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Over Easy: Russia to Reorganize Military, US to Appoint Special Envoy for Arctic Region

4:49 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

As temperatures rise and ice recedes in the Arctic, uncovering oil, natural gas and mineral untapped resources in the ‘last frontier,’ Arctic Council bordering countries jockey for strategic positioning. This week, Russia announced plans to reorganize military forces in the Arctic, and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the State Department “will establish a special representative for the arctic region.”

The Barents Observer reports that Russia will establish Northern Fleet-United Strategic Command (Severny Flot-Obedinyonnoye Strategicheskoye Komandovaniye, SF-OSK) this year, to provide security for its civilian and naval Arctic vessels and protect its natural resources. Barents Observer explains that according to its source for the news, ITAR-TASS:

SF-OSK will consist of the Northern Fleet and units of other military branches located in the northern parts of the country. This will probably include the 200. motorized infantry brigade based in Pechenga close to the border to Norway. This unit became part of the Northern Fleet in December 2012. Also newly formed units on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands and Franz Josef Land will also be part of SF-OSK, ITAR-TASS reports.

Although the new association will have military status, it will not be officially so named.

A map of the arctic circle

Map of the Arctic with the Arctic Circle in blue.

Concerning US plans in the Arctic, on February 14, Secretary of State John Kerry issued the following press release statement, describing plans for the US:

The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geostrategic, economic, climate, environment, and national security implications for the United States and the world.

Today I informed my two former Senate colleagues that here at the State Department we will soon have a Special Representative for the Arctic Region, a high-level official of stature who will play a critical role in advancing American interests in the Arctic Region, particularly as we prepare efforts for the United States to Chair the Arctic Council in 2015. President Obama and I are committed to elevating our attention and effort to keep up with the opportunities and consequences presented by the Arctic’s rapid transformation—a very rare convergence of almost every national priority in the most rapidly-changing region on the face of the earth.

The great challenges of the Arctic matter enormously to the United States, and they hit especially close to home for Alaska, which is why it is no wonder that Senator Begich’s very first piece of legislation aimed to create an Arctic Ambassador, or why as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman I enjoyed a close partnership with Senator Murkowski on a treaty vital to energy and maritime interests important to Alaska. Going forward, I look forward to continuing to work closely with Alaska’s Congressional delegation to strengthen America’s engagement in Arctic issues.

Russia and the United States are both members of the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council “is a high-level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States.” This website is a good starting point for getting to know the Arctic indigenous peoples and their languages and cultures, as well as the climates and environment, oceans and biodiversity. Learn about monitoring and conservation programs and anything else of general interest. The US is set to chair the Arctic Council for a term beginning in 2015.

There are eight countries in the Arctic Council:

Canada
Denmark (representing also the dependencies of Greenland and Faeroes)
Finland
Iceland
Norway
Russia
Sweden
United States

Five of these member countries have Arctic coastlines: Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland).

Two major polar shipping routes are the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route.

The Arctic Council website says that increased economic activity and significant changes due to climatic processes are resulting in increased use, opportunities and threats to the Arctic marine and coastal environments.

Public domain image by NASA, on flickr.

Public domain image of the map above by the CIA.

Related:

Russia chooses ‘soft’ approach to the Arctic
“Recent initiatives in the Arctic Council show that Arctic nations have chosen business as a universal language of rapprochement. Russia’s limited military presence should be viewed as an opportunity to build a safer economic environment without prejudicing the security of anyone.”

NOAA Arctic Report Card: Update for 2013

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Territorial claims in the Arctic

Arctic strategy documents – Russian Arctic strategy
Geopolitics in the High North

Over Easy: Decorah Eagles 2013 and Arctic Updates

4:57 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

The Decorah Eagles

A bald eagle

The Decorah Eagles use the Wi-Fi in their auxiliary nest to check in on the Over Easy thread.

Although the Decorah Bald Eagle Livecam is up and running, we may not be able to watch the Decorah pair this season because they have built an auxiliary nest that is outside the camera’s view. “That’s what eagles do,” said Bob Anderson, of the Raptor Resource Project. “They build auxiliary nests.”

They pair will choose one of the nests in the next couple of weeks. More here, where Raptor Resource adds, “We would really like Mom and Dad to use the nest they have occupied for so long, but we cannot and will not interfere if they decide to use the new nest. As we said in an earlier post on intervention, their lives are a gift we have been privileged to share. We can only hope we’ll get another chance in 2013.”

Last season was both joyful and heartbreaking for the Decorah Eagles. The pair, together since 2007 and using a nest 80 feet high near a fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa, had three chicks last year, D12, D13 and D14. Tragically, D12 and D14 were both electrocuted. The body of the oldest eaglet (D12) was found in July, 2012. D14, the only eaglet fitted with a transmitter was found in November, 2012, when the transmitter showed no movement.

“Unfortunately, a federal study done in the 1990s identified impact injuries, poisoning, gunshot and electrocution as the top four sources of bald eagle mortality,” said Anderson. D14′s body will be sent to the National Eagle Repository, where his feathers and other parts will be distributed for use in Native American religious ceremonies. Eaglet D13′s whereabouts are unknown.

Some efforts to advocate for bird safe power poles and protect eagles and other birds from electrocution:

Raptor Resource Project Blog Bird Safe Power Poles

Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC)

How Protection Devices Work

Raptor Resource Project Blog (with Annual Report for 2012 and updates for all of the birds)

The Arctic

You may want to come back when you have 15 minutes, and watch this haunting but informative short film, to understand some history about climate change and Geopolitics – North from Studiocanoe on Vimeo:

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Over Easy: 5 Basic Arctic Geopolitics Resources

5:03 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

A map of the arctic circle

Over Easy gets chilly in the Arctic.

Arctic policy rhetoric is changing as the climate changes. Arctic geopolitics involves people and cultures, environment and ecology, zones and laws, agreements and alliances, shipping and industry, climate science, and even a donut hole. What sites can we consult to gain a basic understanding of this broad topic and follow the developments?

Aleksander Schilbach* (bio below) is currently defending a graduate thesis titled The Arctic Asia-Pacific Dimension for the University of Washington, Jackson School of International Studies: Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies Program. He recommends the following basic resources, for information and news about the Arctic region and Arctic (High North) geopolitics:

1. The Arctic Council Website.

The Arctic Council “is a high-level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States.” This website is a good starting point for getting to know the Arctic indigenous peoples and their languages and cultures, as well as the climates and environment, oceans and biodiversity. Learn about monitoring and conservation programs and anything else of general interest.

There are eight countries in the Arctic Council:

Canada
Denmark (representing also the dependencies of Greenland and Faeroes)
Finland
Iceland
Norway
Russia
Sweden
United States

Five of these member countries have Arctic coastlines: Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland).

Two major polar shipping routes are the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route.

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Chair of the Arctic Council’s call for decisive action to combat climate change by reducing global emissions is here.

2. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (document also here in full-text)

The Law of the Sea Convention (1982) defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. Wiki has the list of countries that have or have not signed this treaty.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (mentioned yesterday in Fatster’s News Roundup) is an intergovernmental organization created by the mandate of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

3. Geopolitics in the High North.

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