From: Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, Reuters
Published June 22, 2009 06:47 AM

Arctic nations say no Cold War; military stirs

Arctic nations are promising to avoid new "Cold War" scrambles linked to climate change, but military activity is stirring in a polar region where a thaw may allow oil and gas exploration or new shipping routes.

The six nations around the Arctic Ocean are promising to cooperate on challenges such as overseeing possible new fishing grounds or shipping routes in an area that has been too remote, cold and dark to be of interest throughout recorded history.


But global warming is spurring long-irrelevant disputes, such as a Russian-Danish standoff over who owns the seabed under the North Pole or how far Canada controls the Northwest Passage that the United States calls an international waterway.

"It will be a new ocean in a critical strategic area," said Lee Willett, head of the Marine Studies Programme at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London, predicting wide competition in the Arctic area.

"The main way to project influence and safeguard interests there will be use of naval forces," he said. Ground forces would have little to defend around remote coastlines backed by hundreds of km (miles) of tundra.

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