Russia and China Test Arctic Boundaries

Unfreezing conflict: As the Arctic warms, contenders like China and Russia can be expected to advance claims to the region’s undersea resources

Climatologists estimate that at least one Arctic shipping route linking Asia and Europe will be reliably ice-free by about 2050. The region is said to hold 30 percent of the world’s natural gas resources and 13 percent of its oil, and there are security considerations, too. Two events in 2016 demonstrate interest from China and Russia: a Chinese mining company’s tried to purchase an abandoned naval base in Greenland, controlled by Denmark, and Russian Chechen special forces conducted training exercises on Svalbard Islands, controlled by Norway. Both incidents were settled with quiet diplomacy – Denmark blocked the sale due to NATO considerations, and Norway enforced a treaty that prohibits military activities in the area. Still, both incidents underscore the potential for global competition over the Arctic and determination by China and Russia to test European and American resolve, explains journalist and author Humphrey Hawksley. Major powers have about three decades to prepare for an ice-free Arctic, he concludes, and China could be the kingmaker by siding with other countries or acting as mediator. – YaleGlobal