“Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks Foothold,” so says the New York Times. Let’s see what lies are given for this action:
President Obama on Tuesday proposed speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.
Keep that “especially Russia” part in mind.
Apparently global warming is opening new opportunities:
The retreat of Arctic sea ice has created opportunities for shipping, tourism, mineral exploration and fishing, but the rush of marine traffic that has followed is bringing new difficulties.
Global Warming – they spend money to stop it and they spend money to hope it continues (I know it is a hoax, no comments on this, please). Typical of government: heads they win, tails we lose.
“The growth of human activity in the Arctic region will require highly engaged stewardship to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce and scientific research, allow for search-and-rescue activities, and provide for regional peace and stability,” the [White House] statement said.
Where is the statement about “we are doing it for the children”?
The aging Coast Guard fleet is not keeping pace with the challenge, the administration acknowledged, noting that the service has the equivalent of just two “fully functional” heavy icebreakers at its disposal, down from seven during World War II. Russia has 41 of the vessels, with plans for 11 more.
If you’ve ever seen a map, it is clear why Russia has so many icebreakers. Their entire northern border is in the Arctic; the sea offers transport from one end of Russia to the other.
The initiatives aren’t limited to building icebreakers:
In addition, Mr. Obama announced an initiative by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard to map and chart the newly accessible Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
And then, a surprising hint of truth:
Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, a political independent who traveled to Anchorage with Mr. Obama on Air Force One on Monday, said he was concerned that the United States military was drawing down in his state just as Russia was flexing its muscles.
“It’s the biggest buildup of the Russian military since the Cold War,” Mr. Walker said, noting Alaska’s proximity to Russia. “They’re reopening 10 bases and building four more, and they’re all in the Arctic, so here we are in the middle of the pond, feeling a little bit uncomfortable.”
What does all of this have to do with closing the circle? I offer Sir Halford Mackinder and his speech at the Royal Geographic Society in 1904. I commented on this speech here. The key point of the speech is the large land mass extending from Eastern Europe through Central and Eastern Asia (from my post):
In it, he describes the value of the sea to Britain, as it was to other empires before – such as Rome. He further describes the value of large land areas to the invading tribes from Central Asia; inefficient for horse and camel, but this is changing. The railroad will allow these large land masses to be controlled from within. For Britain, which until then had successfully established beachheads on virtually every coast of the world, this could very well render naval power and access futile.
Britain, at the time, had this region surrounded on three sides:
He describes four “marginal regions” bordering this central land mass: two in “monsoon lands” (one facing the Pacific and the other towards the Indian Ocean); one is Europe. These three, with less than 7 million square miles, carried two-thirds of the world’s population.
Then there is the “Nearer East,” the sparsely populated regions of Babylonia, Syria, and Egypt. This fourth region is “the weakest spot in the girdle of early civilizations.”
The land mass is more valuable than control of the oceans. The resources and population offer wealth far greater than available elsewhere – to the people who control it.
And this – whether accurate or not – is explanatory of many of the Anglo wars of the last century; wars fought to control the border regions of this land mass and then wars fought to tighten the noose…so to speak.
Japan and South Korea in the east, West Germany to the west; Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan; East Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Albania, Croatia; Ukraine.
But, this large land mass is surrounded on only three sides. The north is open.
And with this, I close the circle: go back to the top of this post.