NATO’s New Front

oh_russia_seabed_flag_210.jpgLost in the hubbub of Joe BIden’s ‘reset’ speech was a relatively active past couple of days concerning Russian, American, and European geopolitics in the Arctic. At the end of January, NATO officials met in Iceland, where they discussed the imminent threats posed by the race to exploit the region’s suddenly available resources.

“I would be the last one to expect military conflict — but there will be a military presence,” said NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. “It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political cooperation and economic cooperation.”

As Russia tests NATO’s post-Bush viability, the arctic is sure to be a sticking point. 

Recently, famed Russian polar scientist Artur Chilingarov announced his country’s plan to modernize its icebreaker fleetin an attempt to get a leg up on the competition. And seeminglyundeterred by the fact that Norway claims exclusive rights to theisland of Spitsbergen, a Russian team will leave Saturday to scout alocation there for a potential resource center for 500 scientists.

“The Arctic has a special geopolitical importance forRussia,” Chilingarov said at a news conference. “We aren’t going towage a new Cold War in the Arctic,” he added.

In 2007, Russia planted a titanium flag on the sea floor underthe North Pole, ostensibly claiming an area the size of France that could hold ten billion tons of oil-equivalent, as well as gold,nickel and diamonds.