More than just psychological warfare over the Arctic region?

While the geopolitical situation threatens to intensify further after the forced airplane landing in Belarus over the weekend, a new race for exploitable raw materials in the Arctic has long since flared up in the far north of our globe…

As recently reported, a new flashpoint of conflict over territorial claims in the Arctic appears to have flared up between the Russian Federation and the United States, with developments threatening to intensify dramatically over the coming months.

Last Thursday, in a speech in Reykjavik, Iceland, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern to an audience of the Arctic Council over increasing U.S. and NATO activities in the Arctic region.

According to Lavrov, these activities could be observed very close to the Russian-Norwegian border region. In order to be able to stand up to the Russian Federation in the Arctic region, the military cooperation between the United States and Norway has been expanded over the past weeks and months.

At the beginning of the year, American long-range bombers were stationed in Norway for the first time in the history of the two countries. In 2022, Norway will also be the host country for large-scale military exercises involving NATO and U.S. troops.

This planned military exercise is expected to involve up to 40,000 troops from thirty nations, according to the current status. Referring to Norway’s military chief, next year would see the largest military exercise ever held in the Arctic circle since the 1980s.

So far, the Arctic Council’s current tasks have not included involving military concerns in its own deliberations. According to Sergei Lavrov, this must change in the future.

In principle, the Russian Federation maintains good relations with the Arctic Council. In the future, however, the military sphere must be included in these relations, Sergei Lavrov continued.

Although there was a superficially relatively relaxed meeting between Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the recent Arctic Council meeting, Blinken accused the Moscow Kremlin last Thursday of proclaiming improper and lawless claims in the Arctic region for itself.

In the process, the Russian Federation is said to be claiming illegitimate maritime rights for itself in particular. According to Blinken, the fact that foreign-flagged ships on the Northern Sea Route are being regulated and controlled by Russian Federation authorities is an untenable state of affairs. International laws and agreements are diametrically opposed to such action, he said.

Blinken, too, has warned against expanding military activities in the Arctic region and letting them get out of hand. But from a current perspective, increasing militarization of the Arctic region by the United States and NATO is beginning to emerge.

Nonetheless, last week’s talks between Blinken and Lavrov were described by the Russian foreign minister as constructive. Yet bilateral tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation could hardly be greater.

Conflicts between the two nations are wide-ranging, from those issues over a “fair” division of the Arctic region to the tense situation in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to the completion of the North Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline and the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Libya.

So, from a geopolitical perspective, the U.S. and Russia face each other on a variety of (proxy) battlefields, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

At the recent meeting of the Arctic Council, which comprises eight Arctic states, including the U.S. and Russia, these opposing views were not only once again more than evident, but the U.S. once again did not spare sharp criticism of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy approach.

While Blinken stressed the importance of cooperation between the United States and Russia in the Arctic region, he added that the dangers of expanding military activity throughout the region were growing.

According to Blinken, there are concerns in the U.S. about this increasing military activity in the Arctic region, which increases the risks and dangers related to miscalculations and possible “accidents” in this region of the world.

It has always been the wish and goal of the Arctic states to support not only peace but also sustainable development in the region. Ultimately, however, these are probably nothing more than fine words.

For some time now, it has been apparent that one of the key strategies pursued by Washington seems to be to militarize the Arctic region – and to confront the Moscow government in this way.

It should be noted that all major sub-areas of the U.S. military have developed and published strategy papers over the past months and years calling on the domestic government to focus more on the Arctic region.

The Russian Federation, however, is hardly inferior to these efforts. Just recently, Izvestia.ru reported that the Moscow Kremlin had given the green light for a deployment of SU-34 fighter-bombers in the Arctic region.

This deployment comes in the face of growing accusations from Washington that the Russian Federation is provoking other Arctic neighbors, which U.S. foreign policy believes will also have repercussions for national security at home.

When the U.S. Navy announced its strategic plan for the Arctic region in January of this year, it was simultaneously indicated that the U.S. could counter Russian claims in the region by deploying U.S. naval vessels to operate not far from Russian shores.

It is the same way with regard to the South China Sea and addressing Chinese claims in this region. According to the U.S. naval leadership, from the point of view of the waterways in the Arctic region, these are international waters in which anyone can freely navigate.

For this reason, it would be advisable for the U.S. Navy to increase patrols of these waters in the future to thwart government encroachment on these waterways and protect free maritime rights.

In the Russian Federation, there appears to be a pursuit of similar intentions and goals. Recently, Russian Air Force Major General Igor Churkin declared his intention to revitalize once abandoned military bases in the Arctic region, not only to protect the territory of the Russian Federation by stationing fighter aircraft there, but also to increase patrol and surveillance of the Arctic region.

The Americans have said that they regard this deployment of fighter aircraft not only as a provocation but also as a threat to the national security of the United States.

In the Russian Federation, no one seems to be bothered by concerns of this kind. On the contrary, Sergei Lavrov made it abundantly clear again last week that it has now been known for a long time and to everyone in the world that “this is our ancestral land in the Arctic region.”

For this reason alone, he said, everything the Russian Federation was doing in this region of the world was absolutely legitimate and, above all, legal. Before Pentecost, Russian President Vladimir Putin had made known his government’s view in a rather blatant manner.

According to him, the Russian Federation would “knock the teeth out” of any other country in the world if there were any plans to break up the territorially largest territorial state in the world. Russia would defend itself against such interference from abroad in its own affairs with all available means. According to Putin, almost everyone in the world wants to bite Russia, or take a bite out of Russia.

In recent years, the Russian Federation has once again become a serious player on the world stage and continues to develop economically and socially. According to Putin, Russia’s strategic rivals, in view of the generally good development in their own country, would always construct some kind of pretext not only to attack the sheer territorial size of the Russian Federation, but also to focus attention on important raw materials and natural resources in their own country.

Among other things, Putin also addressed critics from abroad, whose demands are based on the fact that the extensive raw materials and natural resources located on the territorial territory of the Russian Federation should not belong to just one country.

In addition to crude oil and natural gas, Russia also looks to particularly rich deposits of woods of all kinds, metals and a variety of minerals in Siberia. Anyone who wanted to take the “critics” seriously would have to ask whether the USA, for example, would allow other nations to extract and export some of the raw materials stored there without any obligation to pay for them locally.

As long as there will be state systems and national borders, demands of this kind seem completely unworldly. Among other things, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is reported to have once said that the vast deposits of raw materials and natural resources in Siberia should not belong to just one state in the world – and thus to Russia.

American media criticize that Albright’s once statement was taken out of its context by the Kremlin, Russian media and other observers. Be that as it may, Putin’s latest statements and warnings bear witness to the fact that things in the Russian Federation seem to be seen in a very unique – and above all distrustful – way.

From the Russian point of view, this kind of thinking and distrust in relation to the rest of the world cannot be completely dismissed, if one simply takes into account the mere fact that in recent history it was Hitler as well as Napoleon who both succumbed to the misconception of a blitzkrieg on Russian territory in addition to the subjugation of large parts of Russian territory including the population living there.

What far-reaching consequences these military invasions had not only for Europe, but also for some regions in the rest of the world, is well documented from the perspective of history nowadays.

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From the perspective of that very history, who could be so audacious or just plain stupid as to get involved in a war of aggression against the Russian Federation one more time? Even at that time of the tsar’s fall, crushing poverty and hunger throughout the country, the “interventionist powers” from the West, allied with the White Guards after the end of the First World War, did not see themselves in a position to wrestle down the Russian bear, despite a short-term, far-reaching occupation of Russia. How should such a thing be possible nowadays – in the nuclear weapons age? Hopefully, things will be seen in a similar way in Washington….

Asbjørn Rasmussen Send an email

Mr. Rasmussen has been researching financial, monetary, and economic systems since the Dot-com bubble in 1999. His focus is on the analysis of American stock markets and the market driving policies. In addition to his journalistic activities, Mr. Rasmussen works as a self-employed energy and investment consultant in Norway.
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