Struggle over the Arctic

BERLIN (Own report) - According to a German military officer, China's economic activities in Greenland and Iceland could cause future wars. If the People's Republic should "establish" itself in the Arctic - as a "great power alien to the region" - this would "instigate military conflicts," according to a recent semi-official publication. To prove his point, the author, a reserve officer of the Bundeswehr, refers to China's mining investments in Greenland and Beijing's alleged plans to settle systematically Chinese specialists in the region. The "ethnic form of influence" expressed in this plan and the People's Republic's commitment to protect the "sovereign rights of the indigenous population" constitute a "declaration of war on the West," the author writes. With regard to Iceland, the officer particularly criticizes the construction of a harbor in the Northeast of the island state, which is allegedly financed by a Chinese company. If the People's Republic is thus creating a "regional central hub" for raw materials extracted from the Arctic, it would be in "favorable geopolitical starting blocks" vis-à-vis the "European Atlantic states," the author explains, speaking already of a "gradual Chinese land grab" at the polar circle.

Alarming Perspective

In a recent semi-official publication entitled "Rethinking Strategy," the German Reserve Navy Commander Jörg-Dietrich Nackmayr focuses on the Arctic from a "geopolitical perspective."[1] The "melting of the Arctic ice" will not only create a "new navigable ocean," but will also facilitate the "extraction of resources that, today, are still frozen," Nackmayr explains. According to Nackmyar, who is also working for a NATO maritime think-tank,[2] efforts are already being made to achieve "exclusive control over Arctic waters." The "prospect of independence" of Greenland, which today is part of Denmark, and of "China establishing itself" at the polar circle are particularly "challenging" to the "fragile geopolitical balance" in the region, Nackmayr writes. In this context, the author strongly criticizes Germany's political and military leadership, because the Bundeswehr's Office for Defense Planning, for example, does not acknowledge "an acute need to take action" in the region, even though developments are "extremely alarming."[3]

Chinese "Ethnic Policy"

To prove his point, Nackmayr points to the current and planned "impressive" Chinese mining investments in Greenland. "Even though not only China, but the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia have also shown interest in the development of Greenland's mining sector, Chinese companies surprisingly assert themselves much better than their international competitors." According to the author, this, on the one hand, is due to the "financial potency" of Chinese companies and, on the other, to the People's Republic's "strategic thinking," aimed at the long-term supply of raw materials such as iron, gold, copper, uranium and rare earth. Because of the lack of Greenlandic mining specialists, Beijing may be tempted to dispatch Chinese specialists to Greenland, which, in turn, could have "unpredictable repercussions on the social, political and ethnic development of the island," Nackmayr declares. "What if Chinese engagement in the mining sector would lead within a few decades to the establishment of a Chinese colony, which could emerge from the marriage of Inuit women to Chinese men? And what if this ethnic means of achieving influence could even be part of a larger design, the politburo of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China has been elaborating for decades?"[4]

Declaration of War

The German naval officer also assumes that Beijing is seeking to manipulate Greenland's political parties for its own benefit. Since the Greenlandic parliament only needs sixteen votes for a majority, it would not be necessary to "convince many members to implement a decision." Nackmayr goes on to explain that China not only considers the Arctic as the "common heritage of humanity," thereby putting the "exclusive jurisdiction of the riparian countries" into question, but has also committed itself to the protection of the sovereign rights of the indigenous population. Given the fact that Greenlandics strive for independence, this would be equivalent to a "declaration of war on the West," according to the military officer.[5]

Antagonist in the Shadow

Nackmayr notes a similar development in Iceland. He particularly focuses on plans for a deep-sea port in the Northeast of the island state, which will be ice-free all year around. Even though the so-called Finnafjord Harbour Project is being developed by an Icelandic shipping company in cooperation with Germany's Bremenports company, the presence of the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) is "already suspended, like a shadow" in the background, the officer explains. Following his assumptions, Iceland is already designated in the Chinese leadership's "strategic planning" as "central hub for raw materials extracted from the Arctic." COSCO buying shares of the Belgium's Antwerp port fits into the picture, depicted by the officer: "Antwerp and a future port in Iceland at the trade routes between the Arctic and Atlantic would place China in favorable geopolitical starting blocks in the race with world wide competitors and the European-American riparians."[6]

Beijing's Voice

The German naval officer also points to the People's Republic's bustling "diplomatic visits" to Iceland and to the Chinese ambassador stating that Iceland and China are supporting each other on the international stage, for example, in regards to fishing rights. The question must therefore be allowed, according to Nackmayr, "if, following this statement, Iceland should still be considered part of the West, or rather as the voice of the Far East, geographically in the West." And because Beijing has announced it is beginning direct flights between China and Iceland and increasing the number of Chinese tourists to the island state from currently 10,000 to 100,000 annually, one can already detect a "gradual Chinese land grab in the Atlantic," the officer claims.[7]

Forced into War

Nackmayr's conclusion - which reminds, both in form and in content, to the theorems of Carl Schmitt the "crown jurist of the Third Reich" or to the Nazi's geopolitician Karl Haushofer ("raumfremde Mächte" powers alien to the region) - is quite frightening: "If China, as a great power alien to the region, engages permanently at the polar circle, it will have a determinant influence on political gravitational forces. The emergence of a new power in the transatlantic lines of communication [military liaison and supply routes, editor's note] has the potential of propelling economic competition into political rivalry and - as a ultimate consequence - into military conflicts."[8]

Other reports and background information on Germany's policy toward the Arctic can be found here: Ice-Cold Geopolitics (II), The Treasures of the Arctic, Arctic Roadmap, and Cold War at the North Pole.

[1] Jörg-Dietrich Nackmayr: Die Arktis - Testfeld für eine neue, globale, geopolitische Architektur. In: Wolfgang Peischel (Hg.): Wiener Strategie-Konferenz 2016. Strategie neu denken. Berlin 2017. Eine Rezension des Bandes finden Sie hier.
[2] Laut den Veranstaltern der "Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz" handelt es sich um das "Centre of Excellence for Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters" (COE-CSW). Zum COE-CSW siehe auch Pax Optima Rerum.
[3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8] Jörg-Dietrich Nackmayr: Die Arktis - Testfeld für eine neue, globale, geopolitische Architektur. In: Wolfgang Peischel (Hg.): Wiener Strategie-Konferenz 2016. Strategie neu denken. Berlin 2017.