Major technological advances with their immediate reflections in the industrial military arena, along with the rapid climate changes, are making the stationary landscape of the Arctic Ocean an open frontier. Here will be one of the decisive games represented by the United States, China, Russia, and other players, an extension of the great game of their field of influence on the world stage. Paul Watson in his article, “A Melting Arctic Could Spark a New Cold War” said “The Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth. Making it easier to drill massive new fields of oil and natural gas would help fuel a climate catastrophe.”
There are three open fronts in the Arctic, the economy, the army, and trade. The last has gained importance by halving the distance between China and Europe. If there are 13,000 nautical miles between Europe and the Far East through the Suez Canal, passage by the Arctic Ocean reduces this distance to about 6,000 nautical miles. The protagonists of the other two fronts are Washington and Moscow. Since 2012, Russia has carried out “fierce” military and economic exploitation in the region, an area considered by the Russian Ministry of Environment, as Ali Baba’s Cave. The latest Russian military installation is located on the Zemlya Islands and was inaugurated in April 2017 by Vladimir Putin.
Now, the question is how the United States will react to a frontal challenge of this kind. Other interested parties are Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Denmark. This heterogeneous composition conflicts with the interests of Russia, the autonomous protagonist of its own interests. While Russia has reactivated old airports and large logistic bases, only military exercises have been registered as a response. A project to build a 600-mile advanced military base on Cornwallis Island has failed because of the high cost of expanding the runway at the local airport and building new infrastructure. Other prominent places in the region, such as Denmark and Norway, are limited to coordinated exercises, but without new grounds to counter Russian advancements.
In the article “Scenes from the New Cold War Unfolding at the Top of the World” Jonathan Markowitz, an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, said “Arctic investment has been uneven, and some nations are vastly outperforming others. Russia and Norway have been the most proactive Arctic nations, spending heavily on natural gas and oil infrastructure.” The North Pole is comprised of large ice surfaces, which have begun to melt slowly. Thanks to the discovery of large quantities of oil and gas, the Arctic has become the focus of worldwide attention, becoming the subject of research and exploitation of the USA, Canada, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries. Russia, as one of the closest Northern-Polar states to the Arctic, has appealed to the United Nations for the right to explore and exploit most of the Arctic Eurasian surface. Meanwhile, the International Finance Organization aims to prevent this by providing Russia with alternative solutions including exports from Norway and Finland to the European Union and utilizing wind power from the Arctic for Russia to produce electricity. This is backed by Anglo-American corporations hoping to repel Russia from further exploration and exploitation of energy resources in the Arctic.In recent years, the Arctic Council has greatly increased military presence around the Arctic. In 2012 there were large military maneuvers in which military troops from 14 countries took part in combat drills which utilized various types of combat vehicles plus the involvement of military troops, mainly from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Sweden, and Norway. In response, Russia also maintained its military maneuvers in the region of Besovets-Karelia, attended by several combat vehicles and military troops. This year, Canada has reinforced its military base on Cornwallis Island. Russia then renewed its abandoned military base in the Novosibirsk Islands, marking the return of the Russian fleet to the Arctic after twenty years of abandonment, since the collapse of the former USSR. Aiming to explore new naval routes, Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO sent a merchant vessel from China’s Dalian Harbor to Rotterdam Harbor in the Netherlands, through the North Pole, which reached its destination in less than 30 days. The significance of this stemming from the fact that the Arctic’s glaciers are melting, allowing for alternative routes. This route proved to be significantly shorter than the existing route via the Suez canal by about 5400 kilometers. Iceland has now signed an agreement with China where it could sell its products to Europe through the North Pole’s naval corridors, bringing China closer to Europe. The Arctic, which is known for its large areas covered with glaciers and snow, where penguins and polar bears live, is now on the international scene and in the public eye as an important geostrategic area rich in energy resources. Large countries, primarily the US and Russia, and international corporations are engaged in the exploration and exploitation of the Arctic’s energy resources. As well as, utilizing the Arctic’s advantageous trade routes which drastically reduce the distance between the Far East and Central Europe. The melting of the glaciers, however, will be felt worldwide. There is no place to avoid the possible consequences of this natural phenomenon as sea levels will increase. Meaning not only do the countries surrounding the Arctic but those beyond, should inquire and make joint decisions as the eventual consequences will affect us all.