossil fuel reserves in the Arctic Ocean according to a Russian Geological Institute researcher .

The irony of the race to pillage North Pole riches is that it’s suddenly becoming viable due to global warming. Increased temperatures are melting ice and making the area more accessible. The oil, should any country start extracting it, will be burned and contribute to more global warming.

Won’t we ever learn? We seem hell bent on digging the hole we’re in even deeper.

Additionally, can you imagine the other types of environmental havoc that will wreaked upon the Arctic by the plunder what oil, minerals and other resources the North Pole has to offer? It’s frightening to imagine.

After the flag planting by the Russians, Canada’s foreign minister stated in a CTV interview: “”Look, this isn’t the 15th century. You can’t go around the world and plant flags and say, ‘We’re claiming this territory’.”

But that’s exactly what Russia did – and regardless of what conventions have been signed or what international laws are in place, we only need to look back a few years to the illegal invasion of Iraq to know that laws aren’t worth a damn when it comes to dollars and control over crucial resources.

While the Russian claim may be seen by some as a PR stunt, I certainly see it as an opening salvo in what will likely be a violent, environmentally destructive and protracted battle in the not-too-distant future. Regardless of whom emerges the victor, use of that oil will only push us further into a climatic catastrophe. Nobody wins.