Sunday, March 8, 2009

Russia flexes muscle over arctic oil and gas treasures

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Global warming doesn't just mean there will be new patterns of mass migration, wars and border lawlessness in the 21st century. For the great climate change isn't affecting just the warmest parts of the world; it's also affecting areas that used to be the coldest.

The great Arctic Ocean polar ice cap is already melting. The Arctic Ocean could be navigable year-round within decades. The rate of melting of the ice cap, scientists say, is actually accelerating. This may completely transform the strategic resource map of the world.

For the seabed of the arctic, especially the continental shelf north of Russia, is believed to be a fresh treasure trove of oil, natural gas and precious minerals. They were all inaccessible throughout history because the severe cold weather and the great ice cap made geological prospecting, let alone extraction, virtually impossible. But thanks to global warming, that is changing fast.

The Russian government takes the prospect of an energy and mineral bonanza beneath the melting arctic ice extremely seriously. As Ariel Cohen and Lajos Szaszdi wrote for UPI on Dec. 1, 2008: "Russia recognizes the multifaceted potential of the arctic and is moving rapidly to assert its national interests. Moscow has submitted a claim to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to an area of 460,000 square miles -- the size of Germany, France and Italy combined."

They continued, "The Kremlin is (also) pursuing its interests by projecting military power into the region."

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