The battle over Greenland’s oil

A fisherman sails on the Ice Fjord of Ilulissat, Greenland Wikileaks has an impeccable sense of timing. As Hilary Clinton meets counterparts from Arctic nations in Greenland to talk about oil, the whistle blowing website publishes a raft of cables showing just how much international tension the country’s natural resources have provoked.

The cables make for fascinating reading, and tell a tale of US perceptions of Russian paranoia and aggression in the territory. They claim:

  • In 2009, the US was told that the 2007 mission by the Russian explorer Chilingarov to place a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole was ordered by Putin’s party.
  • Russian Ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, told a Russian TV station: “The 21st century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight… Nato has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North.”
  • A US diplomat introduced Greeland politicians to Wall Street financiers to “help the Greenlanders secure the investments needed for such an exploitation”.
  • Canada bristled at both Nato and Russian attempts to assert themselves in the Arctic, although also commented that there was no likelihood of war.
  • Russian military posturing in the Arctic encouraged the Norwegians to build up its arms. The Norwegian foreign minister joked that Russia was helping him refute those who questioned the country’s need for fighter aircraft.
  • Danish foreign minister Moeller told the Americans that if they stayed out, “The rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic.”
  • In 2008, the head of the Russian navy, Vladimir Vysotsky said, “While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention.”
  • Russia was lookoing for “potential benefits from global warming”: the opening up of an ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia and of the oil and gas hidden beneath the sea floor.

Much of this is unsurprising given the resources that could lie under the Arctic. But talk of US diplomats trying to tap Greenland’s resources for Wall Street profits, military build up in the Arctic and Russia looking for “benefits” from global warming will be an embarrassment for the politicians in Greenland promising increased international cooperation.

 

 

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