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Geopolitics - Aug 11

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Canada uses military might in Arctic scramble

Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
An international scramble for the Arctic's oil and gas resources accelerated yesterday when Canada responded to Russia's recent sovereignty claims with a plan to build two military bases in the region.

On a trip to the far north, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, said: "Canada's new government understands that the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is: use it or lose it. Today's announcements tell the world that Canada has a real, growing, long-term presence in the Arctic."

An army training centre for 100 troops is to be built in Resolute Bay, and a deep-water port will be built on Baffin Island, to bolster Canada's claim to ownership.

The move comes a week after a Russian sub planted a flag on the Arctic seabed. Moscow claims rights to half the Arctic. The US, Norway and Denmark also have claims.

A US state department official, speaking last week, signalled that Washington will not stand by in the face of what it sees as a Russian land-grab, though America's position is complicated by its failure so far to sign the treaty of the seas.

As Canada was making its move, Danish scientists were preparing to head for the Arctic tomorrow as part of their bid for a share of the region's wealth. A US coast guard icebreaker was heading to the Arctic to map the seafloor north of Alaska.
(11 August 2007)
Contributor SP reminds us of a line from the film Dr. Strangelove (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb):

GENERAL SCHMUCK: We must not allow a mine-shaft gap!!


Investment and insults mark Chavez tour

Daniel Schweimler, BBC
Oil and gas, oil and gas, oil and gas. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, on his four-nation tour of South America, has spoken about little else.

In Argentina, he announced the signing of what he called an Energy Security Treaty, ensuring his southern ally would have ample supplies of gas and oil for "the next 100 years, and more".

"It's much more important than any free trade treaties," added Mr Chavez, in an implied criticism of the deals that the United States has been trying, and generally failing, to agree with most of Latin America.

...Wherever Mr Chavez went, he promised money - for instance, buying $1bn of bonds to help Argentina out of a difficult economic patch.

And wherever Mr Chavez went, he criticised and insulted the US. He said the country was like Count Dracula, with an insatiable appetite, sucking up energy supplies and promoting an unsustainable form of capitalism with its huge cars.

"If only there were just one," he said at a news conference in Buenos Aires. "But there are several Count Draculas."

He said the US had a serious problem. "Its oil reserves won't last for many more years. It's got 5% of the world's population but it uses 20% of the energy reserves," he said.

...Some analysts say the US has neglected Latin America while its focus has been on the Middle East. In an effort to counteract that, President George W Bush made a quick tour of the region earlier this year, but was shadowed at every turn by President Chavez.

When Mr Bush landed in Uruguay, Mr Chavez addressed what was called an anti-imperialist rally in a football stadium across the River Plate in Buenos Aires.

The two countries are engaged in a battle for friends and influence in the region. President Chavez has won strong allies in Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia with his fiery brand of anti-imperialist rhetoric and generous handouts.

Washington has firm allies in Colombia and Paraguay. Meanwhile, Uruguay and Brazil are trying, and not always succeeding, to maintain friendly ties with both camps.
(11 August 2007)
Related from the BBC:
Chavez tour ends in energy deals


Cold snap prompts Chile to seek gas deal with old foe Bolivia

Matthew Malinowski, Petroleum World
A South American cold snap is causing Chileans to pay up to four times more for heat and electricity, and could spur the government to speed reconciliation with its bitter - but gas-rich - foe, Bolivia, observers say.

As temperatures dropped to near-record lows in recent weeks, neighboring Argentina has had to cut off some gas shipments to Chile in order to meet its own domestic demand.

Now, an increasingly disgruntled Chilean public is pressing the government to seek gas deals with other countries, including Bolivia.

"I believe that we need to leave behind these historic feuds once and for all and start an open and frank dialogue with Bolivia," said Chilean senator Nelson Ávila after the latest round of gas cuts last month. "Bolivia has some of the largest natural-gas reserves on the planet, and we could easily benefit from them."

In 1995, Argentina promised a cheap, steady supply of natural gas to satisfy Chile's residential, industrial, and electricity-generating needs.

Still, what was then perceived to be the cure-all to Chile's energy woes has since morphed into one of the country's biggest problems.
(11 August 2007)
Related: Argentina Cuts Natural-Gas Shipments to Chile, Utilities Say (Bloomberg)

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