Friday, March 27, 2009

Russia to Expand Arctic Military

There is a certain irony to this military nonsense. The battle of the Arctic is at best a war of press releases. I only hope that they establish bases along theirs Arctic coast and discover what has been learned many times in the past. That Mother Nature does a wonderful job guarding the northern frontier.

At least Canada has some Inuit quite happy to form up as a militia unit, whose primary task is likely to prevent anyone sent in from getting killed. You may enjoy this piece on the Canadian Rangers.

In the meantime, Russian arctic presence is at best an excuse to spend your summer sailing around the Barents Sea in thoroughly awful weather. And perhaps invading Novaya Zemlya to tramp around the tundra and perhaps get radiated from the 256 megatons of TNT worth of nuclear blasts conducted there.

Human activity is possible down to temperatures approaching -20 C without been extreme in terms of protection. At -40C you are in trouble doing anything outside, not just miserable. At that temperature, exposed skin is good for ten minutes and you are feeling the cold through the best insulation.

In the Arctic, you are bouncing around these temperatures continuously and conducting any work is a challenge in extensive preparation. In the Tar Sands, which is not yet Arctic conditions, a welding station is set up with a fully enclosed tent and a heater. This obviously allows the metal to warm up to more normal temperatures for effective welding. The welder is delivered to location, does his job and is then picked up an evacuated. In other words, every move is necessarily been planned.

Another favorite of mine is traveling by vehicle in this country. You get a flat tire. If you try to remove the nuts holding the wheel, the brittle metal bolts will simply snap off. Are we getting nervous yet? Oh, and do not ever turn of the engine! Obviously there are ways to overcome these problems but not without forethought and preparation. And if you lose external heat sources, your life expectancy is very short.

That is what defeated the German Army in WWII and defied the Russian Army in Finland.

The Arctic is that bad for longer periods of time in the winter, while the summers are a mere few degrees above zero.

There is no practical reality to an operational military presence in these conditions during the winter, unless you think garrison duty is meaningful and the summer is too brief to accomplish much.

On the other hand, it makes a great press release. Maybe Canada should reannounce its nuclear submarine building program which worked so wonderfully to back the claim we were meeting our NATO obligations back in the eighties.

Russian 'Arctic military' plan

Russia has announced plans to set up a military force to protect its interests in the Arctic.

In a document published on its national security council's website, Moscow says it expects the Arctic to become its main resource base by 2020.

While the strategy is thought to have been approved in September, it has only now been made public.

Moscow's ambitions are likely to cause concern among other countries with claims to the Arctic.

'Military security'

The document foresees the Arctic becoming Russia's main source of oil and gas within the next decade.
In order to protect its assets, Moscow says one of its main goals will be the establishment of troops "capable of ensuring military security" in the region.

With climate change opening up the possibility of making drilling viable in previously inaccessible areas, the Arctic has gained in strategic importance for Russia, says the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow.

However, Russia's arctic ambitions have already put those with competing claims on the defensive.

In 2007, a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole.
Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, all of whom have an Arctic coastline, dispute the sovereignty over parts of the region.

With an estimated 90 billion untapped barrels of oil, Russia's strategy is likely to be scrutinized carefully by its neighbours in the far north

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