The localization of vast gas resources, and high energy prices in combination with global warming, has definitely placed the Arctic at the hub of imperialist rivalry, with Norway in a pivotal role.
«The world is in need of gigantic oil investments in the 25 years to come. That is why it is important to attract the oil companies to the Barents region now», says the International Energy Agency, the newspaper Aftenposten reported in November 2005. «The IEA fears that the anticipated 50 percent heavy increase in demand of energy towards 2030 will lead to heavier dependency on the oil-rich countries of the politically unstable Middle East.» The IEA has received the response they hopefully were awaiting. On March 31st the Norwegian government presented its plan safeguarding the Barents Sea, after heavy internal squabbling amongst the three «red» and green coalition parties. – Fisheries, environment, petroleum, oil and gass will be developed side by side, we will supervise all obligations, said Prime Minister (Labour party - Social Democrats) Jens Stoltenberg. Especially our obligations towards the oil companies and the USA, he should have added.
Vital for ecological reproduction
Although some of the most vulnerable fishing zones are omitted from the plan, as has been a demand from the Socialist Left Party (SV), this is by no means a permanent protection of these vital areas for the coastal fishermen, either. The plan will be revised in 2010.
The environmentalist movements have protested, they strongly condemn the government parties for breaching their promises prior to the election on protecting the environment.
The Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea are natural larders and essential for the whole ecological reproductive system, especially where the Norwegian-Arctic codfish is concerned.
With some exceptions, drilling for oil will be allowed beyond the coasts of Finnmark, bordering to Russia.
The northernmost gas production platform, Snøhvit (Snow White), has recently been put into production. This Norwegian project is in itself of significant proportions. More important is that it is intended to serve as an entrance ticket for Norsk Hydro and Statoil in their attempts to get their feet into the twice as large Shtokman gas field in the Russian economic zone.
Snow White is looking for her Prince ShtokmanIn September 2005 the giant Russian corporation Gazprom picked the five companies Hydro, Statoil, Total, Chevron and Conoco Philips to take part in the final competion on which of them should become partners in the development of Shtokman.
Our government, as a government for the monopolies, naturally is doing whatever it can to the benefit of «our» companies. When the Russian prime minister Mikhail Fradkov paid an official visit to Norway on 28th March, show-off visits to the pipe line projects of Norsk Hydro on the west coast was a very important part of the protocol.
Hydro and Statoil are internationally in the frontline when it comes to offshore technology, and are for this reason potentially interesting to the Russian oil oligarchy.
USA wants Norway as a stable supplier of gas
Profits and expected increases in the market price for oil and gas is of course the initial motive for the rush on the Barents Sea. But geopolitics and imperialist rivalry is an equally important part of the game.
«Norway's importance to the United States when it comes to our national energy policy is increasing year by year», former ambassador John Doyle Ong stated in an interview in Autumn 2005. Norway might compensate for the dependance of the instable Middle East, and would hardly think of threatening to sell its oil and gas in euro instead of US dollars, thereby jeopardizing the hegemony of the dollar and the American card house built upon an overvalued greenback. Ong was an eager applauder of the Snow White project. The shipping of gas from here to Cove Point, Washington DC, will shortly become reality.
On his departure, the ambassador, after cheekily demanding that the US should be a part in trilateral negotiations with Norway and Russia, stated in an interview with Dagbladet that «...Norway's initatives always are compliant with the objectives of US foreign policy. And Norway can in several instances do things that we can not, you being who you are, and we being who we are».
In the Arctic region the US might have extra need of a supervisor, and Norway has earlier proved to be a good choice.
One faction of the Republican party has blocked US ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) wich was adopted in 1982, thereby leaving the USA on the sidewalk in the struggle for re-division of the oil, gas and fishing resources.
Global warming offers prospects of new profitabilityWhat the movement for preservation of the environment fears, makes the oil companies rub their hands. Global warming has already led to a dramatic melting down of the Arctic ice. In August 2005 a Russian research vessel managed to reach the North Pole on its own, without assistance from an ice-breaker. This has previously never been possible. Beneath the Polar ice lie vast and unlocalized resources, which now might become accessible and profitable if the ice masses continue to shrink back. Only a fraction of what is concealed below the thick ice has up till now been explored geologically. Almost equally important are the prospects of shorter routes for transportation, which would drastically lower costs. A new passage ajar four or five months of the year, would open up new routes for transport and instigate new cost and benefit calculations of possible supplies.
These factors explain the eagerness of the imperialists to lay their hands on as much as possible of the resources in the Arctic, aswell as the aggressive tone between states normally considered to be peaceful neighbours. The rivalry is intensifying also as a result of the climatic changes resulting in the migration of huge colonies of crabs and fishes. This may mean that some states would loose great resources when whole maritime habitations, as a result of changes in the water temperature and sea currents, move to new areas.
Norway wants to expand its influenceThe red and green government that came into office late autumn 2005, has from the start given clear priority to the areas in the far north, whether speaking politically, economically or military. This orientation has been presented not only as a policy for mature and bearing exploitation of natural resources; it has also been offered as proof of an independent foreign and security policy, based on national interests, i.e. as a gentle shift away from total submission to the US of A. It is this version in particular that appeals to, and is promulgated by the governments left wing party, SV.
But, as has been shown, the Norwegian focus on the far north is in total conformity with the wishes and interests of the USA, at the same time fitting in with Norway's own imperialist ambitions. It is for the USA far more valuable that NATO-member Norway concentrates its activity and military build-up 1) in this region. Although the US appreciates Norwegian «contributions» to the occupation forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere, these are more of a symbolic and political nature, patching up the NATO alliance.
Rivalry between Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway.Norway and Russia have long ago put forward territorial demands, and partially taken the law into their own hands. For more than 30 years the two states have been in a dispute about which principles should be applied when drawing the maritime economic border line. Norway insists on the midline principle, while Russia argues that the sector principle should be applied. The area of dispute is called The grey zone, and is one of the favourite areas for pirate fisheries from several nations with large fishing fleets. Norway upholds a self-declared protection zone around the Spitsbergen islands 2) , which is not acknowledged by other states.
In 2001, Russia attempted to encompass half the Arctic Sea, but was opposed by its imperialist rivals. Canada and Denmark too, have aggressively set their eyes on the Arctic region. They are fighting over who has the sovereignty over the tiny rock Hansøya beyond Greenland. Denmark (which holds Greenland as a semi-colony) is trying to prove geologically that the North Pole is a natural prolongation of the Greenland continental shelf, while Canada is showing up military muscles, patrolling its polar boundaries with a 1500 men strong army, mainly consisting of inuits (the indigenous people). The aggressive Canadian behaviour is an advance measure in order to secure control with the Northwest passage in the future.
The term of Cold War might experience a new meaning on the Arctic front.
1) Norway is heavily building up its naval capacity, and has invested $4 billion in five new multi-function warships, manufactured in Spain. The Royal Navy boasts that it will achieve to have the best (not largest) Navy in Europe by year 2010.
2) The Svalbard (Spitsbergen) Treaty of 1920 gives this group of islands a special status. Although under Norwegian jurisdiction, all military facilities are banned and all signatory countries, with certain restrictions, have the right to engage in economic activity.
Slightly abbreviated. First published on the Revolusjon website on 2 April 2006. Published in Unity & Struggle issue 14 (May 2007). In Greek was published in newspaper Anasintaxi issue 236 (15-30 October 2006).