The editorial concerns international rivalry over Arctic resources, especially Russia's somewhat aggressive posturing and the prospect it could trigger a new arms race, this one in the far north.
"It is not surprising that a country with the longest Arctic coastline should want to strengthen its northern defenses as the region opens up to shipping and economic exploitation. And it would be understandable for the United States and Canada to want to do the same. But an arms race is not the answer to the Arctic’s future.
"Just as President Obama argued in his American University speech for the primacy of institutions and diplomacy in seeking peace for the Middle East, so should the United States and its allies seek to limit Russian influence in the Arctic through cooperation on the eight-nation Arctic Council and at the United Nations. That is another compelling reason why the United States should join the 162 countries that have ratified the Law of the Sea, an action blocked by a clutch of bullheaded right-wing senators."
Yes, an arm race should be avoided. However do we have to entrust that effort to America and "her allies"? Is America supposed to be the lead partner as overseer of the future of the Arctic? Why, because of Alaska?
The NYT editors write, "It is not surprising that a country with the longest Arctic coastline should want to strengthen its northern defenses as the region opens up to shipping and economic exploitation." The country with "the longest Arctic coastline" in their view is plainly Russia which has about 40,000 kms. of Arctic coastline. Pretty impressive but what about Greenland? It has 44,000 kms. of Arctic coastline. And then there's us, Canada, and we have 162,000 kms. of Arctic coastline and that's more than Greenland, Russia, the US and all the others put together.
Now, let's look at the Times' suggestions about how to deal with Russia. They propose that the US "and it's
minions allies" limit Russian influence in the
an anti-Russian alliance cooperation on the eight-nation Arctic Council and at the United Nations.
Russia is a sovereign nation and should be as entitled as any other to influence its legitimate territory as it sees fit - the old Treaty of Westphalia business, you know. Yet the paths to limit Russian influence are narrow and few. The Times seems to think a policy of containment is just dandy. We could march right up to Russia's borders - again - just as we have in eastern Europe. That's been a brilliant idea, especially when it comes to avoiding an arms race. And, of course, once Moscow sees itself yet again facing an American-led gang purpose built to limit its influence over territory it may arguably claim as its own, it'll back right down, no?
Let's face it. The only conceivable justification for an American-led Arctic coalition is because the hillbillies have all the guns and, as the legendary Ignatieff has put it, a "muscular foreign policy."
America deserves a place at the Arctic table, sure enough, but it should not be allowed to turn the Arctic Council into another posse, or coalition of the reluctantly complacent. We've seen how well America's recent adventures in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Ukraine, just about everywhere have worked out. This time we've got skin in the game, a lot more than the Americans. Let's give them their chips and welcome them to the table but they can't be the dealer.