(By Deutsche Welle) A small clique of northern countries currently governs the Arctic Circle. But as the Polar Ice Cap melts, external powers have expressed an interest in the energy-rich region, raising eyebrows among the Arctic nations.
As the Arctic Circle undergoes its perennial summer thaw, a series of expeditions have set sail for the High North. Russia recently sent its largest expedition in a decade while the US and Canada are conducting a joint mission in the Beaufort Sea.
These expeditions often wear a facade of scientific inquiry, but their findings could have sweeping political implications. The Arctic powers are mapping the seabed so they can back up their competing territorial claims in the region.
Territory is not the only thing at stake. Abundant resources also lie in the depths of the Arctic Ocean. As the globe warms and Arctic ice melts, a fortune in oil and gas could become accessible. The US Geological Survey has reported that 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas sits in the Arctic Ocean.
Global warming means new trade routes are also opening in the High North. The Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via Arctic Canada, became navigable in 2007. And the Northeast Passage, which connects Europe to Asia across northern Russia, has also become easier to traverse.
As a result, governance in the Arctic has become more than a regional power game. It has far-reaching political and economic implications for a globalized world, and non-Arctic nations are beginning to take note.