‘Climate change – smoke screen in Arctic geopolitical play’
RT: President Barack Obama attended Monday a US-led international conference on the Arctic, held in Anchorage, Alaska. The White House was promoting the trip as part of Obama’s push for climate change action. How important is the Arctic region and this meeting in particular for the US?
Michel Chossudovsky: First we have to understand that this [conference] is a US initiative which emanates from the State Department. The organizational structure is the State Department which is not an entity concerned with environmental issues - it’s concerned with geopolitics. The agenda has been announced as focusing on climate change and on the environment. But I would suspect that the hidden agenda behind this conference is ultimately to develop the Arctic for the Anglo-American oil giants and extensive Arctic oil and gas reserves which prevail. That is not the official agenda, but ultimately that is the end game and the fact that it is under the State Department osmosis, to start with, points to the nature of confrontation which may exist between the West, on the one hand, and the Russia Federation, on the other.
RT: How strong is the US position in the ongoing competition for the Arctic compared to the other seven members of the Arctic Council?
MC: First of all, the US from a geographic point of view is in a difficult situation, because contrary to Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Russian Federation - the US doesn’t have any territories extending into the Arctic Ocean. It has territories above the Arctic Circle, but the Arctic Circle is not a geographic boundary, it is a climatic boundary and it does not have any adjacent territories to the Arctic Ocean. Now how does Washington proceed in that regard? Essentially it proceeds through its economic, military and strategic alliances particularly with Canada, but also with Denmark and Norway, but particularly with Denmark – which of course we are talking about Greenland, which extends right up to the Arctic. And Washington already has military bases in the Northern Territories of Canada under joint command with Canadians, but it also has military facilities in Greenland. I suspect that this essentially is their gateway to the Arctic.
They have another of course disadvantage - is that the US is not a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. And as opposed to other members - Canada or the Russian Federation- both countries have in fact made claims based on the fact that the continental shelf extends right into the Arctic Ocean. There we have a geopolitical situation. Within the Arctic region, according to the estimates something of the order of one quarter of the world’s oil and gas reserves. This is even corroborated by US sources.
And at the same time, we have environmental considerations because any kind of opening up of oil and gas exploration above or within the Arctic Ocean would have devastating environmental consequences. And we could just look at what happened in the Gulf of Mexico with the BP disaster a few years ago. This of course is contemplated, and the US has recently granted exploration rights to oil companies above the Arctic Circle in areas which are contiguous to Alaska.
RT: Arctic Council members at their recent meeting were unanimously calling on cooperation and mutual trust from all sides when it comes to the development of the region. The White House was promoting the Obama’s Alaska trip and the Anchorage gathering as part of Obama’s push for climate change action. What do you make of those statements, are these real concerns?
MC: First of all, this venue is not sponsored by the Arctic Council. Although, the US this year chairs the council, this particular initiative presents the issue of climate change and environment as the central concern. At the same time there is conflict in the Arctic between the US and NATO, on the one hand, and the Russian Federation on the other. Of course this is always somewhat contradictory. At one level they are going to stress climate change, and on the other they are going to deploy military exercises in the Arctic region which in a sense is also part of the broader process of confrontation between Russia and the Western military alliance with regard to Ukraine and also in the Middle East.
In other words, the US has a global military agenda. And that global military agenda is not limited to the Middle East or Eastern Europe. It also pertains to the Arctic region. Why? Because the 25 per cent of the oil and gas reserves. But of course for Washington to gain control over those oil and gas reserves it has to stop threatening countries in one form or another, particularly in view of the fact that it doesn’t have any territories within, and I insist, within the region of the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic Ocean is a geographic boundary; the Arctic Circle is in fact an irrelevant concept because it is based on climate and on sunsets, and so on. They are using the Arctic Circle as definition when in fact we look at the map and we see that the USA doesn’t have any borders with the Arctic Ocean. So there is a geopolitical play on the one hand, and then there is always global warming, climate change, which is put forth as a smoke screen. I should mention that the environmental issues are absolutely fundamental with a view to protecting the ecology and the natural habitat of the Arctic region. That will require very strict rules on offshore drilling for gas and oil reserves and other reserves in that region.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.