Vlad Putin is shrewd when it comes to exploiting weakness or carelessness in others. When he looks to the Arctic, that's exactly what he sees.
The climate crisis is intensifying a new military buildup in the Arctic, diplomats and analysts said this week, as regional powers attempt to secure northern borders that were until recently reinforced by a continental-sized division of ice.
That so-called unpaid sentry is now literally melting away, opening up shipping lanes and geo-security challenges, said delegates at the Arctic Frontiers conference, the polar circle’s biggest talking shop, who debated a series of recent escalations.
Russia is reopening and strengthening cold war bases on the Kola peninsula in the far north-west of the country. Norway is beefing up its military presence in the high Arctic.Sweden, which already has 65,000 nuclear bomb shelters, is planning to add thousands more to protect the extra three million Swedes it has acquired since the height of Cold War I.
“Right now, the reasons we are seeing more military activity is that countries are worried by the spectre of open water,” one of the speakers, Klaus Dodds, a professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London, told the Guardian. “The unique Arctic security architecture has shape and form that come from natural extremities. If the Arctic becomes just another ocean, this breaks down. It’s elemental.”As noted in the previous post, the Barents Sea is expected to go from an Arctic sea to an Atlantic sea over the next decade and that is predicted to spread to other Arctic regional seas.
The Arctic’s unique characteristics are under attack from all sides. Below, the once-frozen ocean is now mixed with warmer, more saline Atlantic waters. In the skies above, the polar vortex above is weakening, allowing intrusions of balmy air currents from the south.
Sea ice is being lost at a rate of more than 10,000 tonnes per second, according to Tore Furevik, a professor at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen. “We’re heading for a new and uncertain Arctic with ramifications for nature and politics,” he said. “We should strive to be less suspicious, less hostile and more open-minded if we are to deal with a problem that we have so recklessly created.”