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This week, the American people and the world have become much more familiar with Greenland, the world’s largest island. We know that two U.S. presidents, Harry Truman (in 1946) and Donald Trump (Friday) have expressed interest in purchasing it. President Truman quoted a price of $100 million in 1946; we never learned the figure President Trump had in mind. But the offer was moot before it was proffered: Greenland is not for sale, but very much “open for business,” according to Greenland’s foreign minister and the prime minister of Denmark.

Over the past few days, there have been many questions about the possible motivations behind the president’s interest in and enthusiasm for Greenland.…  Seguir leyendo »

Traveling through the chilly landscape around the arctic city of Murmansk, Russia, it quickly becomes clear that this barren region is, in fact, a strategic centerpiece in President Vladimir V. Putin’s vast armory. The overland road from the Norwegian border passes by miles and miles of double-row fences of ice-crowned barbed wire, warning signs and surveillance cameras. Many of the gray, silent settlements along the way appear to be less towns than military installations, with soldiers in long, thick coats trotting through the streets.

But to grasp the full military import of this place, the Kola Peninsula — Russia’s northwestern-most territory — you would have to look down on it with thermal imaging from high above.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice to support scientific research in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, Saturday, July 22, 2006. Lt. Jessica Hill and Boatswain's Mate Steven Duque both died on Aug. 17, 2006 while taking part in a training dive in Arctic waters near the boat. (Prentice Danner/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

There’s an international tourism boom happening in the United States, but the newly popular destination might surprise you. This summer, Japan, China, Russia, Canada and Sweden will all have icebreaking research ships cruising U.S. waters in the Arctic Ocean, where they will collect information about navigation routes, study the effect of a changing climate on wildlife and generally gain a better understanding of the region’s unique weather patterns and geography. Meanwhile, Washington is giving limited attention to our country’s increasing responsibilities in the Arctic. It’s time for that to change.

In fact, with so many national security, economic and environmental interests at stake, it is well past time to raise the profile of Arctic issues in the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

While much of the world is focused on the Russian incursion into the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, another long-term move may allow the former Soviet navy to dominate U.S. interests to the north: the Arctic.

The rapid melting of the Arctic Ocean is quickly creating a new variety of challenges that have the potential to cause significant global damage if they remain unaddressed.

The Obama administration's policy correctly recognizes that the United States has profoundly important economic and cultural interests in the Arctic but regrettably reveals very little about what the federal government will be doing outside of the science field.…  Seguir leyendo »

Much too often, diplomacy is behind the curve in struggling with developments unfolding in ways not foreseen.

But when the Arctic Council meets in Kiruna in northern Sweden in the next few days, it is a rare example of a framework set up to deal with events well before they really start to happen, thus making it possible to shape events rather than reacting to things that have already gone wrong.

The Arctic Council was set up between the eight Arctic states, with representatives of the indigenous peoples as permanent participants, in Ottawa in 1996. But in its first years it hardly registered on the international scene.…  Seguir leyendo »

With global warming rapidly melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers making valuable stores of energy and minerals more accessible, voices of doom are warning of inevitable competition and potential conflict — a new “Great Game” among the five Arctic coastal nations.

In fact, the Arctic states of North America, Europe and Russia, working with indigenous peoples and a number of non-Arctic states, already have taken steps to ensure just the opposite: that the Arctic remains a zone of cooperation, peace and stable, sustainable development.

The Arctic Council — the intergovernmental organization for the eight Arctic states: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States — has created a forum for cooperation and momentum toward a responsible approach to the region’s issues.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iceland's long-isolated existence was broken by World War II and the Cold War when its strategic location at the gateway to the North Atlantic and the Arctic were key to the defense of NATO and the United States. But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union the island country seemed again to pass into irrelevance, and in 2006 the last American military aircraft were withdrawn from the Keflavik Air Base. Now the situation is changing again, as the melting north polar ice opens new ocean routes and access to vast natural resources.

According to a 2008 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey, 13 percent of all the unexploited oil, 30 percent of natural gas and 20 percent of the natural gas liquid resources are located under the seabed of the Arctic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Most Americans think of the Arctic as an icy, distant place; beautiful, remote and teeming with wildlife, but unrelated to their daily lives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This summer, big doings on America's northern doorstep will have enormous consequences to the economic, strategic and environmental future of the nation. Yet we are unprepared for the challenges and opportunities.

What happens in the Arctic as ice melts there could soon cheapen the cost of the gas you buy and products you purchase from Asia. It could help make the nation more energy independent. It could draw our leaders into a conflict over undersea territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

About 55,000 gallons of oil have escaped into the North Sea since last week from a leaky pipeline operated by Royal Dutch Shell, about 100 miles off Scotland.

Last year, Americans watched in mounting fury as the oil industry and the federal government struggled for five disastrous months to contain the much larger BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now imagine the increased danger and difficulty of trying to cope with a similar debacle off Alaska’s northern coast, where waters are sealed by pack ice for eight months of each year, gales roil fog-shrouded seas with waves up to 20 feet high and the temperature, combined with the wind chill, feels like 10 degrees below zero by late September.…  Seguir leyendo »

The drastic climatic changes in the Arctic, viewed first-hand this week by an ‘alarmed’ UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, are threatening to unleash not only environmental catastrophe on the rest of the world but a furious political struggle between competing regional governments.

The Arctic Five - the US, Russia, Norway, Canada and Denmark (Greenland) - are scrambling to secure territorial rights to disputed and hitherto unclaimed parts of the world’s last great wilderness. This is partly because the retreat of local sea ice is opening up to exploitation what many leading experts think could be massive reserves of petroleum- even as much as 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered natural gas.…  Seguir leyendo »

With the Arctic ice melting, anticipated increases in Arctic shipping, tourism and economic activity, and Russia’s flag-planting at the North Pole last summer, there has been much talk in the press about a “race to the Arctic” and even some calls for a new treaty to govern the “lawless” Arctic region.

We should all cool down. While there may be a need to expand cooperation in some areas, like search and rescue, there is already an extensive legal framework governing the region. The five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean — the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia — have made clear their commitment to observe these international legal rules.…  Seguir leyendo »