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Arctic China (1) – The Dragon and the Vikings

On 15 March 2013, China and Iceland signed a bilateral free trade agreement (Ministry for foreign affairs, Iceland). This agreement was signed three months before the Republic of China became a “permanent observer”of the Arctic Stephen Blank, “China’s Arctic strategy“, The Diplomat, 20 June 2013), while the “Snow Dragon”, the first Chinese icebreaker, has already made five trips in the Arctic, in 1999, 2003, 2008, 2010 and 2012, at which occasion it sailed the Northern Sea Route. This political and economic move by Beijing reveals a deep evolution of the grand strategy of the People’s Republic of China, as well as the shifting balance of power in the north-Atlantic region and in the Arctic. Over the last twenty-five years, with a …

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The Warming Arctic, a Hyper Strategic Crisis

Adapting a famous battle between the Teutonic knights and the Russian army during the thirteenth century in his 1938 movie, “Alexandre Nevski”, Sergei Eisenstein directs one of the most famous war scene in the movie’s history: he shows the terrible armoured Teutonic Knights charging the Russian ragtag army over a frozen lake. However, such is the weight of the Knights’ armours, that, after some fights,  the ice of Lake Peipous breaks up and all the Knights drown, giving the victory to the Russians. This could be a metaphor for what might happen in the Arctic during the decades to come, with an important nuance: there might be no winner in the end. Because of climate change, the Arctic is warming …

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Arctic Warming and Eurasian Grand Strategies

In May 2013, several Asian countries obtained the status of “permanent observer” at the Arctic Council, the body that gathers the eight countries bordering the Arctic. These new “observers” are China, India, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan (Russia Today, Northern exposure, May 15, 2013). This rush of Asian (some of them tropical and equatorial) countries to the Arctic is one of the most important dimensions of the current global race to the Arctic region (see Valantin, “Arctic, the New great game”), triggered by the combination of the rapid warming of the North and the global competition for natural resources (Klare, The Race for what’s left, 2013). The new grand strategies ruling over this race to the Arctic, which combine national …

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The Arctic Power Race: the New Great Game

This post opens a new series dealing with the Arctic, its environmental change and its evolving geopolitics and security. The Arctic death spiral, or “Melting is coming” Thanks to the widespread rapid melting of Arctic sea ice during the 2013 summer season, a Chinese freighter crossed the famous Northwest passage, shortening its journey from Dalian, China, to Rotterdam, by more than two weeks in August 2013. Between 22 and 26 September, the Nordic Orion, a bulk freighter going from Vancouver, Pacific Canada, to Finland, used the same passageway. It was transporting coal. The opening of this mythical passageway in summer over the last few years is the result of the way global warming is massively impacting the whole Arctic region. …

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Beyond Fear of Near-Earth Objects: Mining Resources from Space?

In February 2013, the fall of a meteor in Russia’s Urals (e.g. “Meteorite hits Russian Urals: Fireball explosion wreaks havoc, up to 1,200 injured“, RT, 15 Feb 2013), added to the close fly-by of Asteroid 2012 DA14, and to reports of a meteorite sighted over Cuba, reignited a renewed interest for near-earth objects (NEOs), notably because of the threat they may constitute to the earth and its inhabitants. Yet, NEOs are not only about dangers and Armageddon scenarios, they may also well be an opportunity.  The possibility to use resources from space also exists and may be seen as a major wild card, which could completely upset most scenarios on resources and energy issues, thus constituting a “grey swan,” to use Taleb’s terminology. From dream …

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The Space Resources Sigils

The Space Resources Sigils is part of The Sigils, a series of daily papers scanning the horizon for weak signals related to various issues relevant to the security of societies, polities, nations and citizens. An opening article on the importance of space resources as their use should be a reality in the relatively near future (middle of next …

Extreme Environments Security

In its Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2040, the UK Ministry of Defence, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), underlined that “resource and the environment” was one of the major dimensions shaping the future. Notably, the highly likely growing resource scarcity would lead to strengthened interest in what they call “Extreme Environments” – i.e. the …

The Deep-Sea Resources Sigils

The Deep-Sea Resources Sigils is part of The Sigils, a series of daily scans for weak signals related to various global issues pertaining to political and geopolitical uncertainty. Why deep-sea resources must be monitored and what is at stake can be found in the corresponding Sigils Brief. Read The Deep-Sea Resources Sigils… Featured image: Three-dimensional model of the …

The Deep-Sea Resources Brief

Human societies currently face dwindling resources and rising competition for them in the contemporary “resources order.” Thus, besides and in accordance with other ways to handle this challenge, new types and sources of resources are increasingly valuable and can make a strategic difference for polities, as well as for humanity as a whole. Meanwhile, if we are to ever learn from our worrying present, we must also, continuously, make sure that the extraction and use of those new potential resources will not have any unfavourable impact on the planet and its ecosystem, including this biodiversity to which we belong.* As has now been known since the end of the nineteenth century (Ifremer, les Nodules, 2012), mineral resources lie on the …

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