Posts tagged ‘Arctic’
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.
The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples. The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.
Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.
Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy. She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.
Needs and Wants, Part III.
TAMPA, Florida – At last month’s National Defense Industry Association’s Special Operations Industry Conference (SOFIC), the generals and admirals who oversee Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Air Force combat controllers and other Special Operations Forces explained what they need to operate in vastly different environments. Today we finish our roundup with a focus on another world region followed by the 4GWAR Blog: The Arctic.
THE HIGH NORTH
“It’s said by some of our European partners that Africa is the challenge for this generation and the Arctic will be the challenge for the next,” said Air Force Major General Marshall Webb, the head of Special Operations Command Europe, one of three three theater special operations commands that share responsibility for the Arctic region. He noted that communications north of the Arctic Circle was “a challenge” for his people “as they operate in that environment.”
He also noted that high tech airborne intelligence gathering and surveillance is important but “the ability to share [ISR] with our European partners is paramount from my perspective.”
U.S. Northern Command’s area of responsibility includes Alaska and Canada. And Pentagon officials have said that as polar sea ice melts — as it has been doing for several years — maritime access will open up in the high north and present a “true strategic approach to the [U.S.] homeland.” Northern Command has been working with Canada to develop communications, maritime domain awareness (both on and under the sea) and infrastructure for safety, security and defense needs.
Rear Admiral Kerry Metz, commander of Special Operations Command-North, said like Africa Command, the Arctic poses communications challenges over vast distances “as SOF [special operations forces] re-engages in extreme cold weather maritime operations — both surface and subsurface.”
Share the Road
In this photo, a Norwegian Leopard 2 tank from the Telemark Battalion, prepares for battle on the busiest main road in North Norway.
Military exercises are normally conducted inside a restricted area far from populated areas. But during Exercise Cold Response, which recently concluded in Norway, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from 16 nations drove, marched and flew over two counties in the northern part of the country. The 16-day exercise’s area of operations included several towns and villages.
According to the Norwegian Defense Force, the folks of Nordland and Troms counties near the Arctic Circle, have no problem sharing their roads with the military visitors – in fact they welcome the “invasion” of foreigners. Military Police from eight nations helped the Norwegians maintain road safety and kept the Volvos and Saabs separated from the armored vehicles during the sprawling exercise.
Cold Response, which tests the operational ability of participating forces in extreme winter weather conditions, takes place in a geographic area about the size of Belgium. Norwegian troops have been doing this for years and say it prepares them for a rigorous arctic experience.
Click here to see the Swedish Defence Forces Cold Response website (in Swedish, but cool photos).
NOTE: Because the 4GWAR editor will be flying late Thursday/early Friday we are posting this week’s FRIDAY FOTO early.
Multi-National Exercise in Norway
For the sixth time since 2006, thousands of foreign soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have taken to the skies, roads and waters of northern Norway for a large winter-weather military exercise: Cold Response 2014.
The goal is to conduct support and combat operations in harsh conditions while working together to create stronger bonds between the allied forces. By the Way, the above was shot in color. If you click on the image to enlarge it, notice the vehicle’s serial number and one of its tail lights are in color.
Why Norway? According to the Norwegian Armed Forces website, northern Norway in March “offers harsh weather which gives good training conditions and valuable experience for personnel from other countries. This part of the country is also well used to military exercises.” Unlike almost everywhere else in the world, Cold Response is held in populated areas with tanks and other armored vehicles sharing the road at times with civial cars and trucks. To help keep things running smoothly and safely, military police units from nine nations took part in the exercise.
The long-planned exercise took on additional significance with the Russia-Ukraine crisis in Crimea. Despite rising tensions among NATO member countries bordering Russia, previously invited Russian observers attended this year’s Cold Response, according to the Barents Observer website. Norway borders Russia and the newly chosen civilian head of NATO is a Norwegian.
To see more photos from the Norwegian website, click here.
To see a short NATO video on he exercise, click here.
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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
Ride Hike the High Country
Lance Corporal Eleanor Roper hauls a Marine Corps Cold Weather Infantry Kit sled during a field exercise at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California.
Roper is a field radio operator with Ragnarok Company, 2nd Supply Battalion of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.
The 228 Marines and sailors with Ragnarok Company, 2nd Supply Battalion of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, conducted cold-weather mobility training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center between January 14 and 28.
It’s all in preparation for the upcoming NATO exercise, Cold Response 2014, next month in Norway. The biennial exercise, hosted by the Norwegian Armed Forces will run from March 10 to 21.Some 16,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from 16 countries are expected to participate this year, according to the Barents Observer. Last time, participating countries included Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain and France.
“The main thing is getting used to operating in extreme cold-weather environments and getting the benefits of the opportunity to train in the mountains, train our basic rifleman skills and provide logistics for 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines,” said 1st Lt. Owen Trotman, a platoon commander and assistant operations officer with Ragnarok Company.
For more photos, click here.
BTW, we don’t know the significance of the Marine company’s name, except Ragnarok was Norse mythology’s version of the “Twilight of the Gods.” In short, the end of the world after a tremendous battle. And some believers say the Viking apocalypse will happen this weekend.
Is Santa Canadian?
It was meant as a light-hearted public service message that obtaining a Canadian e-passport is quick and easy – but when Ottawa issued passports to Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus before Christmas, it was also driving home a point about who owns the North Pole.
The Canadian government is exploring ways to legally justify its territorial claims in the Arctic (see post below) which it says includes the waters around the North Pole. That claim – made by the government of conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper – has ruffled Russian feathers (Moscow also claims ownership of the Pole) and certainly gotten the attention of the other countries that make up the Arctic Council: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States.
“Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today presented Santa and Mrs. Claus with the 2,999,999th and 3,000,000th ePassports at a special ceremony in Vaughan, Ontario,” the government announced in a tongue-in-cheek news release – that also claimed the Clauses live at North Pole, Canada – the Toronto Globe and Mail reported December 20.
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Cold Rush to Cold War?
The “Cold Rush” to lay claim to the Arctic’s rich untapped mineral resources may be shifting to an arms race at the top of the world.
Canada and Russia could be at the start of an arms race in the Far North after the Canadian government announced December 9 their intentions to extend their territorial claims to include th waters – and the land beneath them – extending to North Pole.
Canada’s foreign minister, John Baird, said his government had asked scientists to work on a submission to the United Nations arguing that the outer limits of Canada’s territory include the north pole, which has yet to be claimed by any country, the Guardian reported.
That announcement prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to direct his defense leaders to start building up military force and infrastructure in the Arctic.
The Ottawa’s action and Moscow’s reaction confirms what many observers feared would happen as the global warming trend makes the Arctic and itys vast oil, gas and mineral resources more accessible, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Analysts predicted a “Cold Rush” of nations trying to stake a claim to the riches beneath Arctic waters and flood expected new ice-free sea lanes with cargo, naval and cruise vessels.
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Greenpeace Protestors Released
Russia has dropped charges against all 30 Greenpeace environmental activists involved in protests against Arctic oil drilling, the group says.
The first of the 30 to be released – Soviet-born Swedish activist Dima Litvinov – crossed the border into Finland after receiving an exit stamp on his passport, ITV reported. Thirteen other protestors – arrested in September and charged with hooliganism for a protest at an offshore Russian oil drilling rig – have also received the exit stamp which allows them to leave Russia. The rest of the so-called “Arctic 30,”” are expected to go through the process Friday (December 27).
The charges were dropped after Russia’s parliament passed an amnesty law that was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin to deflect criticism of its human rights record in advance of the Winter Olympic Games being held in Russia in February, according to the Guardian.
From a train bound for Helsinki, Litvinov said Russia owed him a medal rather than a pardon for his protest work. “The Arctic has still not been saved and there’s a lot to be done” he said.
ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Arctic. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
Arctic Temperatures Waaay Up
A new study by scientists at the University of Colorad-Boulder indicates that average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic over the last 100 years are higher than during any century in the past 44,000 years.
According to CU-Coulder Professor Gifford Miller, the study is the first direct evidence that the present warmth in the Eatern Canadian Arctic exceeds peak warmth in that same region during the current Holcene geological epoch – when the solar energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere in summer was 9 percent greater than it is today.
The Holocene epoch began after Earth’s last glacial period ended roughly 11,700 years ago and which continues today. Miller and his colleagues used dead moss clumps emerging from receding ice caps on Baffin Island as tiny clocks to determine what happened. At four different ice caps, radiocarbon dates show the mosses had not been exposed to the elements since at least 44,000 to 51,000 years ago.
Since radiocarbon dating is only accurate to about 50,000 years and because Earth’s geological record shows it was in a glaciation stage before that time, the indications are that Canadian Arctic temperatures today have not been matched or exceeded for roughly 120,000 years, Miller said.
The journal Geophysical Researcher Letters published the study’s findings this week.
Iceland Seeks to be Arctic Hub
Iceland wants to turn itself into a hub for business in the Arctic and strike more trade accords on its own after scrapping talks to join the European Union, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson tells Bloomberg.
The island nation is focusing its foreign policy on the Arctic Sveinsson said, adding that it will seek deeper cooperation within the Arctic Council and seek to provide a base in the region to help support trade with China, Singapore and South Korea, among others, Bloomberg reported.
With temperatures rising and sea ice melting, the Arctic is attracting a lot of attention from the nations that border the polar region and countries like China seeking to navigate new ice-free shipping routes across the High North. The sea ice recession could also open the area up to oil and gas exploration. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its untapped oil may lie beneath the Arctic Ocean’s waters.
Arctic Waters Could Get Crowded Soon
Satellite photos by NASA, show that the white Arctic ice around the North Pole is shrinking every summer and is being replaced by more open water. And that means an increase in commercial shipping across the Arctic, reports the Voice of America.
Last summer, China sent its first icebreaker over the top of Russia, from Shanghai to Iceland. And this summer, a freighter operated by China’s COSCO shipping company, became the first Chinese merchant vessel to take the shortcut, cutting two weeks off the usual route, through Egypt’s Suez Canal, according to VOA.
Are Arctic shipping lanes for real?
A continuing concern of the five countries that border the Arctic Ocean is that melting sea ice will create — sooner rather than later — previously non-existent shipping lanes that could pose all sorts of headaches like oil spills and search and rescue operations in a remote and hostile environment with little infrastructure.
But Tom Ricks’ Best Defense blog notes there’s an article out by an experienced maritime shipping executive that pooh-poohs the idea that melting sea ice in the Arctic will lead to a “Cold Rush” of commercial interests at the top of the world crowding Arctic waters with cargo ships, tankers and cruise ships.
The article, in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, maintains that despite record low formation of Arctic sea ice in recent years, “it is virtually certain” that the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada won’t ever be useful to international trade. That’s because transiting the Arctic may not be as cheap or fast as proponents suggest, according to the article’s author, Stephen Carmel.
Visibility may still be poor due to fog that is common in the region, winds can blow large chunks of ice into transit lanes. Neither the Northwest Passage nor the Northern Sea route across Russia can accommodate the largest container ships. Also ships will need additional structural toughening and and crews will need more training to transit Arctic waters — all of it expensive., says Carmel, a senior vice president with the Maersk Line and former merchant ship’s master.
Red Stars in Arctic Skies
U.S. and Russian leaders may be engaged in diplomatic tussling over what to do about Syria or rogue NSA contractor Edward Snowden, but the militaries of both countries are still working together on solutions to terrorist threats.
Here we see Russian Federation air force Su-27 Sukhois intercepting a simulated hijacked aircraft entering Russian airspace during Vigilant Eagle 13, a trilateral exercise operating out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
The four-day exercise kicked off Aug. 26 with scenarios requiring the United States, Canada and Russia to respond to simulated terrorist hijackings of commercial aircraft. Both NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) — a U.S.-Canadian bi-national command — and Russia, had to scramble fighter jets to track and intercept the jetliner as it crossed international boundaries.
To see a Defense Department slideshow of the exercise including Royal Canadian Air Force fighter jets, click here.
To see a DoD video explaining the exercise’s purpose, click here.
U.S. Arctic Strategy
“The United States is an Arctic nation,” begins the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region, released last week by the White House.
With the apparently inevitable melting of polar sea ice, areas of the Arctic previously locked in by thick ice will be open – at least in summer months – for maritime shipping, oil and gas exploration, commercial fishing scientific research and tourism. The mineral riches beneath the Arctic Sea – which is bordered by six nations, Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States — have prompted concerns about a “Cold Rush” of industries, corporations, speculators and governments hoping to take advantage of resources once thought inaccessible. But there are many more nations in Europe and Asia that want a say in how the top of the world is managed. [More on that in Arctic Council item below].
The brief (12-page) document released by the White House last Friday outlines where U.S. policy should be going in the High North. It calls for three strategic priority efforts:
- Advancing U.S. security interests in the Arctic, including operating vessels and aircraft through, over and under the airspace and waters of the Arctic. Providing for future U.S. energy security is also seen as a national security issue.
- Pursuing Responsible Stewardship of the Arctic, and that includes protecting the environment, conserving its resources and considering the needs of native peoples in the region.
- Strengthening International Cooperation to advance common interest and keep the region stable and free from conflict. The eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Sweden and Finland as well as the six previously mentioned Arctic nations, approved an Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement in 2011.The opening of sea lanes through Arctic nations’ territory and the extent of the mineral riches beneath the ice has raised concerns about who owns what and who controls territorial waters. A few years ago, a Russian underwater robot placed a Russian flag beneath the North Pole to assert Russia’s stake in the region. And Canada has been gearing up its defense forces and mapping its Arctic coastline to secure sovereignty over its portion of the region. The U.S. Continental shelf claim in the Arctic region “could extend more than 600 nautical miles from the north coast of Alaska,” according to the Arctic Strategy statement.
Scientists estimate that as much as 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered but recoverable oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas deposits – as well vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore and nickel – lie beneath the waters of the Arctic Circle. Easier access has all sorts of implications. It could break the monopolies some nations like China have on resources such as rare earths (needed in advanced weapons systems and mobile devices). It could also take business away from transit points like the Panama and Suez canals and create all sorts of headaches for countries like Canada if all the world’s shipping starts taking unrestricted shortcuts through their backyard.
The United States will seek to enhance “sea, air and space capabilities as Arctic conditions change,” the new strategy says, adding that “We will enable prosperity and safe transit by developing and maintaining sea, under-sea and air assets and necessary infrastructure.”
The new Arctic Strategy also calls for eventual U.S. acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States is the only Arctic state that is not a party to the convention. The complex series of agreements defines the rights and responsibilities of national governments in their use of the world’s oceans. Despite the support by Presidents Bush and Obama, the Pentagon, State Department and several major business and industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opponents in the Senate have blocked ratification of the treaty largely on sovereignty and national defense grounds.
Patricia F.S. Cogswell, the senior director for Transborder Security on the National Security Staff, an a special assistant to the president for Homeland Security, says administration officials will be hosting roundtable discussions in Alaska sometime next month to discuss the best ways for implementing the concepts laid out by the strategy.
Arctic Council Grows
The eight member Arctic Council held their biennial ministers meeting in Kiruna, Sweden this week and decided to admit six nations – five of them Asian – as permanent observers. Only nations with territory in the Arctic (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States [Alaska] can be members. Permanent observers can’t vote or speak at the meetings but they can automatically attend, unlike non-permanent observers.
Added to the list of 26 existing observer nations were: China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. No non-state entities, like Greenpeace, were approved. And the application of the European Union – which has a dispute with Canada’s Inuit people over trading in the skins, meat and other parts of seals – was put on hold.
Canada’s Health and Northern Development Minister Leona Aglukkaq took over the two-year council chairmanship from Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The United States is slated to take over the chairmanship role in 2015.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the council meeting that he looked forward to filling out the details of the new U.S. Arctic strategy “with all of you over the course of the next few years.”