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USA, Russia or Greenpeace — Who’s the Sanest? You Decide

Editor’s Note: Since we last posted about the Russian arrest of the Arctic 30, there has been small progress to obtain their freedom. All have been charged with piracy and have been informed they will be detained for at least 2 months. According to Greenpeace, the Dutch government has filed a protest under UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. One million people have signed a petition demanding freedom for the illegally held captives — sign here. An interview with my old Clearwater colleague Captain Peter Willcox, while in handcuffs, can be viewed here. Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Nadoo discusses the Arctic 30 in a Google Hangout, see right hand column.. — John Cronin

The recent Greenpeace action in the Russian Arctic is no garden variety, monkey wrench gag launched from the organization’s considerable arsenal of civil disobedience tactics. In fact, it is the leading edge of protest against a new Cold War rolling out at the top of the world, ushered in by climate change.

If you are a student of history, or old enough to remember, you recognize the posturing, and worse, in which the United States and Russia are now engaged. Their competing assertions of sovereign global rights, as melting Arctic ice gives way to new navigation routes, and oil and mineral riches, have all the hallmarks of the Fail-Safe days of the 1950s and 60s.

But for the unforgiving territory in dispute, the dangerous chest thumping is almost indistinguishable from that once bygone era. There are some giveaways, but see if you can tell which of the two nations is responsible for the following statements:

We will enable our vessels and aircraft to operate, consistent with international law, through, under, and over the airspace and waters of the Arctic . . . [S]ecurity in the Arctic encompasses a broad spectrum of activities, ranging from those supporting safe commercial and scientific operations to national defense. (Source)

It is a . . . new stage in the development of the Northern Sea Route. We will not only reopen the military base but restore the airfield to working order and make it possible for the emergency services, hydrologists and climate specialists to work together to ensure the security and effective work of the Northern Sea Route. (Source)

The warming atmosphere is not just melting the Arctic sea-lanes, it is reigniting the embers of the US-Soviet rivalry that once played out in Cuba, Asia and space. But now the stakes are higher. The abstractions fewer. This is not about the dueling philosophies of Eastern Communism and Western Democracy, and which will dominate whose hemisphere. This is old-fashioned, venal, winner-takes-all,  profiteering in unsettled territory.

And unlike the political theater of Congress, where they play-act the climate debate for the folks back home, militarists at the highest level of both governments are unnerved by climate change, and unequivocal about the need to mobilize militarily to protect the new opportunities presented by our changing planet.

The White House:

As an Arctic nation, the United States must be proactive and disciplined in addressing changing regional conditions and in developing adaptive strategies to protect its interests. An undisciplined approach to exploring new opportunities in this frontier could result in significant harm to the region, to our national security interests, and to the global good.

President Vladimir Putin:

The US has practically started the second stage of its plan to set up a global missile defense system and there are probes into the possibility of NATO’s further eastward expansion. The danger of militarization of the Arctic exists. Our task – to create a mobile, well-equipped armed forces ready to respond promptly and adequately to any potential threats to peace, to protect our citizens, our allies, the future of our nation and state.

Now, the Greenpeace position. Decide for yourself who is the sanest of the three:

And the terrible irony of it is that instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, the leaders of the Arctic nations are instead investing in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it. They’re preparing to fight to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. It’s like putting out fire with gasoline.

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In an odd turn, President Vladimir Putin seems to be distancing himself from the piracy charges brought against Greenpeace by his own government. The Moscow Times reports:

President Vladimir Putin has stepped forward to play the “good cop” by disputing the official findings of the investigators. “Of course, it is quite obvious that they are not pirates, but formally they were trying to capture the platform, and our law enforcement agencies could not be certain exactly who might have been trying to seize the platform under the guise of Greenpeace,” Putin said. That statement led some to believe that the severity of the charges would be reduced and the environmentalists simply fined and released.