News Stories

Arctic (and Other) Battles

The recent altercation between Russia and Georgia reminds us that future wars will be fought over natural resources (this one was probably REALLY about oil). Various countries are claiming the moon too (which has its own valuable fuel?although only the US has planted a flag there!) Already, the Russians and the Danes have BOTH claimed the North Pole. Now researchers are mapping out future hotspots in the Arctic, with the idea of helping governments prevent future weather wars.

BBC News quotes Martin Pratt, of the International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU), as saying, "[The map's] primary purpose is to inform discussions and debates because, frankly, there has been a lot of rubbish about who can claim (sovereignty) over what?We have attempted to show all known claims; agreed boundaries and one thing that has not appeared on any other maps, which is the number of areas that could be claimed by Canada, Denmark and the US?Energy security is driving interest, as is the fact that Arctic ice is melting more and more during the summer. This is allowing greater exploration of the Arctic seabed."

Meanwhile, with regard to Russia's recent incursion into neighboring Georgia, Douglas Woodwell, a specialist in international relations, thinks this shows that post-Cold War alliances may be more complex than previously thought, and it leaves the United States in a difficult position. Woodwell says, ?It went largely unnoticed in the United States at the time that our government was essentially proposing that the U.S. pledge itself through NATO to defend the small country ?by all means necessary,? despite Georgia's strategic isolation, outstanding separatist issues and tense relations with Russia. The current situation reveals two things: how little the United States is able, or willing, to do in the region in the face of a determined show of force by Russia; and how such displays of friendship and support by the United States can lead smaller countries to unwisely poke the Russian bear, which is essentially what the Georgian government did."

He thinks the United States' chief concern at this point is to prevent further spread of the conflict outside the separatist regions in Georgia, and says, "The most the US can and should do at this point is attempt to calm the situation through open and direct calls for a halt to Russian advances, while working through backchannels to encourage Georgian authorities to accept a ceasefire that returns to the earlier status quo."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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