Home North pole ice Great power rivalry intensifies in the Arctic Circle

Great power rivalry intensifies in the Arctic Circle



The arctic region, known as the “North Pole of the world”, comes from the Greek word arktikos, “near the bear”. The term “bear” here refers to the constellation Ursa Major. The Anti-Arctic (Antarctica) is the continent that includes the South Pole. Located 700 kilometers from the nearest landmass, the Arctic Point is a floating structure and moves. The South Pole point in Antarctica, which is a continent, is 1,300 kilometers from the nearest sea. The position of the South Pole, which can move up to 10 meters per year, is recalculated on January 1 of each year.

The North Pole and the Arctic Ocean in which it is located do not belong to any country. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) which covers an additional 200 nautical miles from the territorial seas of countries with a coast to the ocean. However, countries bordering the ocean such as Norway, Russia, Canada and Denmark have launched numerous projects on parts of the Arctic seabed in order to explore nearby sources and obtain energy from sources such as wind and water supplied by the ocean.

– Why are the poles important?

Although the poles and melting of glaciers are directly associated with climate change at first glance, the importance of the poles to the states of the world is not limited to climate change. According to Burcu Ozsoy, director of the TUBITAK Marmara Research Center Polar Research Institute, Antarctica, which provides information on the world’s past, is the black box of our planet. Samples taken from glaciers will allow us to access a lot of unknown information about the world and to obtain information on geological and atmospheric structures. In addition to enabling climate studies, the poles, whose value is increasingly understood both economically and scientifically, are places that provide information on the world’s past and shed light on its future.

Besides the Arctic, the North Pole, the natural resources of the South Pole, Antarctica also whet the appetite of many countries. Antarctica is known as the largest source of fresh water in the world. Declared as the “Continent for Science and Peace”, this region functions as a natural laboratory for research on climate, geophysics, biology, space science and other branches of science. According to the Antarctic Treaty system signed by Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States in 1959 and entered into force in 1961, Antarctica will be used for international scientific studies and environmental protection. According to the Madrid Protocol signed in 1991, mining is prohibited in Antarctica, except for scientific research. Turkey, which signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1995, became a party to this treaty in 1996.

Antarctica, where 90% of the world’s glaciers and 70% of the freshwater are located, is home to strong winds and is known as the continent that provides the world’s climate and carbon dioxide balance. The Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), bringing together 75 scientists from 22 countries in 2014, determined the priority of scientific studies to be carried out on the continent for 20 years. As a result, the global impact of the Antarctic atmosphere and the South Sea, understanding why, how and where ice masses are decreasing, the history of Antarctica, space and universal research and the reduction of adverse effects human beings in the region are among these priority areas.

– Economic value of the posts

The economic value of the poles is increasing day by day due to increasing global temperature and melting glaciers. As the glaciers melt, access and transportation to the mines and minerals hidden in the region become easier. With the melting of the glaciers, the area is expected to be used as a trade route and significantly shorten traditional trade routes. For this reason, the Arctic Circle countries and China have undertaken more projects in the region in recent years.

The North Pole Arctic is also rich in oil and natural gas, the world’s non-renewable resources. The US Geological Survey estimates that there are 90 billion barrels of oil, 47 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of liquid natural gas in the region. While trying to find and use natural gas and oil reserves in the region, Denmark, which has a coast in the arctic region, produces renewable energy by taking advantage of the strong wind in the region.

The Arctic region contains more than a third of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves. It is an unanswered question, which country has which right to these reserves belonging to the Arctic region. The countries bordering the Arctic carry out exploration activities within their EEZs. The use of marine resources in areas outside the EEZs of these countries is resolved with the concept of continental shelf defined within the framework of UNCLOS. Scientific research is decisive in determining the continental shelves, which are defined as the uninterrupted extension of a piece of land under water. This situation leads countries which do not have an Arctic coast to use scientific research as a ticket to enter the region. Many countries are trying to collect more information about the region by doing research at the poles and thus get a share of the economic activities that will take place here in the future.

We know that 1,281,000 tonnes of goods passed through the region, which is becoming more and more attractive in trade every day, and this amount is exactly three times more than in 2018.

– Presence of Turkey to the Poles

The first Turk who went to Antarctica for scientific work was Atok Karaali, who worked at the US Plateau station in 1967. Later, Professor Serap Tilav and Professor Umran Inan also conducted studies in the region and the names of these Turkish scientists have been given. at “Karaali Rocks”, “Tilav Ice Tongue” and “Inan Hill”.

The ITU Polar Research Center (ITU PolReC), the first polar research center in Turkey, was established in 2015. Thanks to this institution, placed under the auspices of the Presidency as an Antarctic project in 2017, three expeditions national events in Antarctica were held under the responsibility of the Ministry of Industry and Technology. The main objective of this project, which later evolved into the TUBITAK Marmara Research Center Polar Research Institute, is to make Turkey a consultant country and to establish a Turkish scientific base in Antarctica.

The number of scientific publications brought to the literature by Turkish scientists, who organize scientific expeditions to Antarctica every year since 2017, is increasing day by day. Turkish scientists have discovered new species with samples taken from the Arctic and Antarctic, bacteria that will reduce the harmful effects of pesticides and algae that will allow wounds to heal faster were among the first fruits of these studies. .

Turkey’s National Polar Science Program consists of four main titles. These are the physical sciences, earth sciences, life sciences, and social and human sciences. The Republic of Turkey aims to cooperate with all states on scientific research in the arctic and antarctic regions.

– Fierce polar rivalry between great powers

The biggest power struggle in the Arctic is between the United States, Russia and China. According to the document “Strategy for the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation and the provision of national security for the period up to 2035”, the continental shelf of the Russian Federation in the Arctic contains more than 85,100 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 17.3 billion tonnes of oil. By 2035, Russia also aims to increase its infrastructure such as ports, logistics facilities and ships in the Arctic.

On the other hand, the United States is seeking to increase its military might in the region against China and Russia, which are cooperating in the Arctic. In fact, the growing Chinese presence at the poles led former US President Donald Trump to propose the purchase of Greenland from Denmark in 2019. Although the US cannot buy the island, it has taken steps to control the Chinese presence in the region by signing a series of agreements with Denmark and Greenland, covering the Thule air base on the island, as well as trade, energy and environmental protection.

China sees the Arctic as the “New Silk Road” to shorten traditional trade routes from 10 to 12 days on average, and continues scientific research, resource extraction and infrastructure construction in the region. China, which is 1,500 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, has declared itself a state near the North Pole and has entered into competition in the region. China, which wants to get involved early in the environment of transport and competition that will result from melting glaciers in the near future, plans to build the necessary infrastructure in the region.

In recent years, India, Canada, China, EU, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the UK have issued new or updated policy documents. day for the poles. In addition, different institutions in the United States have also put forward their own strategies for the poles. According to these strategy documents, which do not consider the poles only in the context of climate change [but see] the poles are regions which are directly linked to the national security of countries. Interestingly, every country is uncomfortable with the existence of the others there. Interestingly, every country is uncomfortable with the existence of the others there. This unease is emerging, especially between the United States, Russia and China.

As long as Russia, which has deep disagreements with the West, continues to meet its investment needs in the Arctic region with Chinese funding, and China keeps its feet on the ground every day in the region, competition for the pole areas that no one owns will continue to grow. It seems that the weather will not be the only cause of the warming, the rapid melting of the glaciers, but the competitive environment in the polar regions will intensify and the tension will also increase.

By Prof. Elif Nuroglu

* The author is head of the economics department of the Turkish-German University, works in the fields of international economics, gravity model, empirical international trade, econometric models, empirical macroeconomics, networks of artificial neurons and fuzzy approaches.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Anadolu Agency.