As the Ice Melts, Spying in the Arctic is Hitting Cold War Levels

The prospect of resources and shipping lanes has sparked tensions in the Arctic

The Borei class nuclear-powered submarine Yuri Dolgoruky arrives at the Russian Northern Fleet's naval base after tests. September 9, 2013. Fedoseyev Lev/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

Global climate change is pushing Arctic sea ice levels to an all-time low, and the void is being filled by spy ships and military vessels. According to a report from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service—the equivalent of the American Central Intelligence Agency—“Canada has been experiencing levels of espionage comparable to the height of the Cold War,” says the Associated Press.

With access to new oil and gas developments opening up, countries including Russia, America, Canada, Norway and Denmark have levelled their intelligence and militaristic gazes on the North, Karl Ritter reports for the AP. Those countries—along with Finland, Iceland and Sweden—have land claims in the Arctic and sit on the intergovernmental Arctic Council. Ritter says a new $250 million Norwegian spy ship is set to start collecting information on the Russians in 2016. Elsewhere, nations are falling along the familiar East-West divide.

Meanwhile, the Russian Northern Fleet has been stepping up its activity in the Arctic, says the Barents Observer:

In 2012, after a large-scale naval exercise which included more than 7000 people and some 20 vessels, personnel from the Northern Fleet conducted Russia’s first ever amphibious landing on the Arctic archipelago of the New Siberian Islands. In 2013 the Northern Fleet assisted the Russian Air Force in reestablishing the Temp airfield on the island of Kotelny.

Though the issue of resources and land claims is primarily a concern for those on the Arctic Council, the ever-increasing access to the northern waterways offered by Arctic warming has the attention of many other large nations. Maintaining access for shipping through both the Northwest Passage—which cuts through the Canadian Archipelago—and the Northeast Passage—which runs atop Russia—is likely to be an area of concern for much of the world, and a potential flashpoint in geopolitical tensions.

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