- In a rare media outing, the Chief of Staff of the British Army, Admiral Anthony Radakin, warned of the melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean.
It is noteworthy that his speech did not focus on the impact of climate change as much as he made a call to protect his country and the West's strategic interests there in the face of Russian moves as well as Chinese ambitions.
The British official was not the only one who pointed out the danger of Russian moves in the frozen northern ocean, but was preceded by a statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the American "CNN" channel (CNN) that the alliance monitored Russian moves to expand its military bases in the northern side despite its preoccupation In the war in Ukraine.
What makes this frozen and impenetrable region attractive to major countries, especially the countries surrounding it (Canada, Russia, America, Norway, Denmark and Finland), and prompts military leaders to warn of any Russian expansion in it, where there is only ice?
The answer lies in what the ice hides in that vast region, and makes the major countries compete and race against time to have the largest share of the wealth that will appear whenever the ice melts due to the rise in the earth's temperature.
British Army Chief of Staff Anthony Radakin warned of Russian moves in the Arctic Ocean (Reuters)
The Arctic Ocean constitutes about 6% of the land area, and it extends over an area of 21 million square meters, of which 40% is lands subject to different countries, and the other third is also subject to the countries surrounding it, under the item “continental shelf” of these countries, then there is the rest, which is considered international waters;
No country has authority or sovereignty over it.
The Arctic Ocean is facing a frightening situation as a result of the rapid melting of ice there.
According to the US Space Agency (NASA) and the American Snow and Ice Center, the ice area has shrunk to 3.74 million square kilometers, a decrease of more than 2.48 million square meters compared to the period between 1981 and 2010.
It is the second largest decline in ice extent since ocean ice records began in 1970.
This retreat in the ice is what opened the appetite of the countries surrounding it, to expand their influence, given their knowledge of the treasures that are there and that will be, during the coming years, a focus of conflict between the West and Russia.
Canada and Russia are among the countries that benefit most from oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean. Canada extracts gas and oil mainly from the Beaufort Sea, which is located north of Alaska. Russia extracts oil and gas from eastern Siberia and the Barents Sea.
Russian and Canadian exploration operations in the Arctic Ocean have discovered more than 400 oil and gas fields.
Both countries extract a total of 2.6 million barrels of shale oil per day.
As for Norway, it has always opposed any exploration operations on its own continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean for environmental reasons.
However, the rise in energy prices and the increasing demand for gas prompted it to change its policy, to decide to grant, at the beginning of 2023, exploration licenses on the high seas to international companies to exploit the oil and gas rights in its ocean region.
The countries surrounding the Arctic Ocean are seeking to expand their areas of influence in preparation for the receding of the ice resources (the island)
Energy and gas mine
Decision-makers in the countries surrounding the Arctic Ocean or officials in energy companies cannot help themselves in front of the tempting numbers provided by practical studies about the quantities of gas and oil in this ocean.
According to the US Institute of Geological Studies "USGS" (USGS), the ocean contains 90 billion barrels of oil, more than 1.669 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, and more than 44 billion barrels of liquefied natural gas, all of which are found in 84% of the ocean. Areas near the continental shelf of each country, within it, or in its vicinity.
These numbers are equivalent to 22% of the unextracted oil in the world.
According to the American Institute of Geological Studies, the Arctic Ocean may be the largest area available for undiscovered oil in the world so far.
Rare metal war
However, some experts expect that Western countries will not move quickly in order to explore for gas and oil in the high seas inside the frozen ocean, given that this process will be very expensive, and that the countries concerned do not currently suffer from an acute shortage of energy.
As for what really tempts the major countries and pushes them to compete and wary of any Russian move in particular, it is the precious metals.
Especially the minerals currently used in the manufacture of electric cars and renewable energy devices, in addition to iron, zinc, gold, silver, coal and precious stones.
The value of minerals in the Arctic Ocean is estimated at more than $2 trillion.
According to a survey by the American Institute for Geological Studies, the "Kola" peninsula, located in the far north of Russia, with an area of 100,000 km, has significant quantities of minerals.
As for the Canadian continental shelf, it has many minerals, including gold, copper and uranium.
These minerals are needed by countries such as the United States, Canada, and industrialized countries in the manufacture of electric cars and all machines that depend on electric batteries. Currently, China is the one that provides 90% of these minerals, which makes the West always hostage to Chinese production.
That is why his country will be more eager to withdraw this strategic card from the hands of China.
Russia requests to expand its borders in the Arctic Ocean (the island)
Frontier struggle and influence
Russia has been calling for years to extend its continental shelf to more than 703 thousand square meters within the Northern Ocean, but there are areas that overlap with the continental shelf of Canada and Greenland of Denmark.
So far, Russia has not succeeded in proving that this area is an extension of its continental shelf. According to international law, Moscow must provide all practical evidence that actually indicates that this area is an extension of the continental shelf, and then it can exploit the wealth in this area.
Since 2014, Russia and Canada have entered into a fierce struggle to prove their right to extend the area of their continental shelf.
This year, Canada sent two icebreakers to collect data that support Canada's claim to an area of 1.2 million square meters of the international zone in the Arctic Ocean.
A year later, in 2015, Russia submitted to the United Nations an amended request to expand the borders of the continental shelf in the Arctic region by annexing the summit of Mount Lomonosov, an oil-rich seamount that Canada also wants to annex.