Revealed: the secret battle for the riches of the Arctic

Leaked cables show how nations are carving up pristine wilderness



As the eight Arctic nations met in Greenland yesterday, cables released by WikiLeaks gave insight into the battle for control of the world's least explored region and the resources that lie beneath its icy waters.

Click HERE to upload graphic (74k jpg)

The cables show that Washington has an eye on the eventual independence of Greenland, a sparsely populated territory which functions as a protectorate of Denmark, and is looking at ways to strengthen its standing in the territory.

"With Greenlandic independence glinting on the horizon, the US has a unique opportunity to shape the circumstances in which an independent nation may emerge," said one dispatch from US diplomats in 2007. "We have real security and growing economic interests in Greenland."

The presence of US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, at the Greenland summit shows the importance that countries are attaching to the region as the polar ice caps melt further.

An international study released last week projected that world sea levels could rise up to 1.6 metres over the next 90 years. These projections have prompted calls to increase action to reverse climate change, but have also raised speculation about how the resources of the Arctic can best be retrieved.

The region is believed to hold about a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves, and environmentalists say the thought of such riches is leading the Arctic countries to lose sight of longer-term climate issues.

"Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, the leaders of the Arctic nations are instead investing in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it," said the Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe. "They're preparing to fight to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place."

Russia has the largest amount of Arctic coastline, and has a fleet of military and civilian icebreakers used on routes that traverse the Arctic. While other Arctic countries have small villages or research stations in their far northern reaches, Russia has major cities such as Murmansk inside the Arctic Circle.

The world began to take note of Russia's Arctic ambitions when a Russian expedition planted a titanium Russian tricolour in the seabed at the North Pole in 2007. One of the WikiLeaks cables showed that a top Russian politician told US diplomats that a mission to the North Pole led by the Russian explorer Artur Chilingarov was ordered by Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

The mission, and Russia's increasingly belligerent rhetoric over the Arctic, caused concern not just in Washington but also in other countries with claims to the region.

"This isn't the 15th century," said Peter MacKay, Canada's Foreign Minister, at the time. "You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory'," he said.

Another WikiLeaks cable shows that the Norwegian Foreign Minister sarcastically thanked his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for making the purchase of new fighter jets "so much easier to justify... to the Norwegian public."

Another cable quotes the head of the Russian navy saying that "one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention."

"As so often before, this new military build-up is all about oil," said Mr Ayliffe on the military rhetoric and increased military spending among Northern countries. "We need our political leaders to make a final push to get us off oil by investing in the clean, cutting-edge technologies that can power our economies without destroying the environment or sparking tension amid the icebergs and glaciers of the High North."

Ms Clinton, speaking in Greenland yesterday, said that US ratification of a UN treaty governing the status of seabeds under international law was "overdue". Russia and other Arctic nations have signed the treaty, but the status of most of the Arctic territory is murky. This week's summit in Greenland will pass the first agreement ratified by all the Arctic nations, which will focus on search and rescue missions in the region.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Drama Teacher - Hull and Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: The JobRandstad are currently in need of ...

Reception Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is the UK mark...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments