Lost Ice, Found Riches

As the ice in the Arctic gets thinner, resource opportunities are thicker and competition fiercer. 

Ice is melting at record high rates in the Arctic, and what used to be inaccessible areas are becoming primary targets for some of the world’s superpowers. Countries including Russia, Canada, the US, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland and Norway are fighting with increasing desire to claim their land in the Great North. In fact, the resource opportunities in what used to be mere white wasteland are revealing themselves as promising, showing immense opportunity both in terms of political influence and economic gain.

New players are even trying to join the race, despite having no legitimate claims to these territories. China, for instance, has doubled up on its strategy to reach these resources and is driving the competition among Western powers. Ever since gaining a seat on the Arctic Council – usually reserved to countries with territory in the northern latitudes – China has been gaining credibility and is now perceived as a full-fledged threat…

The resources in the Arctic have always existed, but the overwhelming amounts of ice were too big a barrier to make this energy reservoir accessible and worth the hassle. As new waterways are showing potential for trade routes, thanks to the widening of shorelines, accessibility is simplified and the possibility of turning the Arctic into an energy-extracting hub is no longer a question of if, but when.

But China is not interested in waiting for the ice to melt – it has started building nuclear icebreaker ships which will both provide access to the now-covered Arctic riches and help clear a maritime route for the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative. Only Russia seems to have had the same idea, and the unison of these two countries could lead to a stronger political, military, and economic relationship.

Opportunities in these areas exist in abundance in terms of oil, minerals and natural gas, making the Arctic a hot topic on the foreign policy agendas of the nations in question. But it might be more than just that – with Chinese and Russian ambitions inspiring more aggressive strategies to claim arctic land, some suggest that the newfound opportunities may come down to a showdown…or a true military conflict.

Madeleine Bienvenu

References:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2154896X.2016.1241486

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/science/earth/arctic-resources-exposed-by-warming- set-off-competition.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-04-16/china-is-joining-the-rush-for-arctic- riches

https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/asia/article/2163719/china-and-russia-want- develop-arctic-energy-resources

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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