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So long, Santa!!! Russia’s Reasons for Arctic Antics

Greetings from the Pole!Top of the morning to you my plaid friends, from the top of the globe!  The Avenger has touched down here at the North Pole to update you on a situation that has massive repercussions in the immediate, and long term, future of international relations.  I just put the sled dogs down to rest (no, not Michael Vick-style; they are actually sleeping!), and I’m topping of my vodka martini here at the top of the planet while my manservant builds us an igloo to bed down in.  Actually, she’s a fine Inuit lady, so I suppose the proper terminology is wo-manservant.  But I digress as always. 

Why would the Avenger be so far north setting up camp on the rapidly diminishing permanent ice cap? Why to inform you of big changes that are afoot of course! Big changes for the Arctic inhabitants; big changes for the US; big changes for the Canadians, the Norwegians, and the Danes…hell, its big changes for the world man! But this rant is primarily about big changes for the Russians….Chill on these:

A new race for the North Pole: Russia plants flag, Canada sends troops

Race to Secure Arctic Riches Heats Up

Lenin stands tall in Russian race for the Arctic

Arctic ice retreats to new low, possibly opening Northwest Passage

Russia might introduce new oil export routes in Arctic***IMPORTANT***

Russia’s Arctic Firing Range

So unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, all of you have heard about this global warming thing.  Yes, average global temperatures do seem to be on the rise. Now this blog is not about confirming or disputing the existence if this phenomenon, or about the science behind this phenomenon, or even about the causes of this phenomenon…what the Plaid Avenger wants you to know about for now are the very real, and unfolding quickly, international repercussions of this phenomenon around the Arctic Circle.  Have I said phenomenon enough times for you yet? Its just such a phenomenal word, I can’t help myself. Phenomena are phenomenal! Ha!  Oops, sorry for the transgression.  I always get a bit light headed while heavily drinking at high latitudes….and I’m dead on at 90° North my friends.  But back to the warming…

Now no one really knows what the hell these rising global temperatures will mean across the planet. Some places will get warmer, some will probably get drier, some will get wetter, & different weather patterns and different storm patterns will evolve.  Lots of shit will be changing in lots of different places.  But one thing is for absolute sure, because it’s happening fast already: parts of the permanent ice cap that have covered the Arctic region for as long as humans have been around are going to go away. And it’s going to go away very soon. Like maybe totally gone in the next 50 years.  That is big news. Big news that has bigger repercussions for international politics. And maybe the biggest repercussions are for Russia.  What am I talking about? Just this:

As the permanent ice cover rapidly melts away in the coming decades, two distinct things are going to happen: 1)untold amounts of natural resources like oil and natural gas are going to be discovered in the area, and 2) global transportation patterns are going to be radically affected.  The resources issue is the one that everyone and their brother is focusing on right now…and is being wildly overplayed in the press. The transportation issue is the one that is vastly more important and has way more strategic importance than a bunch of damn oil ever will.  And Russia stands to gain tremendously from both of these things, perhaps the most of any player in this Arctic power play.  The Bear’s potential gains are affecting their current Arctic antics, as we discussed in yesterday’s blog. But let’s back up and take these issues one at a time:

1)The natural resources thing: this is the easy part. According to the US Geological Survey, perhaps up to 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas is thought to lie under the Arctic seabed. Why is it undiscovered? Because there’s too much damned ice in the way to get to it right now! So the basic equation for the future is: Goodbye ice; Hello oil!

Tell'em UN!Can you dig that? Speaking of dig, a bunch of countries will be digging for this oil as soon as they can.  Who are the lucky contestants for the Arctic Resource Rush? Five countries border the Arctic Ocean: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US.  The UN ‘Law of the Sea’ (which all countries agree and adhere  to) allows governments an exclusive economic zone of up to 200 nautical miles from their shores in which all the shit in it is theirs. But if you want more than that, then each country has to make a case that land further out is geologically/scientifically connected to their continental shelf, which is the underwater land that slopes down from the countries’ coasts. If a country can prove such a claim, then they get title to all the shit in that zone as well.  And of course the shit we are talking about here is not walrus shit….its energy resources man! Big business!

Arctic territorial boundaries, soon to be expanded.

And that is precisely what is currently happening in the Arctic. It’s why Russia sent a submarine to plant their flag underneath the North Pole and to collect geologic samples. They are trying to prove a claim to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean that may have oil and shit in it.  See map. And they are not alone either. Canada and Denmark have been sending up crews as well to scope things out. (FYI: Denmark is involved because they ‘own’ Greenland, which gives them some serious Arctic shoreline too.) Not to be outdone, the US has pretty much preemptively declared the whole fucking Arctic as belonging to them. Ha! Well, why not? They’ve had so much success with their other preemptive actions around the globe! Ouch! That stings!

So the scramble for the Arctic is on, prompted by the allure of riches.  Kind of like the ‘Gold Rush’ was to California. Countries are laying claims, and governments will be squabbling with each other at the UN, and all kinds of research and military maneuvers are soon to be conducted up at the top of the world. Whoops. Did I say military maneuvers? Damn I’m good.  ‘Cause the Russians have already started that too. But let’s get to the number 2 issue before we bump back into the Russian military…

2)The changes to global transportation thing: This is the real deal. Now, vast oil reserves may be discovered in the Arctic, and some countries may get rich with it, and those resources may affect lots of aspects of our world, please keep this in mind: loss of Arctic ice WILL change the world radically. And it WILL happen. So what’s going to happen Plaid?

Shipping routes are going to be radically altered. Check out a globe sometime. A real globe…you know, those basketball shaped things with the continents on them.  Seriously, get one. See if you can figure out the shortest route from California to England.  How about from China to Florida. How about from Italy to Japan. Are you getting the picture? All those trips are significantly shorter going through the Arctic Ocean—but not yet! We have to wait for the ice to melt first.  When it does, the pattern of international shipping will be transformed immensely.  Please keep in mind that 99% of all the goods you will ever buy were transported to your country via a ship. If there were to be a worldwide freeze on international ocean shipping, your Wal-mart shelves would be completely empty within a week! How do you think they get all that cheap shit from China to your hometown, and still keep it so cheap? Oceanic shipping is big business.  But that’s just the start…

There are also vast areas of the planet that are pretty much ‘disconnected’ from the global economy because they are completely land-locked (no ocean access) or because their physical geography makes it too costly to transport goods (i.e. it costs too much to transport stuff over mountains or over extremely long distance on land.) Need some examples of such places? Look no further than Canada and Russia: currently vast, cold as shit lands with few people and fewer economic opportunities. Think Siberia.  But wait! Global warming to the rescue! As these areas warm up and thaw out, all kinds of shit is going to change. We’ll beat down the Canadians in a different forum, but to finish this blog, let’s just consider Russia.  Look at this map below:

Useless damn Russian rivers….for now…

Which way do all the Russian rivers flow? If you said ‘north’: nice job! You can read! But seriously, consider this: all of those rivers flowing north to the ice-locked Arctic Ocean have served to seriously hamper the Russian economy for centuries. Those rivers are useless for economic transport. That northern coastline is useless for port towns, and double useless to establish a serious naval power. Result: the vast innards of Russia are inaccessible, and Russia has never established itself as a premier naval power or economic exporter.

And now: WHAM! Goodbye ice, Hello New Russia! This shit is going to blow up man! With the warming of temperatures and the elimination of Arctic ice cover, all of Russia‘s rivers may become navigable, therefore opening the interior of the Asian continent as it has never been before.  More open and accessible than any time in all of human history! Look for movements of people, creations of towns and cities, and a whole new economic outlook for Siberia as well as those Central Asian countries which will suddenly have a lot more global trade access. It is crazy! The same will be true for Canada, but the Russian experience will be exponentially bigger.

And now I can finish this rant by tying into the story we started yesterday…remember? I told you there were 3 reasons that the Russians were ramping their military back up.  And here it is: #3 the Russians are becoming a lot more militarily active, specifically in the Arctic, in preparation to ‘claim’ this vast area as part of their strategic territory.  Dudes! Am I good or what? Seriously, look at what those rascally Ruskies have been doing: sending subs into Arctic territory, planting flags in Arctic territory, but most importantly, re-starting their bomber patrols in Arctic territory. Oh shit, I almost forgot, they just did this too:

Russian bombers to fire cruise missiles over Arctic

Damn! Firing practice missiles too! They certainly are busy up there.  The Plaid Avenger is convinced that the Russian’s primary pursuit in their Arctic Russian land grab…or is it ice grab?pursuits is to establish an ‘Arctic presence’ which will turn into an ‘Arctic occupation’.  Hell, if you are there, and no one else is there, and you know no one has legitimate title to the land…then don’t you pretty much own it? That is, until someone comes and physically kicks you off of it.  And who the hell is going to start a damn land war with the Ruskies on a godforsaken chunk of ice out in the middle of nowhere? Answer: not many, if any!  It’s kind of like the moon: we can have a million and one diplomatic treaties concerning who owns the moon, but whoever is actually up there sitting on it (in their moon base) effectively can do anything they want. Right?

Possession is 9/10ths of the law—meaning that if you have it in your hands, or effectively control it, than it’s pretty much yours.  Can you dig that? The Ruskies sure do!  Dudes! They probably are as giddy as a pack of school girls on a Sunday picnic about this whole global warming thing! They will finally have shit-tons of navigable coastlines. They will finally get to become a serious naval power, especially since they have so much extra cash laying around that they’ve made off of oil sales. They will finally be able to easily access virtually all parts of their most inhospitable country. Finally!

Oh…I mean after the ice melts of course.

If the igloo is rockin', don't bother knockin'….My apologies on the long rant, but it appears that my Inuit wo-manservant Ieshiatia has finished the igloo and has mixed me a piping Hot Toddy.  I must get in there and attend to my Arctic business! It really is the only way to stay warm up here….

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