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How the melting Arctic could lead to huge riches—but also a world war
New York Post Excerpt
June 25, 2022

Santa’s getting company.

Fast-melting sea ice has opened a potential new Arctic shipping lane across the North Pole, which will give powerful nations easier access to the frozen zone’s vast riches — but has also sparked fears of war.

The Arctic Council predicts that, during the summers, sea ice will be gone by 2040 — allowing for a major new seasonal passageway. This Transpolar Sea Route (TSR) would be the fastest way to get around the region and could spur a spike in mining, drilling and trade over the next quarter-century.

Territorial stakes are yet to be sorted out. The US, Russia and six other countries — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway — are jockeying for claims to the surrounding area’s oil, gas and rare-earth minerals and metals: precious resources needed to power computers, phones, electric cars and satellites. China, meanwhile, is claiming “near Arctic” status so it, too, can benefit from the wealth of the region.

“Today is a pivotal moment that is going to reshape the energy market and the supply chain,” said Rebekah Koffler, an intelligence analyst and author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America.”

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Discussion Starter · #82 ·
Arctic Shipping Routes: Russia’s Challenges and Uncertainties
The Barents Observer Excerpt
Aug 12, 2022

In March 2021 with global attention focused on the mega-container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, President Putin and his ministers were quick to proclaim that Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the entire length of the Russian maritime Arctic were open for global shipping. Alternative marine routes to the Suez across the top of Russia would be shorter, safer and more efficient went the argument. Even the noted Finnish firm Aker Arctic released a new design for a small, icebreaking container ship specifically suited for NSR operations.

Now sixteen months later with an invasion of Ukraine and recent operational problems plaguing the NSR, the tables are turned on the Russian ‘grand vision’ for a new marine highway facilitating trade across the Arctic Ocean. From November of last year through early 2022 commercial ships were stuck in difficult sea ice along the eastern waters of the Russian maritime Arctic. A large rescue and escort operation ensued using Russia’s nuclear icebreakers to extract more than twenty ships on foreign and domestic trading voyages. Severe sea ice conditions early last autumn also delayed cargo ships for weeks in supplying northern communities. Observations made clear that reliable and safe trans-Arctic routes along the Northeast Passage, the historic name for Pacific to Atlantic marine routes across the top of Eurasia, were impassible.

The entire four-month saga sheds a dose of realism and doubt on the future of reliable Arctic marine navigation. Exposed in this serious marine incident are many of the environmental uncertainties, economic limitations, and practical navigation considerations that continue to constrain marine operations in this remote and hazardous ocean.

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Discussion Starter · #83 ·
Chinese shippers shun Russian Arctic waters
The Barents Observer Excerpt
Aug 22, 2022

The far northern shipping route that stretches along Russia’s Arctic coast is almost ice-free and shipping in the area will soon reach this year’s peak.

Ice maps show open water across the lion’s share of the more than 5000 km long route that connects the Pacific with European Russia.

But the vanishing sea-ice notwithstanding, there will this year hardly be any foreign ships sailing the Northern Sea Route.

That includes the Chinese.

Judging from data from the Russian Northern Sea Route Administration, COSCO has not applied for sailing permission for a single of its vessels.

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Biden to Name Arctic Ambassador as China Eyes Region
Voice of America Excerpt
Sept 1, 2022

The Biden administration plans to name an ambassador at large for the Arctic amid growing awareness of the potential strategic importance of the region, for which China is the latest major power to stake a claim.

It is not clear who the nominee will be, or when the nomination will be made, according to Politico. The nomination will be subject to Senate confirmation.

The geostrategic importance of the Arctic is growing as global warming makes the prospect of accessing the region's reserves of minerals and energy seem possible, and the development of new sea lanes likely.

Russia is expanding its military presence in the region, and China declared itself a "near-Arctic state" and its intent to establish a "Polar Silk Road" as part of it Belt and Road Initiative in a 2018 white paper.

With its "near-Arctic" status, the white paper says, China has the same rights as Arctic states, "including the right to conduct scientific research, navigate, perform flyovers, fish, lay submarine cables and pipelines, and even explore and exploit natural resources in the Arctic high seas."

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