War over the Arctic? Global warming skeptics distract us from security risks.
Moscow gets this, even if the US public does not. “The Arctic must become Russia’s main strategic resource base,” Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, declared last year. “It cannot be ruled out that the battle for raw materials will be waged by military means,” a Russian planning document has warned.
Partially because of years of climate change denial, “the United States remains largely asleep at the wheel,” according to a Foreign Affairs article last March by Scott Borgerson, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Meanwhile, other Arctic nations are moving to muscularly stake their sovereignty claims while prospecting for hundreds of billions of dollars of treasure buried on the ocean floor up there.
Major melting has spurred Russia, Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), and Norway into a new gold rush, except this time it’s about staking claim to huge reservoirs of natural gas, petroleum, and untold deposits of minerals previously inaccessible because of the polar ice shield. Much of the sub-sea Arctic wealth will of necessity be transported by ships because thawing tundra will be too unstable for pipelines. The South Koreans anticipated this more than a decade ago, building giant vessels to secure a big share of the shipping market.