B1 Intermediate US 174 Folder Collection
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I'm on an island near the North Pole and
I'm here to find out who owns the Arctic.

As the ice melts more and more in this region,
you can see just how dramatic the ice has been shrinking.
One of these countries has shown that they're willing to fight for it.
Russia's making a new push into the Arctic.
This is the Wild West.
Investment opportunities opening up
in sort of an unusual area: the Russian Arctic.

The Arctic region has strategic
and economic importance.

The pace of melting is only getting faster.
Russia projecting its power.
Use diplomacy to avoid further conflict
in the High North.

So, I'm not allowed to
take my camera down into the mine. So
I've been given this explosion-proof

super fortified camera. In case it
explodes, it won't cause a death fire for

the entire community.
This coal mine is owned by the Russian government,
it's in a town with Russian flags,
and the bust of a Russian Communist revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin.
But, this isn't Russia.
It's Barentsburg, on the island of
Svalbard near the North Pole.

It's a place that exists for strategic reasons, not for making money.
In fact it loses money. Has for decades.
Russia funds this place because for them, it means influence in this region.
A frozen ocean, that is melting more and more every year due to the changing climate.
This is what the Arctic Ocean looked like in
September 1984. Fast-forward thirty two
years and this is what it looks like:

September 2016.
Most of the world sees
this as a looming disaster, but for the

Arctic nations this change means an

Access to a brand new ocean.
Here's what geologists think oil and gas
resources might look like in the Arctic.

The US Geological Survey estimates that
the region holds 30 percent of the

world's undiscovered natural gas and 13%
of its oil.

These resources are still remote and
costly to access but they're more

accessible every year and suddenly this
desolate region is very interesting to the world.

New shipping routes are also
opening up and this ocean, that was once frozen,

is now navigable for longer
periods every summer, cutting weeks off

the trips between Asian and Western

The topic of borders in the
Arctic region is a little bit complex
and it's an issue that's still open

for discussion and negotiation. Currently
the border lines in the Arctic Ocean

look like this.
Every country gets their
default maritime borders that are

200 nautical miles off their coast. The rest
of the water that doesn't fall within

these exclusive economic zones, is up for
grabs to anyone who can prove

that it belongs to them. And that has a lot to do
with a continental shelf.

A continental shelf is a part of a country's landmass.
It's just covered with ocean.

The continental shelf continues until it
drops off into the deeper parts of the ocean.

Since the ice has been melting,
countries have been sending out

submarines to gather data on the
continental shelf. They put together a

scientific case and submit it to a UN
committee. This committee reviews it and

decides whether or not the country's
claim is scientifically valid.

Extending from our coastlines, lying beneath the
sea, is an extension of our country

called the continental shelf. It
determines the new borders of our

country. Knowing where the edge of the
continental shelf lies, adds millions of

square kilometers to our country and
makes the resources on the seafloor and

beneath the seabed, Canada's.
So far Norway
and Iceland are the only two nations

whose continental shelf claims have been
submitted and approved by the UN, but

others have submitted claims that are
waiting for approval.

Look at Russia's claims versus that of Greenland,
the large Arctic island that actually belongs to Denmark.
The claims overlap significantly.
Canada is in the process
of gathering data and is expected to
submit a claim that will also have some overlap here.

The UN committee that evaluates these
claims is made up of scientists, not
diplomats. Their sole job is to say

whether or not the claim is
scientifically valid.

It's then up to the
countries to negotiate how to work out
who gets what.

Russia has shown its interest in having
a claim that extends all the way to the North Pole.

In 2007 Russia went so far as to plant
its flag on the seafloor under the North

And if push comes to shove, Russia
likely won't concede its North Pole
claim to the tiny nation of Denmark,

whose claims overlap with theirs. Russia
is easily the biggest player in the

Arctic neighborhood. Half of the Arctic
is flanked by Russian coast and they

easily wield the most influence and they
have the most to gain from global

warming and the ice melting. And so they're refortifying and renovating a lot of
their strategic outposts here in the

50 airfields by 2020,
putting special forces. They're training, holding
military exercises in the Arctic.

In recent years Russia has been reopening,
fortifying, and building new military

bases in the Arctic region. They've been
publicizing their military exercises,

which include reindeer, huskies, and
soldiers in uniforms that look like

they belong in a Star Wars film.
Russia is sending us important signals, that in the Arctic,
they will project their own
power and capabilities and I don't see a

sufficient response from the US and NATO,
to recognize that increased military position.

One of those outposts is the
town of Barentsburg, which is right

behind me, here on the island of Svalbard.
Barentsburg isn't a military facility,
like all those other dots on the map, but

it serves a similar purpose. And to
understand why Russia wants a town on

this island, you have to understand
Svalbard. It's unlike any other piece of

land on earth and not only because it's
the northernmost inhabited part of the planet.

The Svalbard treaty, signed in
1920, says that any country who has

signed the treaty can have its people on
Svalbard and exploit the land for

commercial or economic purposes. The land
technically belongs to Norway, but 45

countries have signed the treaty and so
45 countries have economic claim to this land.

The one rule is that no nation,
including Norway, is allowed to have

military assets on Svalbard.
So Russia set up a coal mine up here, not

to make money. Russia pays for these coal
miners to be here to sink economic
roots into this land. If there's ever

dispute about boundaries or if oil is
someday found off the shores of Svalbard,

Russia will be at the table where those
discussions are happening and

Barentsburg will be their bargaining

It's their claim to this land.
What's most fascinating to me, is that
this strategy plays out with people.

The people living here in Barentsburg are
effectively placeholders for a Russian

strategy for the Arctic. And yet when
you talk to them that's not really on their mind.

They're not thinking about geopolitics,
they're not thinking about
the changing landscape of the Arctic, and

what that means for Russian policy.
For Russia, coal has been their main economic activity,
it's what they've been doing
here for years, but coal is in decline

and their operation is slowly losing
people and interest and so they're

realizing they have to pivot to a
different economic activity, that is more

sustainable for the future. And for them
the answer is tourism.

On Svalbard, it's kind of clear: the coal mining era,
is something which is, you know, disappearing.
It's a bust.
Tourism, science, nature protection is its future.
You can see Russia's renewed
interest in this island taking place

when you walk around the town of

The consulate is undergoing
some renovation right now. They're like
gutting the whole thing and renovating

after years of neglect. It's a small
village of a few hundred people and it

has an entire consulate. This consulate
serves more as a statement than a

functional asset for the Russian

All these renovations suggest
that they expect this ghost town to
become a major tourist destination, but

making money isn't the motivation here.
Of course it's impossible that
Barentsburg one day will support itself
without any funding from the government.

It's impossible.
The pivot to tourism isn't just about keeping deep
economic roots in Barentsburg. It also
serves a purpose of turning Barentsburg

into a spectacle, for people to see just
how much Russian identity is tied to the Arctic.

Newly refurbished buildings, new
Arctic theme bars, museums that tell the

story of Russian presence in the Arctic.
These aren't military bases or airfields,
but this sort of projection of culture
and identity goes a long way in creating

association with a place, in exerting

It's called soft power.
Funding all of this on a faraway island that
belongs to Norway, is the epitome of soft power.

And it's a perfect complement to
Russia's surge in hard power in the Arctic.

Remember all those dots?
The most long-range air patrols with bear bombers since the Cold War,
forty five thousand troops,
three thousand four hundred military vehicles,

forty one ships,
fifteen submarines, and a hundred and ten aircraft.

What do you think Russia's trying to achieve in the Arctic with that massive military buildup?
I don't know.
I believe, however, that we are going
to have to figure it out.

But up until now Russia has been playing by the rules
on the maritime borders front.
Following all the UN protocol and making

claims in a very orderly fashion, but
they've also shown some provocative

behavior in protecting their influence
in the region.

On the one hand for Russia
to benefit economically from the Arctic,
it has to be a stable cooperative environment.

The best thing you can do to
spook off companies and economic investment,

is to think that the region could be prone to conflict.
But we have to remember that this is the government
that annexed Crimea a few years ago.

It's a government that's not afraid to
project power in its neighborhood.

They're showing us both tracks, sort of
this dual policy of wanting to be open

for business, but be able to growl a
little bit and show its muscular teeth

for its military and those two,
eventually they're a little incompatible.

This region is changing fast.
The treaties and norms that have kept it
in order for years are becoming
incompatible with the physical realities.

As the ice melts, the region will become
more valuable. New borders will be drawn,

and new opportunities to project power will emerge.
We can only hope that Russia continues to
play by the rules.

My favorite part about being in the Arctic while I was making this story,
was going on these late night hikes.
A lot of the footage in this video was shot after midnight,
when the sun would kind of just hover around the horizon.
The light would be beautiful for hours at a time.
And it was just such a crazy experience to watch the sun never set.
Anyway, thanks for watching the second episode of Borders, I published the first episode
last week. And I'm going to continue to publish these every week, on Tuesdays.
I also want to say a big thank you to lululemon, who is a sponsor of Borders.
They sent me these ABC pants, which are
these sturdy pants are used for both active hiking, as well as just kind of lounging around.
They're super comfortable.
Thank you lululemon for sending me these ABC pants,
but more importantly thanks for supporting Borders, and for making this whole thing happen.
If you want to check out these ABC pants, I'm going to leave a link here,
where you can go over to the lulu shop online, and check them out for yourself.
That's it, stay tuned: one week from now, I'm releasing the next episode of Borders.
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It's time to draw borders on the Arctic Ocean

174 Folder Collection
Justin published on July 3, 2018
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