Is Putin Auditioning to be the Next Bond Villain?

 walter-2.jpg by Civilizer

Every so often, there’s a geopolitical event that ought to incense you, scare you, or maybe shock you.  But it doesn’t.  Instead, it’s just so flabbergasting that you are rendered nearly blind, deaf, and dumb, powerless to do anything except gaze at the computer screen in an open-mouthed stupor and say “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Vladimir Putin said what?

If you missed it, the little czar made quite the continental power play a few days ago, claiming the North Pole for Russia.  If that seems like a bit of a stretch, it is; Vladimir, however (who must win the award for World Leader with the Most Fitting Name), and his team of geologists, have asserted that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater continental shelf that runs through the area, is an extension of Russian territory.  Ergo, the North Pole belongs to Russia.  Your move, homicidal Santa Claus.   

The Lomonosov Ridge is an 1,800 kilometer oceanic ridge that extends from the New Siberian Islands to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic and rises up to 3,700 meters above the seabed.  Here ’tis:

lomonosov-ridge.jpg

Russian geologists back from an Arctic expedition to the Ridge are advancing the claim that it is linked to Russian territory and therefore falls under Russian jurisdiction.  At present, no country has such jurisdiction; the Arctic is governed by the International Seabed Authority, and the five Arctic countries (Canada, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and the U.S. of A., baby) control an “exclusive economic zone” that extends no further than 200 miles beyond their respective continental shelves.  Scientists estimate that the disputed territory has 10 billion tons of gas and oil deposits (double that of Saudi Arabia), as well as significant mineral wealth, plus elves.  In case you were wondering what the international scientific community has to say, I think this quote from Sergey Priamikov, the international co-operation director of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St Petersburg, sums it up nicely: “Frankly, I think it’s a little bit strange.  Canada could make exactly the same claim. The Canadians could say that the Lomonosov ridge is part of the Canadian shelf, which means Russia should in fact belong to Canada, together with the whole of Eurasia.”

I have to hand it to Putin – his presidency expires next year (technically), but the old bear shows no signs of going soft on us.  A little less than a year ago, we had his, ah, muted reaction to the assassination of dissenting journalist Anna Politkovskaya (calling her influence “extremely insignificant” 4 days after her death), the mysterious January ’06 explosions that destroyed part of the natural gas pipeline in Georgia and left the country without heat during a record-cold winter after Georgia affirmed its pro-NATO course and desire to expel the Russian military presence there, the refusal to hand over to British authorities the prime suspect in the polonium-210 affair, and the recent dust-up over the American-Polish missile shield.  You’d think with all that, Putin might take a pass on rattling the Russian sabre again over the North fricking Pole.

I see the North Pole grab (hereafter referred to as “The Santa Gambit”) as indicating one of three things:

1.  Putin is beginning to slide comfortably into a roiling pool of megalomania.  Think about it.  The guy enjoys an approval rating of nearly 80%, faces virtually no serious criticism from within his borders (mostly because people who do criticize his administration end up getting shot or poisoned), and is surrounded by yes-men so adroit, they’re planning on re-writing the constitution so that he can keep on truckin’.  If I lived in circumstances like that, it’s quite likely that I’d wake up one day and go “Well shit, what’s to stop me from claiming the North Pole?”  And then I would try to purchase a flying car.

2.  The Santa Gambit is Vlad’s strategic plan to grab not all of the Pole, but more of it than he already has.  Denmark and Canada also claim that their territories are contiguous to the Lomonosov Ridge, and of course America will have something to say about this as well.  Putin might not have any serious belief that he’s going to actually get the entire North Pole, but his aggressive statements about planting the Russian flag on the Arctic seabed could be a way to leverage his already worrisome behavior into some sort of compromise between the five Arctic countries and the International Seabed Authority that gives Russia more access to the oil reserves beneath the waves.  The other nations might decide it’s better to let Russia have more than they currently do rather than run the risk that a petulant Putin will order a fleet of attack subs to start patrolling the area, maritime law be damned.  (Personally, this would be fine with me, since the Russians seem to have a problem keeping their subs from blowing up and killing everybody on board.)

3.  Putin just slipped up.  Rather than going crazy, he’s simply overreached, his vaulting ambition o’erleaps itself.  He’s riding high on the oil boom of the past several years, he’s crushed most of his political opposition, he has Russia back on the world stage in a big way.  So like President Bush deciding that Iraq would be a good idea given the runaway success in Afghanistan, Putin has been eyeing the oil and mineral wealth in the Arctic for a while and has decided to go for it.  After all, this is the guy who has picked up Jacques Chirac’s banner of multipolarity and wants very much to make Russia the global energy powerhouse.  So Putin’s just doing this because he thinks he can, and because it’s a strategic fit with his vision for Russia.  Fortunately, the idea of the international community giving Russia sovereign control over such a vital piece of the globe is patently ridiculous, and Vladdy will certainly be rebuffed, his armor chinked.  Putin’s “I’ll do whatever I damn well please” roll comes to an end.

In the end, not getting the North Pole might work out for the best.  After all, it’s a big job, managing territory that expansive.  Losing out would just give Putin a chance to show some real global leadership and tackle a problem that affects all of us like, oh I don’t know, the sorry state of Russian nuclear security.  Just a thought, Puter.

6 Responses

  1. […] on August 1, I postulated that Vladimir Putin, in the wake of his bid to claim the North Pole for Mother Russia, might well […]

  2. I am disgusted at the state of this sorry piece of American propaganda. Indeed one cannot deny that Mr. Vladimir Putin has upped his antics. But can you really dismiss his claims as nonense? After all isn’t it time the ‘U.S. of A., baby’ had a serious contender? Should America really be allowed to be let loose upon the world, invading and wreaking havock across the globe?? No, the time is ripe for change. The time is right for a new Superpower.

  3. Hey Spanky, it’s not propaganda, it’s what’s called an “opinion.” Of course, I’m not surprised in the least that a Russian sympathizer (or, from the sounds of it, an actual Russian) immediately characterizes something like this as “propaganda,” as Russia itself is bursting at the seams with it. I mean, son of a bitch! Putin is having the history books re-written over there to say that Joey Stalin wasn’t such a bad guy! STALIN! “Most successful Soviet leader ever” is the term they use. I’m all for emerging powers, but not ones who flagrantly abuse their constituencies like Russia does. Also, little fella, don’t kid yourself: Russia ain’t the “new Superpower” to rival the United States. China is. I can’t stand that nation, but they’re bigger than Russia, richer than Russia, have a more lethal military than Russia, and have more clout on the world stage. Russia is just a second-rate power experiencing what will be a short-lived petro-fueled revival. After that’s over, it will slide right back into the depressed kleptocracy we all know and ridicule. But hey, thanks for offering your dissenting opinion. We don’t gun you down for having them over here in the United States.

  4. Good afternoon to you to, civ. well clearly my beliefs are on a slightly different parallel than yours. Fistly let me apologise for any grammatical/spelling errors that may oocur in this dictate, as you have so fortunately pointed out, I am indeed not native speaker of this language.

    Let me address the point you made about Comrade Stalin. I apporach this from a purely statiscal view point when I say; yes Stalin was the most successful Soviet Leader ever. Though in saying this, I do not deny that he was unfeeling and cold, killing countless millions with his regin of terror.

    On his behalf, however I would tend to speak of his 5 year plans. Never before has one person made such an impact on the ecomony and production of an entire nation, let alone the largest in the world, covering over 1/6th of the worlds land mass. I take you it have heard of the 5 year plans?? If not, i will not hesitate to put down some statistics later, as of this moment I am afraid I do not have the time.

    Secondly, You comment on the fact “We don’t gun you down for having them over here in the United States.”, In realtion to opionions. This is the essence of hipocracy. I could give you a million examples. So here is few anyway,

    Vietnam. Wanted a United Communist nation, peacefully and without foreign interference. Need i say what happened next? i.e think ‘guns.’

    We shall skip a few here and go straight to the blatantly obvious one.
    Iraq. Soon Iran.
    no more information needed, i daresay.

    Also i find you saying you cant stand China. Another example of the American brainwashed mindset. Why exactly is it that you can not stand China? what have they done that you yourself as a country have not a thousand times worse??

    Well, in a more formally tone, i look forward to your reply,
    your sincerely,
    Sven.

  5. Hey chief, you can mess up the English all you want; it’s a pain in the ass language to learn and I can’t speak Russian for shit. In any case, Stalin’s 5 year plans were an abomination. The famine it caused, as well as the wholesale abuse of the peasant class, still rank as one of history’s great humanitarian tragedies. When America was faced with similar economic challenges, President Roosevelt introduced broad social reforms and work programs which got people back on the employment rolls and alleviated poverty and hunger far more effectively than any of Stalin’s initiatives. Not only were they more successful, they didn’t kill millions of Americans. If you need to murder or marginalize your own people to advance your agenda, you are a failure as a leader, I don’t care how much you improve the GDP.

    Also, you either misunderstood what I meant about not gunning people down for having dissenting opinions, or you intentionally manipulate its meaning. Going to war over differing political ideologies or strategies is much, much different than ordering the individual murders of reporters or diplomats who publish critical articles or essays about your government. In America, reporters publish critical stories about the Bush administration all the time. I personally have written several critical essays on this blog. Nothing happens to reporters in America when they do this. In Russia, Anna Politkovskaya is dead, as is Alexander Litvinenko. Agents of the Russian government attempted to kill Boris Berezovsky, but were intercepted by Scotland Yard before they could. This is freedom? The fact that we invaded Iraq or Vietnam doesn’t mean that we “squash dissent” the way Putin does. In fact, the invasion of Iraq has doomed Bush’s presidency precisely because it has inflamed dissent across America. And if you think we’re going to invade Iran, you’re nuts. We already botched one war, and it will take a long time to properly reconstitute our armed forces. We have to get ready to tangle with China in case they get frisky over in Taiwan.

    If you want to know why I don’t like China, all you have to do is read the newspaper. The pollution they produce with no apparent plan to limit it is horrendous – at least America has laws in place to regulate our pollution and punish corporations caught breaking them. Plus, as I pointed out in a previous post, China’s appetite for exotic animal skins and bones is decimating wild animal populations all around the world – including, might I add, the populations of one of the proud symbols of your own country, the Siberian tiger. China’s human rights record is atrocious, and the government there supports regimes who are even worse to get access to their oil. I realize that America is also every bit as guilty of some of these same things, but that doesn’t mean that all other countries automatically get a pass.

    Your problem is that you refuse to acknowledge any substantive criticism of your own country, and instead have bought into Putin’s incessant nationalist rhetoric. I may defend America, but at least I don’t operate under the illusion that I live in an indomitable, infalliable “Superpower.” Those who will not criticize their governments are doomed to be abused by them.

  6. north vietnam was PEACEFULLY subjigating the south just like north korea earlier tried to do to south korea ,vlad.
    socialists are the biggest hypocrites , claiming to be the champions of the working class while downplaying or looking the other way as their revolutionary brothers spread their beliefs by TERROR if not by coercion . If the capitalist west was anywhere near as bad as the sino-soviets 1- ’45 america would have deservedly nuked ALL of japan into a parking lot, 2-forced them babyraping russians out of eastern europe with more nukes, 3-executed all antiwar /pro left protesters while exiling their families to perish in alaska , 4-invade Canada for resouces. 5- 1953 assassinate iranian leader mossadiq (instead of allowing him to retire to his villa),6-reword the u.s. constitution so it is as worthless as the soviet one regarding individual rights .
    b.t.w. that red terror costing almost a million lives is a drop in the bucket , since Gorby”s glastnost of government files , try 80 MILLION total casualties ,from Lenin’s CHEKA TO Breznev’s KGB. (direct executions , war time “draft” penal battalions ,deliberate civilian starvation , middle class farming families perishing in siberia ,post-war genocide pogroms against ethnic kazakistanis , jews , germans ,etc)
    add to this the estimated 40 million chinese citizens at the hands of their communist leaders and you have more cadavers than there are people living in a third of the U.S.>
    speaking as a canadian , i’ll admit irritation with some american policies , however , i am damned glad to have them as my neighbor instead of scheming mongol thugs.
    The american people are the most generous on earth ,and
    most inclined to help others in need.THAT GIVES THEM THE MORAL RIGHT TO KICK SOME ASS WHEN REQUIRED, especially when the U.N. is mostly tin pot King Fuck-airs .They were fucked up long before north america was even discovered and didn’t even know it until after the rennaissance when they saw functional nations (as opposed to tribes) to compare against .

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