Economy

Forget Polar Bears, The Arctic Is The Land Of The Rusty Drum

What Will Happen To The Last Of The Polar Bears ?
What Will Happen To The Last Of The Polar Bears ?
Vladislav Inozemtsev

-Analysis-

MOSCOW - The Russia Arctic Coast is one of the dirtiest places on earth. According to the most conservative estimates, the shores of the Arctic Ocean are littered with 4 million tons of industrial and construction waste, part of which is toxic.

More than 20,000 pieces of electronics are strewn across the Russian Arctic Coast, rusting. Every year, there are no less than 20,000 instances of burst pipes along the coast, pouring tens of thousands of tons of oil into the ocean. The arctic ecosystem, just as injured and brittle as the Antarctic system, is quickly being destroyed.

Our partners-in-crime in terms of dirtying the Arctic have already been cleaning up for a while. The United States started cleaning up their damage in 1981, not only removing old oil barrels but also removing contaminated soil. Canada has been working on cleaning up for over 15 years, and Norway has been paying attention to the area’s pollution as well.

In comparison, our awareness happened much more recently. It was only this past summer that a pilot program was set up to clean up the dirtiest Arctic Islands in Russian territory. But will it be possible to change what was done in only a couple of decades?

Endless varieties of rusting drums

The condition of the rough, northern islands is horrifying, especially for anyone who has spent time at the other end of the earth, in Antarctica. The contrast could not be more striking. In the Antarctic, you have a strictly protected natural area, in which one is not even allowed to bring foreign plants or animals for fear of interfering with the native flora and fauna. In the arctic, there are endless flatlands, strewn with rusting iron, plastic pipes, hundreds of logs and valleys pockmarked with deteriorating structures that no one uses anymore.

The symbol of the Russian Far North is the drum. There are lots of them, and they come in endless different varieties. There are wood drums and metal drums. There are 200-liter metal drums strew over tens of square kilometers in such an unorganized way that it seems like they were tossed from an invisible hand above. There are half-drums, that people lived in at one time. There are museum pieces, with “Vehrmacht” inscribed in the metal and the date of production, 1942, clearly visible.

Today there are more than three million drums in Russia’s northern islands. When you are standing in a relatively clean area, you will still see 10 to 15 of them within 30 meters. On the one hand, cleaning them up is the green thing to do - on the other hand, it ruins the landscape even more, requiring big trucks that will leave tracks on fragile land for years and spew exhaust into the air. Still, you have to admire the people who have been working 12-hour days in the Arctic to save nature from humankind. Clean-up work has been going on for a year, and only on one of the islands, but hopes are that this island will be clean in three to five years.

Huge oil reserves

The Soviet “take-over” of the Arctic defies logic, in many ways. The landscape is dotted with the rusting carcasses of sophisticated machines, the modern equivalents of which are expensive and kept in highly guarded garages. It’s almost as if they never tried to fix anything, just dumped it in the Arctic instead. It’s not clear exactly what was responsible for the massive pollution in the Arctic Islands, but one thing is clear - if the drums are taken away and the garbage is cleaned up, it will still take years for the Islands to come back to life.

Adding to the challenges is the fact that countries with Arctic territory are starting to talk about drilling for oil there. Allegedly, 25% of the world’s oil supply is under the Arctic Ocean. In my opinion, drilling in this sensitive region is profoundly ill advised, for two reasons. One is the potential environmental impact. In the case of a spill, it would be impossible to stop the leak, since experts have already said that blocking a leak according to current methods is not effective in areas where more than 10% of the surface is covered with ice. A spill would have disastrous consequences for all living things for thousands of kilometers.

But the good news for environmentalists is that there is a good economic reason not to drill in the Arctic. If in fact 25% of the world’s oil reserves are under the Arctic, tapping into that reserve would only cause the price of oil to drop dramatically. That would not be good for any of the countries who are now thinking about investing billions of dollars in drilling in the Arctic. Those countries, Russia, Canada, Norway and the U.S., already have the highest cost of oil production, and would be most hurt by a crash in prices.

As much as it might seem impossible to imagine an international agreement on the Arctic territories, in fact the main countries with territory along the Arctic shores, Russia, Canada, the United States and Norway, might find that that such an agreement would actually work in their best interests, both from an environmental and economic point of view.

See some photos of the Russian Arctic Coast here.

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Geopolitics

"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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