As our history books tell us, the Dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on December 26th, 1991 marked the end of the Cold War. Democracy reigned victorious over the godless socialist and communist states once planted firmly behind the Iron Curtain. Today, we consider the country of Russia to be a major competitor on the global market; which is a rather large improvement from our previous label of “mortal enemy.” Even still, competition for resources and a larger share of the overall global economy can begin to breed animosity and tension between the regional hegemons of Russia and The United States.
This growing tension has begun to take hold in the most unlikely of places, and it just so happens to be taking place around one of the colder areas on Earth. Did the cold war end almost 30 years ago, or was it just taking an extended hiatus? As the U.S. and their NATO allies have been steadily increasing their presence in the Baltic Sea and its surrounding areas, Russia seems nothing less than persistent in their probing of Alaskan airspace. The endgame in this scenario is the control of massive amounts of both natural gas and mineral reserves below the massive ice shelves of the Arctic.
As of now, the Arctic accounts for about one tenth of the world’s oil and over a quarter of its natural gas reserves. According to a Russian website which focuses on Arctic resources, “a considerable fraction of the world’s undiscovered petroleum reserves lie within the Arctic.” Due to these factors, it is no wonder why U.S. and Russian military forces have been conducting a considerable drawdown in the Middle East. There is no doubt the oil reserves in that region of the world are plentiful. However, the overall quantity is known by the experts and therefore already spoken for. When it comes down to cornering a share of the world oil market and planning for future and prospective market shares, the Arctic oil and natural gas reserves have neither been claimed nor acquired by any major powers who have a presence in the region.
It is important to reference the map shown above to achieve a greater understanding of world events and why they play a considerable role in this developing situation in the Arctic that is driven by the vast resources in the region. Let us now go back to August 2019 where President Trump announced the United States’ intention to “buy” Greenland. With the offer being rebuked by Danish and Greenlandic officials, this administration instead went forward with a twelve million dollar aid package to further economic development. With Greenland holding the only permanent ice sheet outside of Antarctica, and its prime location at the intersection of the northernmost point of the Atlantic Ocean and the southern stretches of the Arctic Ocean, it is no wonder that the United States attempted to increase the size of their footprint in the region.
Russia has been on the same track as the United States, constantly making efforts to increase their presence in the region. In the early goings, this situation seemed to be a bi-polar race between the U.S. and Russia. As time and events have progressed a third regional hegemon, China, has begun to stick its proverbial nose into the race. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently announced its new plan to create the “Arctic Silk Road”, taking advantage of the shipping lanes created by the shrinking sea ice levels in the Arctic sea. Although on that side of the Arctic Circle, there has been a considerable amount of cooperation between Russia. According to The Maritime Executive, “The idea of working with Russia to turn this route into an “Arctic Silk Road” was first proposed by China in July 2017… the focus of most of the projects that will form the backbone of this economic cooperation is shipping and energy.”
With the increasing cooperation and planning conducted by the CCP and Russia, the United States has followed suit. Consistent levels of annual training between NATO allies in the Baltic has certainly gotten the attention of our Russian adversaries. Amid COVID-19 restraints the U.S. Marines have conducted significant bi-lateral training exercises with the Norwegian Military this past June as mentioned in this USMC Press Release. The United Kingdom has (as expected) aligned itself with the United States, as the Royal Navy has participated in naval exercises in the Baltic Sea this past June as well. Codenamed BALTOPS, the frigate HMS Kent and minehunter HMS Ramsey participated with both crews announcing that “two-week workout proved to be a supreme test – and (made) them better prepared for global challenges, individually or working side-by-side with our allies.”
As the situation in the Arctic Circle continues to develop and the ice sheets continue to become more open to shipping lanes in the summertime, this region will certainly be the subject of focus for all these major global powers. Increased military exercises will continue to push both sides towards an increased risk of confrontation and the risk of accidents between these military powers will increase as well. Much like the frontlines of the silent war in cyberspace, many of these events and instigations will fly under the radar. Media outlets, specifically in the United States, are far too preoccupied spreading fear to the masses regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic and continuing their efforts to divide the people of this fine nation. Always remember that the mainstream media has been proven to be an “enemy of the people.” The best intentions of the populous and the need for a well informed citizenry is anywhere but at the forefront of their minds. Educate yourself on what you believe is important because no amount of televised news will do it for you.