Ice Cold War


BERLIN/OTTAWA/MOSCOW (Own report) - A few days after a conference of the Arctic bordering states on access to resources and maritime routes in the Arctic, German government advisors called on Berlin to ally itself with "organizations of Arctic indigenous populations in Canada" against the Canadian government. Previously inaccessible resources, including oil and natural gas, will be available for extraction in a few years, because the icecap is melting, due to the warming of the earth. The Arctic Ocean will also be accessible as a trade route and therefore takes on strategic maritime significance. Germany is "too distant" to be able to have a direct influence on the conflict and therefore, according to the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), must embed its Arctic policy in "European aspirations". The SWP is recommending the use of German ethnicist policy experience and research institutes for asserting German interests. The conflict over sovereignty rights in the Arctic, in which Berlin is beginning to get involved, has led to extensive arms programs in several countries.

Oil and Gas Fields

The warming of the earth's surface, provoking the melting down of the polar icecap, is behind the sovereignty rights conflict in the Arctic, which last summer led to the first German government measures that attracted the attention of the media ( reported [1]). In 2006 scientists were predicting that the North Pole would have thawed by the summer of 2080, but, subsequent to the record thaw last year, more recent predictions are estimating that this could already happen by 2030. The rapid shrinkage of ice will permit access to currently inaccessible reserves of raw material under the Arctic Ocean. There is no verified knowledge of how much there is. US-American authorities are estimating the volume at around a quarter of the world's oil and gas reserves. In any case, in the southern Arctic, there are already large-scale projects at work - in the (Norwegian) "Snohvit" and the (Russian) "Shtokman" gas fields - for the extraction of natural gas from the Barents Sea. The "Shtokman" reserve is estimated to hold up to 3.8 billion cubic meters of gas, making it the largest off-shore gas field in the world, awakening avaricious greed in Berlin.[2]

Trade Routes

Also of importance is the fact that the receding ice in the Arctic Ocean opens new maritime routes, at least for the summer months, creating the Northeast and Northwest passages. If these routes were navigable for merchant vessels, the distance between the Eastern Asian boom regions and European harbors would be shortened by several thousands of kilometers. According to the SWP, a ship traveling from Hamburg to Shanghai covers a distance of either 20,000 km (via the Suez Canal and the Straits of Malacca) or even 25,000 km (via the Panama Canal). If the Northwest Passage were available (skirting the North American continent at the north rather than through the Panama Canal) the distance would be shortened to 17,000 km. If from Yokohama, one sailed the northern route along the coast of Russia to reach Hamburg, rather than the southern route along Asia, this would even be a forty-percent reduction of the distance. In fact the Northwest Passage was completely free of ice for the first time in the summer of 2007.[3] This shorter maritime trade route would bring Germany, the world champion in exports, high profits, estimated - for large vessels - at up to a half million Euros per trip. German shipyards are already building more ships than ever before capable of navigating the northern routes.[4]

Nordic Battle Group

The growing significance of the Arctic is eliciting international conflicts. The maritime borders between Norway and Russia have been in contention for a long time. They traverse somewhere in the Barents Sea where natural gas is already being extracted. Border conflicts exist also between the United States and Canada (in the Beaufort Sea). Totally unresolved is the sovereignty over important areas of the Arctic Ocean, where extensive resources are suspected. The decision rests with a multinational commission, expected to render a decision on the first Russian claims sometime after the summer of 2009.[5] The issue at stake is to what extent a gigantic Arctic underwater mountain, the Lomonossov Ridge, is connected to the Russian mainland. If experts can prove an unbroken linkage, Moscow would be granted the sovereign rights to exploit a large area of natural resources. The same would apply if this can be proven for Canada and Denmark. Denmark is an Arctic-bordering state, because Greenland is part of its territory. In the meantime these contentions have led to extensive military efforts. Russia has announced its plans to reorganize its Arctic troops and is regularly conducting aerial patrols over the Arctic. Canada seeks to create a training center for the army in the Arctic and construct a deepwater port. In Norway, it is said that the five frigates Oslo is currently purchasing, are the most expensive armaments project in the country's history. Norway is also a participating member of the EU's Nordic Battle Group.

Research Institute

The possibilities of German intervention in the sovereignty conflicts in the Arctic are limited. Germany is "geographically too distant" and must embed its Arctic policy "in European aspirations", proposes the SWP.[6] Accordingly the Arctic bordering state that could be considered an instrument of German policy would be Denmark. In addition, because of the importance of scientific findings for the allocation of sovereignty rights in areas of Arctic resources, Berlin, according to SWP, can also use research institutes for exerting influence, for example the "possibilities of influencing through the Federal Agency for Geological Studies and Natural Resources (BGR) or the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)."[7] The BGR is already cooperating with Russian research institutions in the exploration of Arctic resources. According to SWP, a concrete opportunity for cooperation is provided by the Shtokman gas field, whose gas, according to planning, is not only to be liquefied, but a portion will even be pumped into the Baltic Sea Gas Pipeline. This would not grant Berlin - via Moscow - the control over, but access to these resources.


The government advisors see an even greater opportunity in the opening of the Northwest Passage for maritime travel. Sovereignty over this territory is also in dispute. Canada claims sovereignty, while the EU and the USA consider it to be international waters. Up to now, this dispute has had little practical relevance, given the fact that use of the waterway was too limited. But with the Arctic ice melting, the altercation is gaining significance. If the passage is within Canadian sovereignty, warships, for example, can only cruise through with Ottawa's permission.[8] Canadian jurisdiction would otherwise also be in force. The SWP predicts that "in the long run," based on international legal considerations, the Canadian contention "will not be able to be upheld" due to the growing traffic through the passage.

Alliance Partner

SWP recommends a double strategy to already have influence now and be able to weaken the Canadian position. On the one hand, Germany should "upgrade the EU/Canada Summit."[9] It would be possible to bilaterally "bring up the question of the Arctic development and expose Ottawa to European interests." In these discussions, "utilization of the resources" should not be overlooked, recommend the government advisors in Berlin. And at the same time, "a dialogue with the 3 Arctic territories and the organizations of the native inhabitants of the Canadian Arctic must be sought." This is referring to the "First Nations," the indigenous populations of Canada and their Northern Canadian native territories. The "First Nations" are somewhat critical toward the measures being taken by Ottawa's central government. SWP supposes therefore that they are "open" to the "European demands to have more multilateralization and regulations over Arctic policy." "This is how the EU can acquire valuable alliance partners in Canada, who can help achieve an open ear in Ottawa for European concerns."

Ethnic Politics

With this plan to pit ethnic minorities against the Canadian government, Berlin's government advisors are subscribing to a traditional technique of German power politics. It was with these ethnic concepts that the parcelization of Yugoslavia was as successful as the extension of pressure on other West European states (Spain via the Basque country and Catalonia, Italy via "South Tirol" etc.).[10] With this "First Nations" plan, Berlin's ethnic policy would, for the first time, be applied to a North American NATO ally and the sphere of influence of these ethnic power strategies would extend all the way to the Arctic.

Please read also Eiskalter Krieg and Eiskalter Krieg (II).

[1] see also Eiskalter Krieg and Eiskalter Krieg (II)
[2], [3] Bastian Girg: Tauwetter am Nordpol: Kalter Krieg um Rohstoffe? Die Arktis im Zeichen des Klimawandels; Diskussionspapier der SWP-Forschungsgruppe Sicherheitspolitik FG3-DP 01, Mai 2008
[4] Güterstrom durch dünnes Eis; Die Welt 23.09.2007
[5] see also Eiskalter Krieg
[6] Markus Kaim: Die sicherheitspolitischen Folgen des Klimawandels; SWP-Aktuell 49, Juni 2008
[7] Bastian Girg: Tauwetter am Nordpol: Kalter Krieg um Rohstoffe? Die Arktis im Zeichen des Klimawandels; Diskussionspapier der SWP-Forschungsgruppe Sicherheitspolitik FG3-DP 01, Mai 2008. See also Eiskalter Krieg (II)
[8], [9] Markus Kaim: Die sicherheitspolitischen Folgen des Klimawandels; SWP-Aktuell 49, Juni 2008
[10] see also Maximum Split, Cultivating Relationships, Tschetschenische Karte, Multi-Partisan Directorate and À la Südtirol