Russia Sets Up Arctic Forces - August, 2011

The Arctic continues to make news in Russia and it continues to cause sleepless nights in Washington and Ottawa. Protecting national interests in the energy-rich Arctic region will become one of the main geopolitical chess games of the twenty-first century. I am very happy to report that Moscow has taken the initiative in various venues with regards to the Arctic, not the least of which is the creation of a new military force that will operate exclusively within the Arctic circle. With Russia acting as the front runner of those seeking to claim the region's vast natural wealth, the Arctic is fast turning into a hotbed of activity. As reported previously, Moscow has also begun the massive modernization program of its armed forces. Russia's new stealth fighter, T-50, was presented in this year's MAKS airshow (see article posted at the bottom of this page). The flight of the T-50 at the air show was poignant in that its costlier American counterparts, the trillion dollar F-35 and the F-22, have been sitting in their hangars due to various technical problems. Moscow is also said to be considering the purchase of 3 billion dollars worth of aircraft during this year's international aircraft exhibition.

August, 2011


Russia Sets Up Arctic Forces

Russia will set up Arctic forces to help protect the nation's interests in the energy-rich region. Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said two Army brigades would be deployed in the territories beyond the Arctic Circle. “The General Staff is currently drafting plans to establish two [army brigade] formations, including deployment sites, armaments, troop numbers and infrastructure,” Mr. Serdyukov told reporters on Friday.

He said the Arctic forces may be stationed in the northern Russian cities of Murmansk or Arkhangelsk, but other locations are also being considered. The plan to strengthen military forces in the Arctic was announced a day after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia would protect its interests in the region “firmly and consistently” and would stand by its territorial claims on the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges in the Arctic Ocean, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.

Mr. Serdyukov announced on Friday that the new submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile, Bulova, was ready for deployment on the new-generation Borei-class nuclear submarines that would operate in the Arctic. The Russian Navy has also drawn up plans to deploy more surface battleships in Arctic ports to protect sea routes along Russia's 22,600-km long Arctic coastline.


Russia to deploy thousands of troops to 'protect the nation's interests' in the Arctic

Russia has announced it will send two army brigades, including special forces soldiers, to the Arctic to protect its interests in the disputed, oil-rich zone. Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all made claims over parts of the Arctic circle which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia 'remains open for dialogue' with its polar neighbours, but will 'strongly and persistently' defend its interests in the region. Russia's defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov said the military will deploy two army brigades which he said could be based in the town of Murmansk close to the border with Norway.

He said his ministry is working out specifics, such as troops numbers, weapons and bases, but a brigade includes a few thousand soldiers. In May Commander of the Russian Ground Forces Aleksander Postnikov took a three-day long trip to military camps on the Kola Peninsula, next to the borders of Finland and Norway. A spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry said that the first soldiers to be sent would be special forces troops specially equipped and prepared for military warfare in Arctic conditions.

The Russians say the establishment of an Arctic brigade is an attempt to 'balance the situation' and point to the fact that the U.S. and Canada are already establishing similar brigades. Drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Circle has been made feasible as much of the Sheet ice has melted due to climate change.

Earlier this month Russia and Norway finally agreed terms on a deal to divide an area of the Barents Sea. The two countries had been locked in a dispute over the 68,000 square mile area since 1970. However the agreement does not address one of the Russians' key claims, that a huge undersea mountain range that covers the North Pole, forms part of Russia’s continental shelf and must therefore be considered Russian territory.

The race to secure subsurface rights to the Arctic seabed heated up in 2007 when Russia sent two small submarines to plant a tiny national flag under the North Pole. Russia argued that the underwater ridge connected their country directly to the North Pole and as such formed part of their territory, a claim which was disputed by other Arctic nations. The Russian company Rosneft has struck a short-term deal with BP to begin drilling in areas of the far north, even if the future of the marriage business is still not clear.

Another change brought about by the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean is that it has opened up new sea routes. The amount of ice in the region continues to decrease each year and many experts predict it will disappear completely by the year 2030. This week a leading British global security expert predicted that the competition between nations for natural resources will bring about a third world war. Professor Michael Klare of Hampshire College, believes the next three decades will see powerful corporations at serious risk of going bust, nations fighting for their futures and significant bloodshed. He said the winners in the race for energy security will get to decide how we live, work and play in future years - with the losers 'cast aside and dismembered'. He explained: 'The struggle for energy resources is guaranteed to grow ever more intense for a simple reason: there is no way the existing energy system can satisfy the world’s future requirements.'


Putin Urges 'Big Cleanup' in Arctic

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Thursday for a "big cleanup" in the Arctic Region to remove oil barrels and litter scattered around polar stations. "We need a really big cleanup for the region and the disposal of litter and fuel barrels, which have been accumulating around stations, military bases and northern settlements for decades," Putin told a regional conference of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in Yekaterinburg. "I was there last year and took a closer look: this is something terrible, litter is lying around in quantities you cannot even imagine, and those barrels are rusting, leaking substances into the environment," Putin said.

He said Arctic ecosystems are very fragile and such mishandling may result in irreversible damage for the region's environment. Putin reiterated that Russia will not backtrack on its territorial claims on the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleev ridges in the Arctic region. "Russia is certainly set to expand its presence in the Arctic. We are open for dialog with our foreign partners, our neighbors in the Arctic region, but, naturally, we will protect our geopolitical interests firmly and consistently," Putin said.

Russia has laid claim to large parts of the Arctic shelf, which is believed to contain rich oil and gas deposits, saying it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The claim was rejected by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf over lack of information. Russia is expected to prepare additional data supporting its claim by December 2013 and submit it in early 2014.


'Ice Wars' heating up the Arctic

On a small, floating piece of ice in the Beaufort Sea, several hundred miles north of Alaska, a group of scientists are documenting what some dub an "Arctic meltdown." According to climate scientists, the warming of the region is shrinking the polar ice cap at an alarming rate, reducing the permafrost layer and wreaking havoc on polar bears, arctic foxes and other indigenous wildlife in the region.What is bad for the animals, though, has been good for commerce.

The recession of the sea ice and the reduction in permafrost -- combined with advances in technology -- have allowed access to oil, mineral and natural gas deposits that were previously trapped in the ice. The abundance of these valuable resources and the opportunity to exploit them has created a gold rush-like scramble in the high north, with fierce competition to determine which countries have the right to access the riches of the Arctic. This competition has brought in its wake a host of naval and military activities that the Arctic hasn't seen since the end of the Cold War. Now, one of the coldest places on Earth is heating up as nuclear submarines, Aegis-class frigates, strategic bombers and a new generation of icebreakers are resuming operations there.

Just how much oil and natural gas is under the Arctic ice?

The Arctic is home to approximately 90 billion barrels of undiscovered but recoverable oil, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Geological Survey. And preliminary estimates are that one-third of the world's natural gas may be harbored in the Arctic ice. But that's not all that's up for grabs. The Arctic also contains rich mineral deposits. Canada, which was not historically a diamond-producing nation, is now the third-largest diamond producer in the world. If the global warming trend continues as many scientists project it to, it is likely that more and more resources will be discovered as the ice melts further.

Who are the countries competing for resources?

The United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Finland all stake a claim to a portion of the Arctic. These countries make up the Arctic Council, a diplomatic forum designed to mediate disputes on Arctic issues Professor Brigham Lawson, director of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission in Anchorage, Alaska, and chairman of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment of the Arctic Council, says that "cooperation in the Arctic has never been higher." But like the oil trapped on the Arctic sea floor, much of the activity of the Arctic Council is happening below the surface. In secret diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stieg Moeller was quoted as saying to the United States, "If you stay out, the rest of us will have more to carve up the Arctic."

At the root of Moeller's statement is a dispute over control of territories that is pitting friend against foe and against friend. Canada and the U.S., strategic allies in NATO and Afghanistan, are in a diplomatic dispute over the Northwest Passage. Canada and Russia have recently signed development agreements together. In the same way a compass goes awry approaching the North Pole, traditional strategic alliances are impacted at the top of the world.

Who owns the rights to the resources?

Right now, the most far-reaching legal document is the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. All of the Arctic states are using its language to assert their claims. The Law of the Sea was initially designed to govern issues like fishing rights, granting nations an exclusive economic zone 200 miles off their coasts. But in the undefined, changing and overlapping territory of the Arctic, the Law of the Sea becomes an imperfect guide, and there are disputes over who owns what. One example is the Lomonosov Ridge, which Canada, Denmark and Russia all claim is within their territory, based on their cartographic interpretations. Also complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. has never ratified the Law of the Sea. That has given other Arctic Council nations more muscle to assert territorial rights.

So what's next?

With murky international agreements and an absence of clear legal authority, countries are preaching cooperation but preparing for conflict. There has been a flurry of new military activity reminiscent of days past. Two U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines, the SSN Connecticut and the SSN New Hampshire, recently finished conducting ice exercises in the Arctic. Secretary of the Navy Richard Maybus said the purpose of the recent naval exercises was "to do operational and war-fighting capabilities. Places are becoming open that have been ice-bound for literally millennia. You're going to see more and more of the world's attention pointed towards the Arctic."

Other Arctic nations are ramping up their military capabilities as well. Just this month, Russia announced that it is deploying two brigades to the Arctic, including a special forces unit. The Russian air force has recently resumed strategic bomber flights over the Pole. Canada, Denmark and Norway are also rapidly rebuilding their military presence. But despite the buildup, almost all of the activity in the Arctic has been within the scope of normal military operations or research.

Have we seen this before?

There is a long precedent for countries using the Arctic to demonstrate military primacy.

On April 25, 1958, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine -- the USS Nautilus (SSN 571) -- began Operation Sunshine, the first undersea transpolar crossing. Done on the heels of the Sputnik satellite launch, it was a demonstration that the U.S. could go places that its Cold War nemesis could not. For the next three decades, U.S. and Soviet submarines would continue to use the Arctic as a proving ground for military prowess.

With the end of the Cold War, that activity waned. But in 2007, a Russian expedition planted a flag on the bottom of the polar sea floor, almost 14,000 feet below the surface. This "neo-Sputnik" has brought renewed interest to the Arctic and launched a flurry of activity -- scientific, economic and military -- that is eerily parallel to the decades of tension between the superpowers. The Cold War may be over, but the dethawing of military activity means that the frigid Arctic is once again becoming a hot spot.


WikiLeaks: Rush to Drill in Arctic is Stirring Military Tensions with Russia

The latest batch of Wikileaks cables reveals that there's an ongoing rush to "carve up" the Arctic for resources between the states that border it. The cables detail brewing tensions, especially between the United States, Canada, and Russia. They show fault lines within NATO itself, and some ambassadors have expressed concerns that the race to claim the resource-rich territory -- remember, the US Geological Survey estimates that there's as much oil off the coast of Greenland as there is in the North Sea -- will lead to military conflict in the near future. Greenpeace contacted me with their parsings of the leaked cables (I hope to have time to dig deeper into them a bit later), and here's some of what they found:

  • A cable numbered 12958 details a conversation between US diplomats and then Danish foreign minister Moeller, in which they discuss delays in US ratification of a key maritime convention. "If you stay out," Moeller is quoted as telling the Americans, "then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic.
  • A 2010 cable (number 248929) quotes Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin saying: "The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight ... NATO has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North."
  • A 2007 cable (number 129049) shows how the U.S, is positioning to take advantage of any oil strike off Greenland. The cable states: "Greenland is on a clear track toward independence, which could come more quickly than most outside the Kingdom of Denmark realize... With Greenlandic independence glinting on the horizon, the U.S. has a unique opportunity to shape the circumstances in which an independent nation may emerge. We have real security and growing economic interests in Greenland, for which existing Joint and Permanent Committee mechanisms (described reftel A) may no longer be sufficient. American commercial investments, our continuing strategic military presence, and new high-level scientific and political interest in Greenland argue for establishing a small and seasonal American Presence Post in Greenland's capital as soon as practicable...
  • Cable 208631 (from 2009) states the U.S. belief that "Behind Russia's (Arctic) policy are two potential benefits accruing from global warming: the prospect for an (even seasonally) ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia, and the estimated oil and gas wealth hidden beneath the Arctic sea floor... Despite on-going efforts to renew U.S.-Russian relations, some Russian voices have called the situation in the Arctic a ""cold peace"" vis-a-vis NATO and the U.S. In April 2008, Russian Navy head Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said, ""While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention...

One of the most striking things about the Wikileaks cables has been just how much senior diplomats and power brokers actually sound like Bond villains or caricatures of cigar-chomping fat cats. Some of these reported statements just need a bit of Vincent Price-esque cackling afterward to be pushed into B-list suspense film territory. Besides that, Wikileaks has provided yet another invaluable peak into how governments work when nobody's looking. It shouldn't surprise anyone that disputes over territory in the oil-rich Arctic -- at a time when demand for the black gold is surging and supply is dwindling -- should cause military strategists to worry. Nor will it likely surprise anyone that the US is repulsively circling Greenland like a vulture, waiting for it to declare independence so our oil companies can swoop in an monopolize the region.

And against the backdrop of all of this is the fact that man-caused global climate change is making it all possible -- now that there's less ice in the Arctic, ships (and oil rigs) can more safely navigate the seas. Some of the cables mention this outright. They make eminently clear that climate change will almost certainly make the region the next hot button zone in geopolitical affairs.


Russia and America Clash in the Arctic? Arctic Region. Prime Target of U.S. Expansionist Strategy
The US and Canada have agreed to put aside their dispute over navigation rights off the Canadian coast to stand up jointly to Russia. Last year Nato, for the first time, officially claimed a role in the Arctic, when Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told member-states to sort out their differences within the alliance so that it could move on to set up “military activity in the region.” “Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance,” he said at a Nato seminar in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January 2009.

Since then, Nato has held several major war games focussing on the Arctic region. In March this year, 14,000 Nato troops took part in the “Cold Response 2010” military exercise held in Norway under a patently provocative legend: the alliance came to the defence of a fictitious small democratic state, Midland, whose oilfield is claimed by a big undemocratic state, Nordland. In August, Canada hosted its largest yet drill in the Arctic, Operation Nanook 2010, in which the US and Denmark took part for the first time.

Russia and the United States have made headway in improving their relations on arms control, Afghanistan and Iran but there is one area where their “reset” may yet run aground — the Arctic. The US military top brass warned of a new Cold War in the Arctic and called for stepping up American military presence in the energy-rich region.

Earlier this month, US Admiral James G Stavridis, supreme Nato commander for Europe, said global warming and a race for resources could lead to a conflict in the Arctic because “it has the potential to alter the geopolitical balance in the Arctic heretofore frozen in time.” Echoing similar views, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Christopher C. Colvin, who is in charge of Alaska’s coastline, said Russian shipping activity in the Arctic Ocean was of particular concern for the US. He called for more military facilities in the region.

The statements are in line with the US policy. It calls for “deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security” to “preserve the global mobility of the US military and civilian vessels and aircraft throughout the Arctic region” including the North Sea Route along Russia’s Arctic coast, which Moscow regards as its national waterway. Russia is the prime target of the US expansionist strategy.

Two months ago, the first Russian supertanker sailed from Europe to Asia along the North Sea route. Next year, Russia plans to send more ships across the Arctic route, 9,000 km off the traditional route via the Suez Canal.

The US Geological Service believes that the Arctic contains up to a quarter of the world’s unexplored deposits of oil and gas. Washington also disputes Moscow’s effort to enlarge its Exclusive Economic Zone in the Arctic Ocean. Under the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, a coastal state is entitled to a 200-nautical mile EEZ and can claim a further 150 miles if it proves that the seabed is a continuation of its continental shelf.

Russia was the first to apply for an additional EEZ in 2001 but the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf asked for harder scientific evidence to back the claim. Moscow said it would resubmit its claim in 2013. However, the US has not ratified the UN Convention as many Congressmen fear it would restrict their Navy’s “global mobility.”

Despite the end of the Cold War, the potential for conflict in the Arctic has increased recently the scramble of the five Arctic littoral states — Russia, the US, Canada, Norway and Denmark (through its control of Greenland) – for chalking out claims to the energy-rich Arctic as the receding Polar ice makes its resources more accessible and opens the region to round-the-year shipping. All claims are overlapping and the five states are locked in a multitude of other bilateral disputes. But, at the end of the day, it is Russia against the others, all Nato members.

The US and Canada have agreed to put aside their dispute over navigation rights off the Canadian coast to stand up jointly to Russia. Last year Nato, for the first time, officially claimed a role in the Arctic, when Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told member-states to sort out their differences within the alliance so that it could move on to set up “military activity in the region.” “Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance,” he said at a Nato seminar in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January 2009.

Since then, Nato has held several major war games focussing on the Arctic region. In March this year, 14,000 Nato troops took part in the “Cold Response 2010” military exercise held in Norway under a patently provocative legend: the alliance came to the defence of a fictitious small democratic state, Midland, whose oilfield is claimed by a big undemocratic state, Nordland. In August, Canada hosted its largest yet drill in the Arctic, Operation Nanook 2010, in which the US and Denmark took part for the first time.

Russia registered its firm opposition to the Nato foray, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying the region would be best without Nato. “Russia is keeping a close eye on this activity,” he said in September. “The Arctic can manage fine without Nato.” The western media portrayed the Nato build-up in the region as a reaction to Russia’s “aggressive” assertiveness, citing the resumption of Arctic Ocean patrols by Russian warships and long-range bombers and the planting of a Russian flag in the North Pole seabed three years ago.

It is conveniently forgotten that the US Navy and Air Force have not stopped Arctic patrolling for a single day since the end of the Cold War. Russia, on the other hand, drastically scaled back its presence in the region after the break-up of the Soviet Union. It cut most of its Northern Fleet warships, dismantled air defences along its Arctic coast and saw its other military infrastructure in the region fall into decay.

The Arctic has enormous strategic value for Russia. Its nuclear submarine fleet is based in the Kola Peninsula. Russia’s land territory beyond the Arctic Circle is almost the size of India — 3.1 million sq km. It accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s natural gas production, 60 per cent of oil, and the bulk of rare and precious metals. By 2030, Russia’s Arctic shelf, which measures 4 million sq km, is expected to yield 30 million tonnes of oil and 130 billion cubic metres of gas. If Russia’s claim for a 350-mile EEZ is granted, it will add another 1.2 million sq km to its possessions.

A strategy paper Medvedev signed in 2008 said the polar region would become Russia’s “main strategic resource base” by 2020. Russia has devised a multivector strategy to achieve this goal. First, it works to restore its military capability in the region to ward off potential threats. Russia is building a new class of nuclear submarines armed with a new long-range missile. Navy Chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky said recently he had also drawn up a plan to deploy warships in Russia’s Arctic ports to protect polar sea routes.

A second strategy is to try and resolve bilateral disputes with other Arctic nations. In September, Russia and Norway signed a border pact settling their 40-year feud over 175,000 in the Barents Sea and agreeing to jointly develop seabed oil and gas in the region.

Even as Russia continues to gather geological proof of its territorial claims in the Arctic, it is ready for compromises. Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon did not rule out, after his recent talks in Moscow, that Canada and Russia could submit a joint application to the UN for the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain stretching from Siberia to Canada, which both countries claim as an extension of their continental shelves.

A third direction of Russia’s policy is to promote broad international co-operation in the region. Addressing Russia’s first international Arctic conference in Moscow in September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for joint efforts to protect the fragile ecosystem, attract foreign investment in the region’s economy and promote clean environment-friendly technologies. He admitted that the interests of the Arctic countries “indeed clash,” but said all disputes could be resolved through international law.


Russia, Norway seal Arctic border deal

Russia and Norway have agreed a deal to divide up their shares of the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Norwegian counterpart Jona Gahr Stoere ratified the deal during a ceremony in Oslo on Tuesday.

The ministers exchanged copies of the deal at the Akershus Castle, once a residence of Norwegian monarchs. This is where in 1993 the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, signed a deal which marked a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. The agreement signed today is no less significant as it ends more than 40 years of debates between Russia and Norway over how to divide the disputable oil-rich area. According to some estimates, the Barents Sea is rich in about 75 billion tonnes of oil, not to mention abundant fish and seafood resources. Experts say the implementation of the deal which is due to begin on the 7th of July will make a profit of more than $200 billion. What is also important for Moscow here is that starting from today all disputes about Arctic territories, including Russia’s claims to the Lomonosov Ridge, will be considered at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

According to Norway’s Foreign Minister Jona Gahr Stoere, the border deal signed in Oslo today proves that there is no race for Arctic riches. Sergei Lavrov said he backed his counterpart’s point of view:

“The treaty’s coming into force will mark the end of a long-standing moratorium on developing oil and gas deposits at the shelf’s disputable territories. This opens way for broader cooperation of our countries in the energy sphere. Besides oil and gas searching, now, there will be possibilities of cooperation in other spheres, including navigation and transport.”

“After the treaty comes into force on July 7, no problems will remain in Russian-Norwegian relations,” said the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

However, there may be no problems in issues where only Russia and Norway are involved – but when it comes to acute issues of today’s world politics, the two countries sometimes have different approaches. As you probably know, Russia has agreed to become a mediator in the Libyan conflict. Norway seems to prefer to stay neutral.

“Russia’s efforts in the Libyan issue, including the recent mission of the Russian president’s special representative for Africa Sergey Margelov, are aimed at reaching a peaceful agreement between the warring sides,” Mr. Lavrov said. “And we insist that the African Union must be the main mediator in this agreement. Russia also thinks that other similar conflicts, say, the one in Syria, must be approached very carefully. However, if the UN’s Security Council becomes the only body which adopts decisions on every issue in such conflicts, I won’t call it a very good sign. This is not within UN’s competence. It runs counter to this organization’s charter. This may only lead to another armed conflict. Otherwise, the UN”s Security Council will have to discuss much bloodier conflicts, like the ones in Yemen or Bahrain.”


U.S. should improve its capabilities in Arctic - Pentagon

The United States should take efforts to improve its command, control, communications and intelligence capabilities in the Arctic and remove the limitations affecting its interests in the region, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a report submitted to the Congress.

"The region, which covers one-sixth of the world's landmass, is undergoing challenges of increased human population, causing issues over sea, land and air domains as it becomes more open to scientific and commercial ventures, and possible national security threats," the Department of State's press service quoted a report summary as saying.

The report addresses the advantages and disadvantages of a recent amendment to the U.S. Unified Command Plan that removed U.S. Pacific Command from shared oversight in the region, leaving shared command to U.S. Northern Command and U.S. European Command, a statement published on the DOD official website said.

According to the report, the challenges facing the United States include shortfalls in ice and weather reporting and forecasting; limitations in command and control, communications, intelligence and other capabilities due to a lack of assets and harsh conditions; limited inventory of ice-capable vessels and shore-based infrastructure.

The United States should cooperate with other members of the eight-nation Arctic Council - Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden - to "promote a balanced approach to improving human and environmental security in the region," the summary says.


Canadian Military Stages Show Of Force Against Russia In Arctic

Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay recently described Operation Nanook 11 as "the largest operation that has taken place in recent history." The now-annual Canadian military exercises in the Arctic were established to buttress Canada's claim to part of the Arctic sea floor where Russian and Canadian claims overlap. Russia is establishing permanent military bases in its northern territories to support its claim, and all five Arctic nations are racing to gather data to support their claims amid reports that global warming could leave the resource-rich region ice-free and accessible by 2030.

The United States Geological Survey says the Arctic seabed could hold 13 per cent of the world's oil reserves and 30 per cent of its gas resources. The rival nations are Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States. In 2012 the data from each will go before a United Nations panel that will decide which nations own which sections of the Arctic seabed.

A Russian scientific expedition — led by a nuclear-powered icebreaker — has set sail for the Arctic to solidify Russia's claim, and has announced it will station two new Arctic warfare brigades north of 60 degrees — a move that will expand Russia's northern military capabilities far beyond those of Canada, according to the Montreal Gazette.

According to the Canadian Defence Department, Operation Nanook 11 is to play out in several phases on and near Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island, with more than 1,000 Canadian Forces personnel participating. It will involve CF-18 fighter jets as well a surveillance and transport aircraft, a warship, infantry companies from Quebec and Alberta, and 5 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group — Inuit reservists who have broad experience surviving in the extreme environment of the Far North.


In other developments:

Leaked Cable Shows Challenge BP Faces in Russia

Oil reservoirs at the Val Gamburtseva oil fields in Russia's Arctic Far North. Russian state oil company Rosneft earlier this year announced a joint venture with BP

A new cable published by WikiLeaks shows the big challenges BP faces in its new Arctic exploration joint venture, and also sheds some light on the Russian government’s motivation for allowing the unprecedented deal with state-controlled oil company Rosneft in the first place. The cable, which quotes Tim Summers, the former acting Chief Executive of BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP, shows how Russia’s oil industry has operated far below international technical standards, but struggled to improve its efficiency because of government interference in the sector.

It reveals why Rosneft so badly needs BP expertise to tap oil and gas reserves in Arctic waters, but also raises questions over whether BP will be able to deliver on its ambitious plans in the sclerotic Russian operating environment. TNK-BP declined to comment on the cable. A representative of Summers declined to comment. In a September 11 2009 meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Summers is said to have talked at length about problems in the Russian oil industry. The cable said:

“The inefficiencies in the system ‘are so huge’, according to Summers, that it would take a very long time to modernize the Russian oil and gas sector. Summers pointed out that a well that would take 10 days to drill in Canada would take 20 days to drill in Russia. He said moving a drilling rig from one site to another, a process that might take 7 or 8 hours in Canada, takes 28 days in Russia. "Multiply that by hundreds or thousands [of rigs] and you can start to imagine the costs.”

Rosneft executives admitted earlier this month that one of the main motivations for the BP deal was access to better technology. “Acquiring new knowledge…is of the greatest importance,” said Igor Sechin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of Rosneft.

It appears that a joint venture with a company like BP may be the only way to achieve this. Many state-run oil companies in other regions, notably the Middle East, have been able to lead development complicated oil and gas projects in close collaboration with Western oil service companies.

However, Summers said these companies were reluctant to enter Russia because of worries about intellectual property theft or negative headlines about the business environment. “Russia continues to be seen as too risky by many service companies,” he is quoted in the cable. Summers also outlined how direct government interference hampered the work of oil companies. “Oil company Slavneft (on whose board Summers sits), had been ordered to cancel an order for foreign equipment in favor of a domestic supplier, even though the foreign equipment was clearly superior,” the cable said. “Sechin (who is in charge of the energy sector) told Summers directly that he should be using Russian gas turbines instead of the preferable General Electric models TNK-BP was buying.”

Whether BP’s Arctic venture with Rosneft will face similar interference is debatable. Summers was talking about onshore oil drilling, for which Russia has an established industry with significant vested interests. In contrast, Russia currently has no offshore oil industry to speak of, so the pressure to patronize local companies may be lower.

These comments show the particular challenges of operating in Russia, but they also show how things have changed. That Sechin has gone from quibbling about turbine suppliers in 2009 to approving a multi-billion dollar exploration agreement in 2011, suggests a more accommodating stance to foreign involvement in Russian oil and gas.


Russia set to be biggest buyer at own airshow

MAKSed Out: Stealth & stunt showcase fills Moscow skies:

Russia will showcase its top-of-the-range fighter jets and newest space shuttles at the MAKS airshow, starting on Tuesday, and an ambitious program to upgrade its arms looks set to make Moscow the biggest buyer at its own show. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to visit the biennial event on Wednesday, and highlights will include the first public flight of Russia's long-delayed, fifth-generation T-50 fighter plane.

State-controlled Russian manufacturers of both military and civil planes are likely to use the event to unveil new orders and joint ventures with industry giants including Boeing, and Russia is expected to dominate buying rather than foreign governments. Last month President Dmitry Medvedev struck out at Russia's arms industry, the No. 2 exporter in the world, telling his army it could buy weapons from abroad as well as home.

Analysts say that may spark more foreign arms purchases like the 1.2 billion euro ($1.69 billion) order for two Mistral helicopter carriers, sealed with France this year. "Russia is at a moment where it's looking to beef up its arms industry with new technology. It's looking abroad to do this, which might make Moscow a bigger buyer than a seller at MAKS this year," said Ruslan Pukhov, director of Moscow-based defense think tank CAST.

Russia is in the market to buy up to $3 billion worth of combat and training aircraft during the show, Vedomosti reported earlier this month. Around $10 billion in deals are expected to be signed at the week-long airshow, according to the show's organizers Aviasalon, cited by Russian media. The last show in 2009 saw deals of about the same level.


Russia is trying to inject new life into its defense industry, which once competed with U.S. technology but fell into a deep stagnation when research funding was cut after the break up of the Soviet Union. The T-50 fifth-generation fighter jet, for example, is a belated attempt to rival the long-established F-22 United States aircraft made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, itself set to be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The stealth fighter is the prototype for the aircraft Russia will develop and mass-produce with its top arms importer India in a deal reported to be worth $35 billion.

Russian Helicopters, which makes the series of Mi-branded vehicles such as those used to invade Afghanistan in the 1980s, was formed last year from 11 regional manufacturers.

The company is expected to use MAKS to announce a range of new orders and contracts -- although mostly to Russian firms and the Defense Ministry. Russia's UTair Aviation and Gazpromavia, the airline of gas monopoly Gazprom, have both agreed to buy the Mi-171 models, the company said. Russia has also re-emerged as a force on the civil side of the industry, starting deliveries of its first passenger plane since the Soviet era and becoming an ever-growing presence at the world's biggest airshows at Le Bourget, Paris and Farnborough, near London.

The mid-size plane is a collaboration between state-owned Sukhoi and Italy's Finmeccanica. A source close to the joint-venture said it would announce new orders at MAKS, adding to the 170 it has received already.


Russian Next Generation Stealth Fighter Unveiled at Air Show

'Russian Stealth' 1st public flight: Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 at MAKS airshow:

Russia showed off its next generation stealth fighter for the first time at a highly-publicized air show today, as the best and most expensive stealth fighter jets America has to offer sit idle on the tarmac. The Sukhoi T-50, also known as the PAK FA, made its public debut at the MAKS-2011 air show near Moscow Tuesday where Russian air force commander-in-chief Gen. Alexander Zelin said the plane is expected to enter mass production as early as 2014, according to Russian state news RIA Novosti.

The T-50, along with China's secretive stealth J-20 fighter, represents the next generation air-power challenge to America's own stealth F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The U.S. jets are currently the most advanced aircraft on the planet -- but the entire U.S. Air Force fleet of next-gen fighters, representing around 200 planes and billions of dollars, has been grounded due to separate technical problems.

The F-35s' electrical problems reportedly have been resolved and could be going back in the air relatively soon, but pilots for the F-22 have been out of a real cockpit for so long they may have to repeat grueling training just to fly the planes again. An Air Force spokesperson told ABC News it still looks like those jets won't be flying again for weeks, if not months. A new Russian twin-engine jet fighter T-50 flies over Zhukovsky airfield as it takes part in MAKS-2011, the International Aviation and Space Show, in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia, Aug. 13, 2011.

READ: $77 Billion Fighter Jets Grounded Indefinitely

The spokesperson declined to comment for this report on whether the USAF sees the T-50 as a competitor for the future of air domination, but it's clear that at least Russia's state news organization sees the match-up that way. The T-50 "is meant to be a rival to the U.S. F-22 Raptor," RIA Novosti said on its website, which also hosted a chart comparing the T-50's capabilities with those of the F-22.

In an April report, a USAF spokesperson and a representative for developer Lockheed Martin told ABC News the Raptor, which specializes in high-tech air-to-air combat, was specifically designed to take on rival, sophisticated air fleets and air defenses such as those currently in development by Russia and China.

Russian Commander: Current Fighters Equal to U.S. F-35s

In 2009, before public sightings of the new Russian and Chinese fighters, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued to cut funding for the F-22s, saying they did "not make much sense" in a world where U.S. adversaries were almost exclusively third world air defenses and insurgent groups.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Gates said then. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Despite the U.S. Air Force's involvement in multiple major combat operations since the F-22s went operational in December 2005, the fighters have never been sent into combat.

READ: The $77 Billion Fighter Jets That Have Never Gone to War

In defense of the program, dozens of supporters in Congress and state governments wrote letters to President Obama in 2009 arguing the full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like Russia and China. At the time, Gates dismissed those claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters would greatly outnumber any adversaries' for the next 15 years at least.

In the end, Congress halted funding for the F-22 program at $77 billion on 187 fighters, rather than the original full order for 648 jets. As far as the F-35s, the U.S. military has received and is testing 20 models from Lockheed Martin as part of a plan to acquire nearly 2,500 jets by 2035 at a total cost estimated at $385 billion -- the single most expensive defense acquisition program in U.S. history.

Though currently inoperable, the U.S. planes appear to greatly outnumber the handful of rarely seen T-50s and J-20s. Until there are enough T-50s to fill out their air force, a Russian commander said today the country's famous MiGs could stand "as an equal" to America's F-35s, according to state news.

For their part, the Chinese said their jet, while a giant leap forward technologically, is not intended to be seen as a threat to the U.S. "The People's Liberation Army has no ability, and even more than that, has no intention, to challenge America's territory and global military advantage, and does not have any aims to pursue military hegemony in the region," Rear-Admiral Yang Yi wrote in the overseas edition of the People's Daily in January.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.