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Viewings: 4052If the forecasts of climate scientists that the ice cover of the Arctic melts, indeed justified, we will see such changes in the geopolitical arena, which had not occurred since the opening of the Panama canal.
Sea power and the industry, connected with the world ocean, will behave more aggressively and assertively as it was when for military and merchant ships departing from ports of the Atlantic, there was no need to go around South America to get into the Pacific ocean. In this regard, there are three groups of problems - commercial, police and military nature. The U.S. should position itself as the leading Arctic power in all that relates to the three above-mentioned directions.
Most browsers covering the topic of navigable Arctic seen mostly economic opportunities associated with the extraction of mineral resources and a reduction in the duration of voyages that is quite understandable. The States having access to the Arctic ocean - the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden, which are included in the intergovernmental Arctic Council will receive the exclusive rights for fishing and the extraction of natural resources located in their coast areas covering thousands of miles. Their border ships will protect the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of these countries during the navigation period.
However, not only they will benefit from this situation. According to estimates of the former chief of the oceanographer of the Navy of the USA David Titley (David Titley), "between 2035 and 2040 Arctic ocean will probably be annually to become navigable for a whole month". If so, the presence of polar sea routes will reduce the length of the routes of commercial transportation by almost 40%, resulting shipowners much will save on fuel and maintenance. From this saving will certainly benefit the producers and consumers of goods carried by vessels of the shipping companies. It seems that global warming will give a huge advantage to mariners and boost the economy. New sources of wealth today strongly occupy the mind.
Meanwhile, the geopolitical consequences of climate change are not less important and far more intriguing than their economic aspects. In the region, which became the scene of struggle between the powers trying to gain benefits will be regrouping of forces, and he can turn into a kind of closed, the inner sea. Naval fleets concerned countries will send their squadrons in the Arctic ocean, making it the theater of the sea of competition.
Such precedents in history already were. This is not the first case of opening of the new gate in internal sea or combat fleets for control of new sea routes. Until 1869, for example, Gibraltar was the only passage to the Mediterranean sea. Geographical conditions forced the Europeans to round Africa or South America to reach Asia. The trip from the UK to India could take up to six months.
However, human ingenuity has changed the situation. The appearance of the Suez canal has made a real revolution in the field of Maritime transport, because the distance to Asia decreased by 3.9 thousand miles, and the Mediterranean sea from a closed basin turned into a lively Maritime route that is open to commercial and military initiatives. Together with the Red sea it became an overpass in the Indian ocean. The Europeans, especially the British, have directed their attention to South-East direction, and accordingly changed the strategic goals of their fleets. The channel has allowed the Europeans to strengthen control over Asia in commercial and military terms.
Now, take the Caribbean region. Before the Panama canal opened the floodgates in 1914, America focused mainly on Europe. After 1914 the length of the sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast of the USA decreased by 5 thousand miles or more. Moreover, the Atlantic ports have become much closer to Asia. In 1944, a scientist from Yale University Nicholas Spykman (Nicholas Spykman) noted that to get to Shanghai from new York, is easier than from Liverpool.
The result is the emergence of a new sea route to the far East, which requires much less time than the old ring road, USA received trade and military advantages in comparison with European countries and significantly strengthened its position as a Pacific power. The construction of the canal connecting two oceans, wrote Spykman, "effect, turned the United States around its axis." With the advent of interests in the Caribbean sea and the Pacific ocean, the U.S. began to focus equally on Europe and the far East in the strategic plan. Than not "turn towards Asia"?
American leaders, who understood the importance of Maritime routes - Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, Henry Cabot Lodge) and Alfred Thayer Mehen (Alfred Thayer Mahan) - foresaw this strategic revolution long before its conclusion. Even before the Spanish-American war, for example, Mehen warned that the European imperialist powers will endeavour to establish naval bases in the Caribbean sea, which will allow them to monitor the approaches to the Panama isthmus. Today, Washington has to adopt a similar view of the situation, to become an equal player, not inferior rivals in terms of doctrine and intellectual potential, when in the Arctic will open sea route.
It should be recognized that the availability of the Arctic ocean is unlikely to redraw the map of the world as the appearance of the Suez and Panama canals. Even Admiral Titley in their forecasts agree that the waters of the Arctic will remain inaccessible for ships of 11 months of the year, because the ice expands and contracts. Therefore, shipping in the polar regions will be subject to a certain rhythm that is difficult to predict. Pack ice behave differently from year to year, their occurrence and waste depend on fluctuations of temperature. New sea route messages will be very unpredictable, which will significantly limit the scope of commercial and military shipping in the region.
However, even the limited access to the Arctic routes will inevitably add the Northern vector in the strategic calculations of Maritime powers. Not only countries which have access to the Arctic ocean, but also countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, thinking today categories Pacific and Indian oceans, when it comes to Maritime safety, will flock to their eyes towards the paths leading to the Arctic - the Bering Strait, the sea of Baffin Bay and the passage between Greenland, Iceland and the UK.
What do they see? Due to periodic appearances and disappearances Intercontinental seas, seas, almost completely surrounded by land, will be renewed interest in the theories that seemed long ago lost its influence on the minds. Beginning in 1904, for example, sir Halford Mackinder (Halford Mackinder) published serious scientific works devoted to the relationship of the land and naval powers. The Royal Navy of great Britain undividedly dominated the sea since the 18th century. Mackinder wrote their works, bearing in mind the preservation of the British geopolitical power, which was based upon the dominion of the fact that Spykman called the "chain of coastal and Intercontinental seas separating the continent from the ocean and components of sea ring highway, connecting the region as a whole".
The supremacy at sea means of strategic mobility. Sea power, able to freely enter the coastal waters of any state has the freedom to maneuver, allow it to influence the situation in Eurasia without significant ground forces. However, Mackinder complained that a continental power, in the end, still prevails over the British Maritime Empire, proving the point of view of the strategic mobility, which provides for the development of Railways and steam engines. According to him, control over the "heart" of Eurasia - a vast plain surrounded by mountains and limited the Arctic ocean in the North - was a key factor that can ensure the world domination. In fact, the scientist operated on the world map, the centre of which was in Siberia and the surrounding areas.
Mackinder came to the conclusion that the control over the "heart" of Eurasia, will allow land power grab "the inner path", and sea power will be forced to maneuver, using only "external paths", i.e. coastal and inland seas. If we imagine the world in the form of a circle, the first power will be distributed to all radial lines, and the second will be a circle. The shorter the distance, the easier it is to respond to any threat. Therefore, a continental power will be an advantage.
Continental country located in the center of Eurasia, is closer to the likely theaters of military operations on the periphery of the continent than a Maritime state. It is easier to transfer the army in areas of conflict, because it can make use of the Railways, and the fleets need to travel long distances, moving from place to place. In short, a continental power, with its Central position, has the ability to shape the environment in the areas Spykman calls "peripheral lands", i.e. Terthe land that separates the centre of the mainland from the sea space. Therefore, Western Europe and South-East Asia are doomed to be in the shade of the Central powers.
Here comes the climax of reasoning. Spykman argues that the power of the British Empire "is based on the European environment land from the sea". The British Navy dominated the district Maritime highways, moving them back and forth depending on the orders of the crown. Here they were able to project its power in Central regions, acting through the "periphery of the earth." However, "any sea power-competitor situated on the coast of the continent, had the ability to create a threat to the rule of Britain in coastal waters, as, indeed, "Russia, if you would project its power on the coast". This development greatly reduces the strategic mobility of the UK and the ability London to influence the situation in the Central regions of the continent through the "periphery of the earth." Thus, taking control of "peripheral land", a continental power prevails over the sea.
The United States is the successor to the British Empire in the sphere of domination of the sea and therefore the terminology of Spykman, their strategic power rests on the ability to surround Eurasia from the sea. However, as the British Empire in a period of decline, America today is in a state of permanent stress, having obligations around the world, the implementation of which is under threat due to reduced power and influence of the United States. Climate change, it seems, will further increase the weight of this burden. The melting of Arctic ice water belt surrounding the continent of Eurasia, will close, and Russia will be able to control from the sea, the Northern border of the "heart" of Eurasia, though intermittently. In fact, the Northern sea route along the Northern coast of Russia, for the first time in the history remained free of ice during the whole of 2008 (as the Northwest passage off the coast of Canada).
Further warming will allow Russia to emerge in the sea of the Arctic all year round and will ensure its domination over all internal lines of the Eurasian continent. Geopolitical analysis Mackinder sort is complete. Meanwhile, climate change will transform the Northern border of the "heart" of Eurasia in the peripheral region of the Arctic, so dominant sea power will be able for the first time in the history directly to influence events in the center of the continent. Moscow will have the opportunity to project power outward, but will be forced to defend themselves against Maritime powers operating in the Arctic ocean, as they will have access to its Arctic coast. The dispute between Spirmena and Mackinder will resume as first believed "peripheral land" the key to domination in the "heart" of Eurasia, and the latter insisted on the advantages of the ground state. So who will win - marine or continental power - when the whole continent will be surrounded by a "peripheral lands"?
On this issue it should reflect. The logic that explains the centuries-old rivalry of the leading world powers in the Mediterranean region, it may well be true for the Arctic. As the Mediterranean sea, the Arctic ocean is a basin, which have several strong in naval States, namely Russia and the five countries that are members of NATO. This differs from the Caribbean sea or the South China sea (which keeps appearing in the headlines, where expansion is possible only by one major power.
Depending on how you want to develop relations between Moscow and the West, the region may in the future become an arena of rivalry of the sea, similar to the confrontation of the cold war. Let's go back to the past. The strategic concept for the U.S. Navy dictated the necessity of application of shock carrier connections that were to come in Soviet territorial waters and attack the Soviet Navy in the places of location of its bases. Horizontal escalation, considered strategists, will facilitate land forces combat operations in Central Europe. Climate change will force to expand the scope of such horizontal escalation, distribute it on the edge of the earth" Arctic - like strategy, undoubtedly, was Specmenu like. However, free from ice North coast will allow Russia quicker to maneuver Maritime connections and put an end to the isolation of its Pacific fleet, if Moscow wants to strengthen its influence in the far East.
How to develop the struggle for supremacy at sea, is anyone's guess. In his study of Spykman did not agree with the opinion of Mackinder, who believed that the rule in the "heart" of Eurasia allows you to control the continent itself and to control the world. He made his conclusion: "He who controls the edge of the earth" predominates in Eurasia, and power, dominant in Eurasia, decides the fate of the world". Well, climate change could prove him right. Maritime powers should examine the benefits that can be derived from the melting of Arctic ice. Join the coast guard must prepare for police functions in the Arctic ocean, and the naval headquarters to think about the strategy of actions in the conditions of new challenges, which are formed today.
Author:James Holmes - the Professor of military strategy of the U.S. Navy Academy and co-author of the book "Red star over the Pacific ocean" (Red Star over the Pacific), recently included in the category of "essential reading works of" chief of staff of the naval operations of the U.S. Navy, which will be released in 2013. In this article the author is solely their own point of view.
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