Anatoly Karlin (of Sublime Oblivion) has launched a new blog dedicated entirely to the Arctic.
Arctic Progress looks set to be an important blog covering a region that, until now, has received little mainstream coverage and certainly no real blog coverage that I’m aware of. And it seems as if Anatoly has picked a perfect time to launch his blog – arctic ice is melting, opening up direct shipping routes between Europe and Asia, oil deposits are being discovered all over the place (the latest is in Greenland), and the region’s ecology is in delicate balance, so whatever happens over the next fifty years will shape the destiny of this region, and perhaps even the world.
As Anatoly notes, “Arctic history begins this year… We are the observers of the start of a new era.”
Russia is one of the major countries with an interest in the region (others include the United States, Canada and the Scandinavian countries) so I’m sure that Arctic Progress will contain plenty of information relevant to Russia-watchers.
One interesting post relevant to Russia that’s already appeared is Anatoly’s report that, after receiving a $5 billion bailout from Russia last year, Iceland has offered its Keflavik airbase to ECA Program Ltd, a private military company that plans to station up to 30 Su-27 fighter jets there. ECA plan to buy the jets from Belarus (price not known, but it would be the largest purchase of military jets by a private company to date) and to use them for mock-dogfights that will help to train air-forces around the world.
Anatoly speculates that they could be a front for either the Russian or Chinese secret services, or potentially even a US “black-operations” programme. Having done a bit of research on PMCs in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised if the less prosaic truth is that it simply a company with an innovative, albiet very expensive and politically sensitive, idea to make money.
Having read the initial posts over at Arctic Progress I know I’ll be subscribing. I encourage you to check it out too.
Thanks for the shout-out, Andy!
1. “…and perhaps even the world” – not perhaps, IMO, but almost certainly. Part of what makes the Arctic so special is that it has this huge hoard of energy, minerals (e.g. REM’s), and especially freshwater, that is getting unlocked by global warming – at the same time these same resources happen to be peaking or near peaking in the non-Arctic regions. The mass exploitation of Arctic resources is near inevitable if industrial civilization wishes to sustain itself much into the future.
2. “so I’m sure that Arctic Progress will contain plenty of information relevant to Russia-watchers.” – yes, I hope so too. One of the advantages I have in covering the Arctic is that, knowing English and Russian, I can – arguably – get a wider perspective and diversity of viewpoints than someone who just scours the English-language Arctic news. I also plan to make quite a few original translations, such as key pieces from the (rapidly growing) Russian literature on Arctic security and geostrategy.
3. The problem I see with ECA being “just a company” is that this is an extremely risky venture. I mean would you invest into some shady entity buying up military bases and fighter jets from the old Soviet bloc? 😉 I strongly suspect that there’s serious money behind it: that is, either a big national government – or an ambitious billionaire (or three).
(There’s lots of doomers amongst the very rich nowadays. Wouldn’t surprise me if one of them diverted some percentage of his wealth towards staking out territory and guns in the belief this would be useful in a post-collapse world).
But these are just my largely uninformed speculations. Unlike you, I don’t have experience with PMC’s.
It certainly is going to take a big chunk of change to fund the purchase of 30 Russian jets. It’d be fascinating to find out who is stumping up the money. Like you, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see members of the ultra-rich investing heavily in PMCs over the next decade or two.
My knowledge of PMCs is, to be honest, five years out of date now. I’m actually pretty shocked to see that a company is able to get its hands on that kind of hardware without there being some backlash from countries who want to preserve their monopoly on the use of force. I can understand why they wouldn’t be worried about a few gun-toting security guards offering ‘peacekeeping services’, but we’re starting to get within spitting distance of country-threatening power now.
By the way, I’m pleased to say that I’ve already learned something new from Arctic Progress – I’d never really considered the freshwater supplies angle before.
Although the question that follows is – how much global freshwater scarcity does there need to be before shipping it around the world becomes commercially viable?
In short, never – at least in its pure liquid form. It will be exported as food (what is termed “virtual water”) to increasingly water-deficit regions such as the Middle East, China, and south Asia.
Once warming exceeds 2-3C, yields almost everywhere – both in the tropics and mid-latitude breadbaskets – will begin plummeting. At that point, I think, agriculture will begin a massive shift to the Arctic Rimland and northern Eurasian & Canadian river valleys.