The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Russian television contacted me recently, asking me to go on a program about the race for Arctic resources. The ice is melting fast, and it was all the usual stuff about how there will be big strategic conflicts over the seabed resources — especially oil and gas — that become accessible when it’s gone.
The media always love conflict, and now that the Cold War is long gone, there’s no other potential military confrontation between the great powers to worry about.
Governments around the Arctic Ocean are beefing up their armed forces for the coming struggle, so where are the flashpoints and what are the strategies? In the end I didn’t do the interview because the Skype didn’t work, so I didn’t get the chance to rain on their parade. But here’s what I would have said to the Russians.
There are three separate “resources” in the Arctic. On the surface, there are the sea lanes that are opening up to commercial traffic along the northern coasts of Russia and Canada. Under the seabed, there are potential oil and gas deposits that can be drilled once the ice retreats. And in the water in between, there is the planet’s last unfished ocean.
The sea lanes are mainly a Canadian obsession, because the government believes the Northwest Passage that weaves between Canada’s Arctic islands will become a major commercial artery when the ice is gone. Practically every summer Prime Minister Stephen Harper travels north to declare his determination to defend Canada’s Arctic sovereignty from — well, it’s not clear from exactly whom, but it’s a great photo op.
Canada is getting new Arctic patrol vessels and building a deep-water naval port and Arctic warfare training centre in the region, but it’s much ado about nothing. The Arctic Ocean will increasingly be used as a shortcut between the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, but the shipping will not go through Canadian waters. Russia’s “Northern Sea Route” will get the traffic — it’s already open and much safer to navigate.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2012/08/02/wars-unlikely-over-arctics-resources