The ghost of an “iron curtain” hangs over the Arctic, a highly strategic space

On the north coast of Norway, 20 tons of goods shipped from Russia were stranded for several weeks at a Russian-Norwegian border crossing in Storsk. Its final destination: a city of Russian miners to supply in the chain of Svalbard Island in the Arctic. Enough to provoke the wrath of Moscow. Russian Foreign Ministry threatens Lithuania over Kaliningrad wall “Revenge” Whom he considers a “Unfriendly actions”. Oslo allowed the container to transit through a port on its Arctic coast, justifying the seizure of goods, citing strict compliance with EU sanctions against Russia.

Although settled, the case now reflects the ice-cold relationship between the Arctic (Scandinavia and North America) and the Western powers present in the vicinity of Russia, marginalized in the far north since the invasion of Ukraine. Instead, the war between Russia and Ukraine shattered the fragile architecture of cooperation built in the 1990s. At the height of East-West tensions, the Arctic was a Cold War hotspot, over-militarized and equipped with nuclear warheads. And then the peaceful policy of Mikhail Gorbachev who said in early 1987 that ” Let the Arctic be a zone of peace. ” Then the collapse of the USSR in 1991 relaxed relations in the 66th parallel north. This diplomatic warmth led to the creation of the Arctic Council in 1996, which included the eight countries bordering the region (Canada, the United States, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia) and the indigenous peoples who inhabited it.

The ghost of a new “Iron Curtain”

That council has been suspended Indefinitely Its activities after Russian tanks violated the border with Ukraine. Russia fired him from his project a few weeks before resuming. Organizations such as the Arctic Council were designed in peacetime to argue cooperation At least Indigenous peoples agree on issues, climate and environmental issues. Nothing is planned to boycott a state. The risk is that an iron curtain falls between the seven western states that want to work together on one side and Russia on the other. A, Analyzed by Florian Vidal, associate researcher at IFRI (French Institute of International Relations). This expert in the region sees the end of the “Arctic Exception” of the last thirty years. A bracket that wanted the Arctic to be, like space, a region of cooperation that shelters the rest of the world from conflict.

This animosity around the North Pole is not new. The annexation of Crimea and the shock wave of the (first) battle of Donbass have already spread to the north of the world. Since 2014, Russia has modernized its military infrastructure since the Cold War and its Northern Fleet, determined to push its advantage into ice floes while NATO exercises there are on the rise. Sweden and Finland’s membership in the alliance should increase the militarization of the polar circle, which provides an ideal geographical location for launching or firing missiles at short distances from major countries in the Northern Hemisphere. During the balance of nuclear resistance, the USSR and NATO planned that separate trajectories of their missiles would pass through the Arctic in less flight time. ” The militarization of the Arctic is far from what it was at the height of the Cold War A, Mood Florian Vidal. But it is time for power to return to the area.

Lust for great power

Thanks to Alaska on the border of the Arctic Ocean, the United States attaches increasing importance to the Arctic. In 2019, Donald Trump even bought Greenland from the Danish authorities … who rejected the offer. ” Irrational A. More seriously, the U.S. Army General Staff released a document in 2021 stating that it “determines its strategy for this.” Restore Arctic domination ” Presented as a Great energy competition area A Whose ” China and Russia A At the cost of American interests.

Arctic resources arouse their greed as much as their military interests. The subsoil basically hides huge reserves of gas and oil. There are plenty of mineral resources, gold, platinum, diamonds, titanium or rare earths needed for electronic materials and electric batteries. The Pentagon estimates Arctic mineral reserves at 1000 1,000 billion. ” Russia, which owns more than 50% of the Arctic coastline, remains the main country to exploit these resources, along with Canada, which has a large mining sector. AFlorian Vidal recalls.

Global warming also reveals new resources, ” Mainly Haliotic (from fishing) A Florian considers Vidal. The international waters of the Arctic Ocean will be open for fishing if it freezes in a few decades. An agreement signed in 2018 between the European Union, eight Arctic Council states, China, Japan and South Korea prohibits commercial fishing in international waters in the Central Arctic Ocean. The treaty rarely proved to be effective as long as the ice blocked this sea, but it illustrated the hunger of the great nation.

The melting of the ice clears a new sea path to the north. If it is still used sparingly due to the necessary bureaucratic restrictions in Russia, certain equipment needed for insurance and boats, it will gradually redirect the flow of open world trade in the summer. It takes seven days less to travel north by container ship from Shanghai to New York than the Panama Canal. Climate models predict Arctic ice-free summers for 2050. The map of the Arctic is still being redrawn