Exclusive: Bizarre Love Triangle – U.S., Russia, and the Arctic’s Untapped Resources (Part Two of Two)

by DR. ROBIN MCFEE February 20, 2009
Click here for Part One.
RUSSIA, OIL AND GAS – A Review
The world consumes approximately 90 million barrels of oil a day, of which the United States uses 25%. Although the United States is the third largest oil producer behind Saudia Arabia and Russia, our production does not come close to satisfying our needs, forcing us to be the largest importer in the world. Not an enviable position, given among the top 14 oil producing nations – Russia, Iran, Venezuela , China – all great pals of ours to be sure – are in the top 10. Alas the good guys – that’s us – are at the mercy of the, hmmmm, how shall I put this, ruffians who have the goods. Russia exports nearly twice the oil that it consumes. Does it surprise anyone that Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China are also partners in military, geopolitical and technology collaborations? They are the ultimate drug dealers and we are addicted to their product. It’s a major security vulnerability, because so too are our allies. And when your people are cold, no matter how much you may like the U.S., if Putin is your local “oil man” or “gas man” – you do as you are told. Bad for the U.S. And until we can wrestle the energy influence from Putin – and we have options if we’d only play them. Our allies will always be looking over their shoulders, always modulating their support for us – if for no other reason than to appease Moscow.
Russia is the number one natural gas producing nation in the world, and is forming alliances among the other leading nations and setting the stage for a gas cartel to rival OPEC. Given that much of the West is heated by gas, Russia wields a powerful leverage tool.
RUSSIA AND THE ARCTIC
In 2007 the Russian deep sea submersible Mir 1 submerged under the polar ice cap to a depth of 14,000 feet and placed a Russian flag on the seabed – a visual representation of the Kremlin’s claim on this resource rich region. Accompanied by nationalistic/militaristic hubris – it never the less was more than a symbolic gesture. Not needing a crystal ball to interpret Putin’s intentions, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper initiated policies to increase military capability in the region.
THE UNITED STATES AND THE ARCTIC – BEHIND THE CURVE…AGAIN!
The good news: The Arctic is one of the few places where U.S. oil companies can easily acquire exploration rights. Gazprom and other Russian companies, as well as foreign energy nations, largely block out Western interests. Much of the world oil and gas – some estimate 70% or more – is government controlled. U.S. and Canadian Arctic fossil fuels would be more accessible – logistically, legally and financially.
The bad news: According to several military experts, including General Victor Renuart, the new president will face significant Arctic threats. In discussing the Arctic he emphasized the reality that as the ice melts, more trade routes and increased traffic will be there. The U.S. will have to be able to monitor the vessels. He reminds us that this will be an economically important area and with it greater competition for resources by other nations laying claims to the region.
Northern Command recommended to the Joint Chiefs to increase the nations ability to gain access and control the Arctic waters. Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard expressed concern about the potential for conflict and hazards in the rapidly opening region. “There is water where it didn’t used to be (commenting on the ice melt) and I’m responsible for dealing with that: Given the 8 or 10 years it would take to build even one icebreaker, I think we’re at a crisis point in making a decision.”
There has been a dramatic rise in traffic with the increased number of shipping lanes that have become accessible – including the legendary Northwest Passage – with the ice melts. In 2004 more than 5400 vessels >100 tons operated in Arctic waters during that summer. In the same year 27 cruise ships that circled Greenland; by 2007, that number was over 200.
Clearly the U.S. needs new ships for strategic reasons such as ensuring we have a year round ability to patrol our northern waters, as well as the capability to rescue or respond to an emergency. Currently the U.S. has two icebreakers – the Polar Sea and the Polar Star – each 30 years old and one is out of service. The Healy is capable of operating in such an environment but is more a research vessel. And there is concern among the military in terms of our naval fleet and other weapons capabilities in the region.
The Alaska presence – though prepared to function in a frigid environment – is neither sizable enough nor currently tasked with protecting our Northern wilderness and Arctic region. In December, a joint communications exercise called Arctic Freeze to assess and improve the Alaska Defense capabilities was conducted. While training troops to fight in sub-zero weather with a war in the Middle East may sound crazy, especially when resources and manpower are already stretched, that is precisely what needs to be done. One would have thought investing in our security infrastructure might be a good investment instead of the trillion dollar giveaway. There isn’t a money problem going on in Washington, just an idea problem. We should have used it to also increase military pay (recruiting will go up – do it just because it is the right thing to do). But that is for another article.
The Navy issued reports that it had limited ability to operate ships and aircraft reliably in the Arctic. The military succinctly defines the problem at hand…”with no current program aimed at upgrading ships and no new ones planned, the nation’s icebreaking capability has diminished substantially and is at risk of being unable to support our national interests in the Arctic region.”
Contrast this with Russia’s Arctic capabilities: a northern fleet, a population of 2 million Russians accustomed to living in the Arctic., and a fleet of icebreakers estimated to be 14, including seven nuclear powered polar ice ships. Last year, Russia launched the world’s largest icebreaker.
The most committed usually win.What has the US done regarding the Arctic in addition to HPD 25 or letters to the Joint Chiefs? Are we committed to exploring the Arctic? When will we start? What are our plans to extract oil and gas? Who will be on point to make this happen?
DISCUSSION
In your humble correspondent’s opinion that it borders on the criminal (if not negligent) that President Obama and this Congress have, on the one hand, mortgaged the future of the U.S. in a massive money giveaway that at the end of the day yields us nothing, and on the other hand have done nothing to stop the largest transfer of wealth as a result of our energy situation. 
The Obama Doctrine is not about change, audacity or hope – it is about social engineering, enslaving more of the public to the doctrine and dole of government, buttressing the failed institution of labor unions which, as another form of slavish indoctrination, have abandoned the American worker with little value added for the trouble, and guaranteed another generation of welfare recipients – including illegal aliens, and all of whom will continue to vote for the hand out party. In short, this is the same set of policies that gave us the LBJ and Carter doctrines. Obama just cleans up better than old Jimmy and can spin the truth more eloquently, more is the pity.
The good news at least with the Obama Doctrine, we don’t get sticker shock anymore. Looks like he is sending a message loud and clear to those who lived above their means and bought houses they shouldn’t or couldn’t have. Hey, if you can do it, so can Uncle Sam. Heck, we don’t have the trillion any more than you had the $500,000 for that big old house. So let’s all have at it.
Someone once said if you add enough zeros, it starts to look like real money. We all know the government is going to have to borrow (think China) and print more funny money. Can you hear the word inflation (hey buddy can you spare a hundred dollars…since that Proverbial dime will now cost a “C” note)? So I modestly offer in this new era of spend it today and worry tomorrow a plan that actually has a chance to create jobs, reduce our foreign oil dependence, allow the US to project its influence to a substantially greater degree and develop new industries that generate employment opportunities for the very least to the most educated among us….
THE MCFEE ARCTIC EXPLORATIONPLAN
Also to be referred to as The Colonization and Development of the Arctic Bill
– The broad strokes
The last great frontier on earth is the Arctic and the United States will lead the exploration, creation of an international research city and tap into the resources of the region starting now and with the goal of a thriving environmental, geological, aquacultural and energy colony – protected by the military and open to international collaboration.
The United States will assert her claim on the Arctic region in accordance with HPD 25 of President Bush, and will follow the objectives set forth in that document. Furthermore, the U.S. Arctic Energy Service will be created and supported by civilian and military collaborations.
Public private partnerships – ranging from university research, intensive construction projects, resource harvesting and energy development – will be supported by government grants and funding where appropriate.
The U.S. Arctic Colony will provide for the large energy shortfall between current production and use; allowing us to preserve U.S. capital. During the time when we are accessing the fossil fuels of this region, we will be aggressively developing new technologies for renewable power. Extraordinary funding will be made available to the top incubators and innovation universities in the U.S. – from MIT and Princeton to Stamford and Cal Poly – with specific directives to develop methods to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
In addition to the scientific and energy benefits, this project is a job creation endeavor. All manner of employees will be required in addition to trained scientists and explorers – skilled laborers, engineers, health care professionals, and more.
Every U.S. oil and gas company will have the opportunity to participate, as will allied industries.
Transportation, medical, housing and other industrial sectors will benefit greatly from this effort with the impact extending well beyond the Northern United States.
Military/Homeland Security
In order to ensure the safety of this project Coast Guard and military capabilities will need to be improved. We will invest in the production of ten heavy and three nuclear ice breakers, as well as an arctic Navy group, including ice capable deep submersibles. Instead of allowing the traditional timetable of eight years to produce each ship, we will pay to have the program accelerated to three ships per year. Given the program may cost upwards of $60 billion, this represents a great investment in domestic shipbuilding across industries.
This project authorizes the creation of an Arctic ground force and air support group capable of protecting our interests from large scale opposition whether in Alaska or the North Pole.
The McFee doctrine would accomplish the following:
1.       Allow the United States to take a bold initiative – an audacious vision and turn it into reality, colonizing the last great frontier. Imagine the research and knowledge that can benefit mankind.
2.       Allow the United States to tap into the last great untapped oil and gas resource on earth. Even by conservative estimates, the quantity that the U.S. would claim ownership to could ultimately provide energy independence from other oil nations, as well as buy us time to develop viable, self-sustaining alternatives to fossil fuels.
3.       Provide immediate employment across job sectors
a.       People working in the Arctic
b.       Numerous industries sustained, increased or created to support the exploration, ship building, military, scientific and energy efforts.
4.       Provide immediate investment in technologies to make the frozen Arctic habitable for the colonization efforts
5.       Enhance the U.S. capability to protect critical trade routes, provide rescue assistance and project our influence
6.       Free the U.S. from global energy cartels’ political influence
Respectfully submitted,
RB McFee – Arctic Czar
Okay, so are you thinking I’ve gone wildly over the top? But did I really? Obama and his cheerleaders set the stage and raised our expectations for bold leadership, audacity, and change – and then they left us with a same night closer. They had a vision. Maybe we should have asked them to be more specific. Were they nearsighted? Were they dreaming? Hallucinating? Looking through the haze of Viagra®? We all hoped they were farsighted, and actually saw something. Hope is not a strategy, and the Obama mania was nothing more than theatre. 
When JFK was elected, he had the courage to challenge us, the charisma to sell his ideas and a vision which inspired us. It was a worthy goal – get to the moon. Beat the Russians, win the space race, and restore national pride. He was not ashamed to be Pro American, and he was courageous enough to be specific. I wonder what he would think if he saw how his party and its leaders have devolved on the food chain of political creatures to marsh dwellers.
I’d bet JFK would survey the situation and identify an opportunity that we could all relate to, if not directly participate in. Consider the 1960s (drawing on the land of history books for me, too!): Only a handful of Americans were going to sit in a command module. The average American knew that. Few had such aspirations, let alone the opportunity, to work for NASA; yet how many industries – from David Clark in my hometown, to Johnson Valve to Grumman to Lockheed to medical researchers to the local plumber – had some investment in this grand adventure? The technological breakthroughs and research spawned to enable JFK’s vision to become our reality were many; the ramifications are enjoyed today, some 40 years later. Our walk on the moon made a bold statement….we’re baaaaacccckkkkkk! And space was no longer Russia’s frontier.
The Arctic is my personal JFK metaphor – a vision for a grand adventure and for jobs creation, ensuring the U.S. projection of power and influence, as well as providing an important source of energy that we need now. We could just as easily replicate his ambition and set our sights on Mars. Or, we could create a fossil fuel-free vision and invest the billions necessary to make it come true. Or we could create a WWII construction project and build a new, bigger military – we’d be safer and own things at the end of the day. Our industries would grow. Heck, if we’re going to be in debt, let’s have something to show for it. We could just write checks to every American or we could assign a homework project with a dollar value. The impact and benefit to the US would be no less. Jobs would be created here and abroad. The Arctic, the Moon, Mars….whatever. We’d capture the world’s imagination, too, and it would reinvigorate advanced technologies for exploration.
It is about time the U.S. rises again to its natural magnificence, and becomes that shining city on the hill. This is not the time to apologize for our greatness, nor quiver in our adversity. We are a great nation – it’s time to act like one.
But having a bunch of handwringers in Washington – from Pelosi, Reid and Obama down the line – who are using this opportunity not to build America but ultimately buy votes for their party – opportunists of the worst order to use this economic downturn as an excuse to package a social entitlement bill as a stimulus package is disgraceful. It flies in the very face of our origins as a nation. They should have created a real jobs bill and one that buttressed the greatness of the United States, not weakened our economy and with it many of the critical programs we cannot afford to abandon like our military, our homeland security, our intelligence, our law enforcement, exploration, and our national preparedness communities. Where JFK gave a specific target, and inspired government investment in new industries, Obama gives us a scattershot spending spree with the hope it will spawn new discoveries, though he cannot readily name them. No wonder Wall Street is uninspired, unimpressed and unconvinced.
At least I can all but guarantee my “doctrine” would have created jobs – and I can put a name to the industries that would have grown or been created from the McFee Plan. Can Congress do that with their current boondoggle cum bribery of the masses? No! And they have said so. Is it any wonder not one conservative member of the House voted for it? It isn’t just about party, it is about common sense. This is the majority leadership – how pathetic.
But democracy is a participatory sport, and voters put this crowd in office. Unless and until more Americans who love this country, work hard and are tired of being the check book for government get up, speak up, hold the elected accountable or replace the incumbents, our nation will continue to decline. And instead of bold initiatives that pull the country forward our leaders hand us stale policies allowing the government to drag the country down. The world is going on around us…is anyone in Washington noticing?
CONCLUSION
The Arctic is an important region for our national interests. It is also an opportunity to tap into an oil and gas supply that can generate jobs, stem the transfer of funds from our wallets to OPEC, ultimately enhancing our national security on a variety of fronts. Petrodollars often fund terrorists or unfriendly governments. Energy dependence places a nation at a decided disadvantage. We can no longer afford to put the Arctic on the back burner – not with Russia ramping up. Possession is nine tenths of the law and moving a major military off your lot is harder to do when they have already set up camp. Better to stake our claim now and get moving.
JFK inspired a nation with his vision – let’s get to the moon. As a result we built a group of allied industries to support and create this great adventure. One has to ask, at the end of the trillion dollar bail out – what will we have built? What will we be able to hold in our hands? What products will be made? What industries will have been created? What grand adventure to galvanize and unify the nation will have been embarked upon?
Even in today’s devalued monetary system, a trillion dollars ought to buy a new paradigm, like identifying the Arctic as our new “moon base alpha” and focusing funds to reenergize our collective efforts to investigate, commercialize and explore this last great wilderness.
The risks are clear – the Arctic is a hostile, frigid environment. But the benefits outweigh the risks. The U.S. has a ready workforce used to cold weather. We could save what is left of, and expand our legacy industries: manufacturing, oil and gas, ship building (ice boats, warships capable of polar extremes), and home building (for northern climes) which would require low and high skill labor, supported by education, environmental, scientific, and petrochemical expertise. Wow – think of the real jobs and ensuing benefit – short term and long term from exploring the Arctic, and with it tapping the vast resources. Enough oil and gas to give the U.S. almost total independence from OPEC (we can buy whatever else we need from Scotland or Dutch Shell).
Energy is the life blood of a nation – Russia just issued their doctrine on the Arctic – and they will defend their interests by all means “including military options.” Strategic control of the Arctic is an exigency that the U.S. would be hard pressed to challenge based upon a comparison of their state of readiness and ours.
Russia is also working the crowd, creating affinity groups including energy cartels, military alliances and commercial partnerships. Turkey, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and other nations have stepped up relations with Russia over the last few days. It is likely that if Putin cannot intimidate the Nordic team, he will try to partner with them.
Regardless of Putin, Inc., Canada and the Nordic nations have stepped up investment and efforts towards securing their piece of the Arctic. When will the U.S.? 
“The Arctic is the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on earth” according to the U.S. Geological Service. The U.S. has a legitimate claim to some of those resources.
President Bush gave us in NSPD 66/HPD 25 an important opportunity and plan for the Arctic. Will President Obama have the wisdom, courage and “audacity” to follow through? For the sake of the nation, the answer had better be yes.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Robin McFee is a physician and medical toxicologist. An expert in WMD preparedness, she is a consultant to government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is a member of the Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime Council of ASIS International. She has authored numerous articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.
 

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