29 December 2007

Deep Sea Frontier--Extreme Challenge

Russia has presented a challenge to the rest of the world: "let us have the Arctic, or you'll be sorry!"
On August 2, 2007, Russia dropped a titanium capsule bearing its flag onto the Arctic floor, highlighting its bid for a chunk of seabed property thought to contain billions of dollars in untapped energy. The move snagged media headlines as other nations—including the US, Canada, Denmark, and Norway—sped north to make competing claims.

Never before has the world's attention been so fixed on the deep ocean. Inflated oil, mineral, and gas prices, coupled with collapsing global fisheries, are pushing industries into remote seas once too expensive to tap...At a time when still so little is known about the ocean's very nature, it has suddenly become a place of extraordinary geopolitical, economic, and scientific value....For the US, the financial stakes are huge. With its wide continental margins, it stands to gain economic control over additional territory larger than the 48 states combined, with an estimated value of $1.3 trillion in minerals, oil, and fish....

...Deep-sea mining is a much newer industry, but has the potential to balloon as oceanographers discover more and more mineral deposits on the vast ocean floor. In 2006, the world's first two deep-sea mining companies—Nautilus Minerals of Canada and Neptune Minerals of England—both launched operations. This year, India announced a $100 million-per-year initiative to probe farther into its own cobalt- and manganese-rich waters. The hotspots are ocean floor geysers known as hydrothermal vents, where mineral-rich water bubbles up from within the Earth's crust, accumulating over time into huge chimney-like stacks of gold, silver, copper, manganese, lead, and zinc.

...though it covers 70 percent of the planet's surface, much of the ocean remains unstudied. Fewer than 5 percent of the estimated 10 million organisms that inhabit its depths have been identified. Maps of Mars are roughly 250 times better than maps of the ocean floor. "There are just a huge amount of unknowns," says John Orcutt, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography....Geologists mapping the contours of the ocean floor for territorial claims in the Arctic, for example, have provided some of the first pictures of this remote polar terrain. The advent of deep-sea mining has spurred a rush in studies of hydrothermal vents. The future of the oceans will be determined by precisely how this information is used, and whose interests take precedence in the nexus of industry, politics, science, and law.

Conditions in the deep sea are some of the most difficult anywhere on or inside the planet. As humans move to more thoroughly explore and exploit the riches of the deep ocean, they will better learn how to adapt to the many hazards.

Russia is a huge country, geographically, with a rapidly shrinking population. Putin simply lacks the manpower to back up the large grab for seafloor he is attempting. Still, he intends to make himself the greatest tsar of them all, apparently. He is too foolish and full of ambition to understand that Russia would be much richer in every way by participating in an ethical global marketplace, than by trying to be the bluffest bully and blusterer on the globe.

Russian women are intelligent. They can look around and see the sorry state of Russian men today. Dead before sixty of alcoholic cirrhosis, likely as not. Not much to base a future upon.

By basing his power upon nationalised oil and natural gas, Putin becomes more like the Persian Gulf oil royalty and mad mullahs of Tehran. The Russian army is based upon poorly trained, much abused and demoralised conscripts. The technological infrastructure of Russia's military--other than the land-based nuclear force--is aging and badly maintained.

Russia faces a serious challenge from China over much of Eastern Siberia within the next 20 years. Putin can barely hold what he has, yet he is making a play for much more.

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Blogger Will Brown said...

Assuming Vlad I actually controls the means to hold what he has, distracting others to contend for the assets of those who could best contest his current hold is a reasonable strategic option, so long as doing so doesn't cause him to loosen his hold on what he has to put things in motion. Tsar Vlad doesn't need to actually acquire the assets of his enemies, only cause them to divert attention away from him and his for long enough to secure his hold well enough to safely transfer troops, etc to offensive efforts if he should desire.

Polo may well be the sport of Kings, but the game of Kings was ever and only other Kings. So far, ol' Vlad's played a pretty smart hand. It's surprising how often the sanest player on the field is the one everyone else is convinced is the craziest. I'd say this was going to be fun to watch if I wasn't so likely to end up downwind from somebody's bad guz.

Sunday, 30 December, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting take, Will.

Certainly the zeitgeist within Russia and China can be difficult to read for outsiders. China's economy is healthier than Russia's presently, but that is due to China's relative openness to outside investment--and to Russia's moronic tendency to nationalise huge economic assets that were developed by large multinationals.

Margaret Thatcher barely saved the UK's ath (temporarily it seems) by privatising several large national industries. Putin is taking Russia the opposite direction.

Monday, 31 December, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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