The Arctic theatre

Russia have just conducted a military exercise in the Arctic which is drawing a lot of attention. This involved a parachute drop from 10,000 metres onto the Franz Josef Land islands after which the paratroops went straight into a 3 day combat training exercise in Arctic conditions. Defence experts consider this to be quite an impressive feat in Arctic conditions.
Russian Arctic military exercise draws awe and concern
The recent exercise on Franz Josef Land, a Russian archipelago of largely uninhabited islands in the High Arctic, has set the defence and diplomatic communities abuzz, particularly in Canada, which has its own Far North island chain.

The paratroopers jumped from an Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft from a height of 10,000 metres (30,000 feet) and were, according to the Russian Defence Ministry and media reports, testing new equipment developed for extreme cold weather operations.

They used specialized oxygen masks, navigation and parachute systems.

Russia's deputy defence minister, Lt.-Gen. Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, boasted the April 25 exercise was a first of its kind from such a height.

It was an incredible display and an extraordinary test of endurance for the troops, said a Canadian defence expert.

"It's the highest altitude drop we've seen," said Andrea Charron, director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Defence and Security Studies.

"Once they landed, they completed a three-day combat training exercise, and that is just an incredible feat of human endurance whether you look at it from a military perspective, or any perspective. That is just an incredible display of logistics, courage and ingenuity."

 
Donald Trump has ordered the construction of a fleet of icebreakers and bases to pursue US interests in the Arctic and Antarctic by the end of the decade in a signal that his administration is going to take a more aggressive approach to the contest with Russia and China for polar resources.

 
Donald Trump has ordered the construction of a fleet of icebreakers and bases to pursue US interests in the Arctic and Antarctic by the end of the decade in a signal that his administration is going to take a more aggressive approach to the contest with Russia and China for polar resources.

The icebreaker was ordered over a year ago. It's a replacement for an old and very knackered one that probably won't last long enough for the new one to be built and in service in time to replace it. The technology and design expertise is being imported from Europe.


At the time of the original order there was also an option to order two more. This new report seems to suggest that that option is being exercised, although whether the two additional ones actually get built is yet to be seen.

The new icebreaker is going to be based in Seattle Washington state. There will probably be additional support bases for refuelling, spare parts, etc.

The main area they are expected to be used in is Alaska, particuarly to support the offshore oil and gas industry. Since their existing icebreaker is not expected to last much longer, the Americans are looking into whether they can lease one from Finland.

I suspect that whether the two additional ones optioned actually get built will depend on the future success of the oil industry in Alaska. Things have been looking not so good for oil and gas there, as fracking in the rest of the US has undermined the business economics of the oil and gas industry in Alaska.
 
It seems that Trump hasn't entirely given up on Greenland after all:

Further to Greenland, the US have appointed a diplomat with responsibility for the Arctic. The main target of his attention is expected to be Greenland.
Appointment of U.S. Arctic co-ordinator may signal more muscular American policy
The appointment of James DeHart as the U.S. co-ordinator for the Arctic signals the region's growing importance to Washington as an arena of geopolitical competition with Russia and China, say Canadian and American defence experts.
He's a career diplomat with a background in defence and security issues. The position has apparently been vacant since 2017.
DeHart, a career diplomat with extensive experience in global defence and security issues, is stepping into a position that was left vacant for nearly three years after retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp left it in early 2017.
The focus of American attention is apparently going to be Greenland, primarily for its strategic location.
One of the other things that Canadian policy makers should be watching closely, Huebert said, is the Trump administration's efforts to improve its relationship with Greenland, which could have implications for the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD).

"I think the Americans have definitely gotten Greenland into their view as a strategically important location because of Thule [Air Base]," he said. Located on the north coast of Greenland, a Danish autonomous territory, Thule is the United States Air Force's northernmost base.
There is suspicion that the Americans are going to try to gain more influence in Greenland at the expense of Denmark, and that Copenhagen should be concerned about this.
"We're seeing clear efforts by the Americans to improve their relationship with Greenland, but not necessarily with Copenhagen at the same time," Huebert said.

"If I were in Danish politics, this would be something I'd be paying very close attention to."

DeHart's appointment also comes shortly after the U.S. Air Force released its Arctic strategy for the first time, Huebert said.

"I think it's all part and parcel of the Americans seeing the greater importance of the Arctic and the greater importance of the geopolitics of the Arctic."
It's not clear if the concern is that the Americans are thinking about doing a "Crimea" in Greenland liberating Greenland from tyranny, or just trying to get more and bigger bases there.

If I had to speculate about this, I would guess that this is connected with US missile defence plans at Thule, something which has been controversial in Greenland.
 
Further to Greenland, the US have appointed a diplomat with responsibility for the Arctic. The main target of his attention is expected to be Greenland.
Appointment of U.S. Arctic co-ordinator may signal more muscular American policy


He's a career diplomat with a background in defence and security issues. The position has apparently been vacant since 2017.


The focus of American attention is apparently going to be Greenland, primarily for its strategic location.


There is suspicion that the Americans are going to try to gain more influence in Greenland at the expense of Denmark, and that Copenhagen should be concerned about this.


It's not clear if the concern is that the Americans are thinking about doing a "Crimea" in Greenland liberating Greenland from tyranny, or just trying to get more and bigger bases there.

If I had to speculate about this, I would guess that this is connected with US missile defence plans at Thule, something which has been controversial in Greenland.
For added context:
How Greenland could become China's Arctic base
By John SimpsonWorld Affairs Editor
  • 18 December 2018
China is flexing its muscles. As the second richest economy in the world, its businessmen and politicians are involved just about everywhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Now, though, China is taking a big interest in a very different part of the world: the Arctic.

It has started calling itself a "near-Arctic" power, even though Beijing is almost 3,000km (1,800 miles) from the Arctic Circle. It has bought or commissioned several ice-breakers - including nuclear-powered ones - to carve out new routes for its goods through the Arctic ice.

And it is eyeing Greenland as a particularly useful way-station on its polar silk road.


1596240970371.png


Could Greenland become China's Arctic base?
 
For added context:
How Greenland could become China's Arctic base
By John SimpsonWorld Affairs Editor
  • 18 December 2018
China is flexing its muscles. As the second richest economy in the world, its businessmen and politicians are involved just about everywhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Now, though, China is taking a big interest in a very different part of the world: the Arctic.

It has started calling itself a "near-Arctic" power, even though Beijing is almost 3,000km (1,800 miles) from the Arctic Circle. It has bought or commissioned several ice-breakers - including nuclear-powered ones - to carve out new routes for its goods through the Arctic ice.

And it is eyeing Greenland as a particularly useful way-station on its polar silk road.


View attachment 493717

Could Greenland become China's Arctic base?
The BBC article is mainly about the airports which Greenland wants to build. At present their air connections to the rest of the world are very poor. Their main airport capable of international fights is a former US air base out in the middle of nowhere, and you then need to take a connecting flight to get anywhere. This is expensive and unreliable, and pushes up the cost of living as well as air freight is critical in the Arctic.

Greenland want to build three new airports near the centres of population so they can take direct flights from Europe. This is to support their economic development proposals, which centre around tourism and mining.

Greenland plan to finance half the cost of the airport out of the public budget. They are looking for an international partner to pay for the other half, and to build and operate the airport.

They've tried to get European or American firms interested, but with no luck. Chinese companies have however expressed an interest. They have been building infrastructure around the world, and have a lot of experience at getting things build quickly. There is also a Chinese-led infrastructure bank which may offer finance.

The Americans are against the Chinese doing anything anywhere, especially as the Americans see Greenland as practically a colony of theirs, even if it is technically sort of owned by Denmark. Copenhagen are afraid of upsetting the Americans, due to NATO issues and Russia.

In Greenland itself, the Danish expats tend to have most of the well paying jobs in government. They're happy with the way things are, especially as many of them went to Greenland because they like the idea of living in a place which is "unspoiled by development". Danes in Denmark like the thought of owning a big island that is "unspoiled by development", and also want things to stay the way they are.

The native Greenlanders are, as I understand it, split between those who don't want anything to change, but still want all the conveniences of modern living (provided someone else pays for it), and those who are all for having Greenland be "spoiled by development", if it brings some well paying jobs with it.

Chinese companies are involved in mining ventures in Greenland, at this point mainly as junior partners to Australian companies. Mining, and offshore oil and gas are probably the biggest potential game changers in Greenland's economy.

One of Denmark's concerns is that if Greenland is successful in developing themselves, they will want full independence from Denmark to get away from Denmark's ecology-driven policies which limit development. For Denmark, controlling Greenland is a source of national pride, a sort of remnant of empire of their own, and it is also a source of leverage in dealing with the Americans on issues connected with Russia and Baltic and Nordic security.

So, it's a complex situation. The Americans would like to simply grab Greenland for themselves, as seen by Trump's offer to buy it from Denmark. That didn't go over well in either Greenland or Denmark, so now the Americans are going to try a bit more diplomacy. The main US interest in Greenland is its geographic position with respect to Russia and China, and how this relates to their plans for missile defence.
 

Yokel

LE
Is Chinese interest in Greenland and the Arctic driven by their lust for hydrocarbons and other mineral resources, or would they be acting in cahoots with Putin's Russia?

This is as much about the Atlantic theatre as the Arctic one, as NATO will depend on transatlantic reinforcement in the event of any crisis.
 
Is Chinese interest in Greenland and the Arctic driven by their lust for hydrocarbons and other mineral resources, or would they be acting in cahoots with Putin's Russia?

This is as much about the Atlantic theatre as the Arctic one, as NATO will depend on transatlantic reinforcement in the event of any crisis.
At present, the main Chinese interest in Greenland is a 12% shareholding in an Australian run mine which produces rare earth elements. Greenland is thought to have some of the best deposits outside of China, but of course still small by Chinese standards. Rare earth elements are used in a lot of electronic components and other such gadgetry.

Rare earth elements by the way are another American obsession, and another reason for American interest in Greenland.
 
At present, the main Chinese interest in Greenland is a 12% shareholding in an Australian run mine which produces rare earth elements. Greenland is thought to have some of the best deposits outside of China, but of course still small by Chinese standards. Rare earth elements are used in a lot of electronic components and other such gadgetry.

Rare earth elements by the way are another American obsession, and another reason for American interest in Greenland.
Rare Earth metals are surprisingly common, though inconvenient. I believe progress is being made in reclamation of these metals which used to be discarded as waste during metals processing.

China sought to dominate in mining rare earth mineral deposits and thereby have control over Western industry.

1596290924205.png

1596290836494.png

REE - Rare Earth Elements - Metals, Minerals, Mining, Uses
 

Yokel

LE
At present, the main Chinese interest in Greenland is a 12% shareholding in an Australian run mine which produces rare earth elements. Greenland is thought to have some of the best deposits outside of China, but of course still small by Chinese standards. Rare earth elements are used in a lot of electronic components and other such gadgetry.

Rare earth elements by the way are another American obsession, and another reason for American interest in Greenland.
I must admit to being totally ignorant of the Rare Earth metals aspects. However, the prospect of a major Chinese controlled port in Greenland raises the possibility of it being used as a naval base by China and Russia. Forward basing of submarines and long range aircraft could make life very tricky to the United States and their NATO allies.

We must be able to control the Atlantic.
 
I must admit to being totally ignorant of the Rare Earth metals aspects. However, the prospect of a major Chinese controlled port in Greenland raises the possibility of it being used as a naval base by China and Russia. Forward basing of submarines and long range aircraft could make life very tricky to the United States and their NATO allies.

We must be able to control the Atlantic.
Russia and China must have exceptional confidence in the maintenance and reliability of the surface ships and airframes, for starters.

If push cam to shove they would be wiped of the face of Greenland before breakfast.
 

Yokel

LE
Russia and China must have exceptional confidence in the maintenance and reliability of the surface ships and airframes, for starters.

If push cam to shove they would be wiped of the face of Greenland before breakfast.
Are the weather conditions around Greenland any more extreme than those on the Kola peninsula? A Bear taking off from Kola has a much higher probability of interception by NATO than one launching nearer.

Neither Putin or XI are much bothered by the loss of a few sailors or airmen. Both nations have lost submarines with their entire crew in recent years, and saw face saving as their top priority.
 
Are the weather conditions around Greenland any more extreme than those on the Kola peninsula? A Bear taking off from Kola has a much higher probability of interception by NATO than one launching nearer.

Neither Putin or XI are much bothered by the loss of a few sailors or airmen. Both nations have lost submarines with their entire crew in recent years, and saw face saving as their top priority.
F15 or Typhoon will make short work, I agree that a Chinese presence in greenland would be irritating, however there logs and lines of communication would be emotional.
 
I must admit to being totally ignorant of the Rare Earth metals aspects. However, the prospect of a major Chinese controlled port in Greenland raises the possibility of it being used as a naval base by China and Russia. Forward basing of submarines and long range aircraft could make life very tricky to the United States and their NATO allies.

We must be able to control the Atlantic.
Unless Denmark , part of NATO wants to pull out and be a puppet for Xi , can not see it happening.
 
The BBC article is mainly about the airports which Greenland wants to build. At present their air connections to the rest of the world are very poor. Their main airport capable of international fights is a former US air base out in the middle of nowhere, and you then need to take a connecting flight to get anywhere. This is expensive and unreliable, and pushes up the cost of living as well as air freight is critical in the Arctic.

Greenland want to build three new airports near the centres of population so they can take direct flights from Europe. This is to support their economic development proposals, which centre around tourism and mining.

Greenland plan to finance half the cost of the airport out of the public budget. They are looking for an international partner to pay for the other half, and to build and operate the airport.

They've tried to get European or American firms interested, but with no luck. Chinese companies have however expressed an interest. They have been building infrastructure around the world, and have a lot of experience at getting things build quickly. There is also a Chinese-led infrastructure bank which may offer finance.

The Americans are against the Chinese doing anything anywhere, especially as the Americans see Greenland as practically a colony of theirs, even if it is technically sort of owned by Denmark. Copenhagen are afraid of upsetting the Americans, due to NATO issues and Russia.

In Greenland itself, the Danish expats tend to have most of the well paying jobs in government. They're happy with the way things are, especially as many of them went to Greenland because they like the idea of living in a place which is "unspoiled by development". Danes in Denmark like the thought of owning a big island that is "unspoiled by development", and also want things to stay the way they are.

The native Greenlanders are, as I understand it, split between those who don't want anything to change, but still want all the conveniences of modern living (provided someone else pays for it), and those who are all for having Greenland be "spoiled by development", if it brings some well paying jobs with it.

Chinese companies are involved in mining ventures in Greenland, at this point mainly as junior partners to Australian companies. Mining, and offshore oil and gas are probably the biggest potential game changers in Greenland's economy.

One of Denmark's concerns is that if Greenland is successful in developing themselves, they will want full independence from Denmark to get away from Denmark's ecology-driven policies which limit development. For Denmark, controlling Greenland is a source of national pride, a sort of remnant of empire of their own, and it is also a source of leverage in dealing with the Americans on issues connected with Russia and Baltic and Nordic security.

So, it's a complex situation. The Americans would like to simply grab Greenland for themselves, as seen by Trump's offer to buy it from Denmark. That didn't go over well in either Greenland or Denmark, so now the Americans are going to try a bit more diplomacy. The main US interest in Greenland is its geographic position with respect to Russia and China, and how this relates to their plans for missile defence.
Don't forget that the total population of Greenland is 56,000 people, many of whom live a reasonably traditional life with hunting and fishery. Nuuk, the capital city has a population of about 17,000

Access to most forms of higher education is limited (both by the size of the population, and the size of the country and the lack of infrastructure), unless you leave the country (usually to Denmark) to do so. As such many of the professional positions are held by Danes.

Greenland gets an annual grant of more than 4,500,000,000 DKK from Denmark, which pays for more than half of the public budget.

Denmark has of course realised the increased importance of defence in the Arctic area. Some of this report may be of interest: https://fe-ddis.dk/SiteCollectionDo...eringer/Intelligence Risk Assessment 2019.pdf
 
More US troop moves, this time in Norway.

'The US Marines has been permanently stationed in Norway on a rotational basis since 2017. That arrangement now comes to an end, the Norwegian Armed Forces informs.

'From late fall this year, the Americans will pull out and visit Norway only in connection with exercises. It is a major shift in US security relations with Norway, that inevitably will affect the military situation in the region. Up to 700 marines today serve in Norway, many of them in the northern parts of the country. The force has rotated on a 6-month basis. From late fall this year, only about 20 US marines will be left in Norway.

'The reduced permanent presence of U.S forces in Norway will be warmly welcomed in Moscow, where the authorities repeatedly have criticized Norway for its close cooperation with the American marines. On a number of occasions, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his deputies have lashed out against Oslo with accusations that it breaks with its traditional base policy according to which foreign troops are not to be permanently stationed in the country. As late as early June this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov in an interview underlined that Norway’s military buildup in the North “undermines peace, stability and the atmosphere of trust in the region.”


 

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