As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in the Arctic ostensibly to discuss preserving its unique environment, a disturbing series of communications revealed today by wikileaks tell another story.
These cables confirm what we have long been saying: several nations – including the US – appear ready to go to war over Arctic oil.
For years now, the military forces of Arctic nations like Russia, the US, Norway, and even Canada and Denmark have been watching the ice melt in the far north and getting ready to assert claims to the oil and gas resources that have previously been covered by ice.
Saber rattling and high level posturing has steadily increased over the past five years, exemplified by Russia using a nuclear submarine to plant their flag on the seafloor near the North Pole.
Arctic countries have increased military exercises in these remote waters, with territorial disputes persisting between the US and Canada, between Canada and Denmark, and between Russia and pretty much everybody else. Not wanting to be left out, Norway, already an oil giant, is in the mix as well.
Other nations are busy seeking to extend their territorial boundaries in the Arctic under provisions in the United Nations Law of the Sea, the international agreement that is best suited to reduce tensions in the region. Incredibly, the US has not ratified this treaty, which could leave the US out of the picture as the rest of the Arctic nations resolve their claims.
Despite interest from President Obama and his predecessors from both parties in ratifying the Law of the Sea treaty, a few reactionaries in the US Senate have been allowed to prevent that so far.
One of the more startling revelations in Wikileaks documents was that the former US Ambassador to Denmark connected Danish government officials to Wall Street financiers, in order to get Denmark cash to “exploit” their resources and gain trust with US. This would seem to contradict the stated interests of those who say we must get the oil for ourselves, but I guess they’re willing to make an exception if their friends on Wall Street can still make a buck (or a billion of them).
President Obama has included stewardship of the Arctic’s unique environment as one of the top priorities in his draft National Ocean Policy, but the early indications revealed here imply that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have a different agenda. While oil from the Deepwater Horizon is still washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico, Secretary Clinton appears to be focused on how to make sure the US gets their share of any future Arctic oil finds.
Instead, Secretary Clinton and President Obama’s considerable diplomatic skills are needed to negotiate a new international agreement to protect the Arctic from offshore drills and spills, both to preserve this unique wilderness and to prevent the current tensions from escalating out of control. No one wants the Arctic to become the next Middle East, so an international agreement to ban drilling and mining may be the best chance for peace in the region as well as for the health of the Arctic ecosystem.
The Arctic Council is in no way prepared to defend the Arctic against a corporate onslaught backed by the largest countries on earth. The choice is simple – either international unity and agreement to protect a unique ecosystem and it’s indigenous culture, or international conflict that will divide nations and result in the destruction of the Arctic, its people their culture and wildlife. The first step is to ratify the UN Law of the Sea treaty.”