World News and Trends: Ice Station Putin

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Ice Station Putin

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The race for Arctic riches in black gold is on. In midsummer Russia planted its flag on the North Pole via a submarine stunt beneath the Arctic ice. Members of the British Parliament's Select Committee on Foreign Affairs fear that "the West could be on a collision course in the struggle for energy resources with ‘an authoritarian bloc opposed to democracy' that was based on an alliance between China and Russia" (The Times, Aug. 6, 2007, emphasis added).

According to The Sunday Times, Canada is spending a large amount of money on military vessels in anticipation of a struggle with Russia. The United States, along with many European nations, shares Canadian anxieties. "At stake . . . [is] access to what geologists believe are a quarter of the globe's oil and gas reserves—in short the solution to the crippling energy shortages that will begin throttling Western economies within the next two decades" (Aug. 5, 2007).

Resisting Russian claims to ownership of Arctic mineral resources will require strong political will from the Western world. " Russia already controls the world's largest reserves of natural gas and is second only to Saudi Arabia in oil production. Both European and American officials are concerned that the West may be forced into politically damaging dependence on Russian energy production if Moscow's claim to 463,000 square miles of [the] Arctic is not challenged."

Clearly Russian President Vladimir Putin has seized the strategic initiative. In an area twice the size of France, it is estimated that possibly 500 billion barrels of Arctic oil and an incalculable amount of natural gas may be at stake. Is the world moving towards the beginning phases of another kind of Cold War? (Sources: The Times, The Sunday Times [both London].)