Tag Archives: Arctic

Andreas Raspotnik, The European Union and the Geopolitics of the Arctic (Cheltenham & Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2018)

Andreas Raspotnik, in his new book “The European Union and the Geopolitics of the Arctic”, critically scrutinizes the decade-long history of successes, failures and attempts of the European Union in constructing its own legitimacy and credibility in the multi-layered geopolitics of its “northern neighborhood”, the Arctic. In doing so, the author attempts to define this “unknown” but yet a “component of the Arctic geopolitics”, that is to say the EU, and to provides his own response to the long-standing matter of which role the EU has to play in the region.

One immediate question that arises in the mind of those who are more familiar with EU’s studies, especially with regards to the Arctic, is not if the EU has an influence in the Arctic region, but whether the EU holds the actual capacity to act as an international actor in the given geopolitical context. Regardless of EU’s formal acceptance as an observer to the Arctic Council – now a symbolic token, as the EU can de facto observe, taken by too many as the ultimate proof of EU’s extraneousness to the region – this politico-economic Union of 28 Member States has shown clearly over the years both its negative and positive influence, yet influence nonetheless; though the question remains in which capacity. Raspotnik raises this question in his introduction, and skillfully adds another layer to this already complex picture, by using his study to “question [EU’s] broader role as an international actor with evolving geopolitical identity”. The study won’t provide the reader with a clean-cut answer, as the very last sentence of the book suggests – “[u]ltimately, the European Union attempts to act as sui generis geopolitical actor in the Arctic” – but it is a classic example of research where the journey itself is more relevant than the destination.

The main text of the book is structured in 5 parts which, excluding “Introduction” and “Conclusions”, compose the title of the book: II) Geopolitics, III) The Arctic, and IV) The European Union. This structure underlines the choice and need of the author for excavating and critically analyzing each of these concepts before providing – in an almost Hegelian fashion – a final synthesis. This book is indeed very well researched, and combines a vast literature of classic “Arctic Geopolitics” scholars, interviews, official documents and speeches given by EU representatives. Under several aspects – e.g. the use of explanatory “boxes” within the text and the careful contextualization of each new term used – this book could be positively marked as a textbook for students in geopolitics or European studies or a vade mecum for scholars, without ever providing a superficial account of the issue it addresses.

Raspotnik’s sets the start of his journey in 2007/2008, when high-level representatives of the EU and its member states – J.M. Barroso (former president of the EU Commission), Angela Merkel and Romano Prodi – all visited in different moments the new “Mecca of climate change”, Greenland, to experience first-hand the ice-cap melting. The Arctic was, in the meanwhile, experiencing a new moment in the global media, with the Russian flag being planted more than 4000 m beneath the North Pole, or the new record low in the Arctic Ocean’s sea-ice extent in September 2007. In addition, climate change – which will quickly turn into one of the strongest leitmotifs of the European Union’s narrative in the Arctic – was also having a new impetus in the same years and made it to the top of the G8 Summit agenda in Bad Doberan/Heiligendamm (Germany). Therefore, climate change, (potential) availability of resources, environmental and social challenges turned into a potential security issue for the EU, which, with the strong encouragement of Finland, added the Arctic to its “neighborhood’s radar”. In 2008, the EU formally started developing its own Arctic Policy.

This process took about 10 years, many documents and speeches, and for many observers it is not even yet fully finalized. The chapter dealing with this “policy-in-the-making” process is actually one of the highlights of this book. An overview that too easily risks turning into a repetitive and pedantic mantra – given the nature itself of the EU’s structure where documents/proposal need to bounce among the EU Parliament, the Commission and the Council (and repeat this itinerary several times) – was given new life. The author alternates the description of each step taken toward the development of an EU Arctic Policy with an “external reading”, combining in this way facts with his analyses.

The formal analysis used in the book, while accomplishing the need for providing a deep understanding of the EU’s role in the Arctic, runs into the same negative underestimation made by the EU regarding the role of indigenous people in the Arctic geopolitics. Reading this book, likewise most of the narrative and approaches used by the EU itself, the feeling is that the indigenous peoples of the Arctic appear more as a cameo – or a political/formal duty to be discussed – rather than part of Arctic geopolitics. In the description of the Arctic’s layered geopolitics, for example, a good overview is provided with regards to the “issue of eight national identifies”, but no mention at all is given regarding Indigenous peoples’ visions for their own territories. The role of Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) within the Arctic Council is only formally addressed and therefore minimized (“although the AC includes IPOs, decision making formally remains with its core members, the A8”), and the “seal-issue”, which ultimately costed the EU its formal acceptance as observer at the Arctic Council from 2009 to 2015 (then the Crimean crisis came into play) is dealt as a largely solved political issue, which formally and politically it is, but not in practice, at least for some of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

Jarich Oosten & Barbara Helen Miller (eds.), Traditions, Traps and Trends. Transfer of Knowledge in Arctic Regions (Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 2018)

Indigenous knowledge – or traditional knowledge – has recently gained more and more attention, especially within the Arctic context. Large and complex bodies of knowledge(s) are thus acknowledged, which are mostly acquired in non-verbal ways: a learning by doing, or better, a learning by living (it), ensuring survival in the harshest environments of the globe for millennia.  Such a knowledge includes skills and “attitude that encourages perceptual rather than judgmental forms of knowing”, leading to a life oriented toward service to community. It is a knowledge that still today struggles with the Western concept of “science”, still deeply anchored to classic dichotomies, as “our way of thinking” vs ”their way of thinking”, or the Cartesian paradigm whereby mind and body are essentially separate entities.

The scope of this book, outlined by the editors Jarich Oosten and Barbara Helen Miller in the introduction, is to overcome the classic definition of “Western science” and “mak[e] a place in scientific discourse for contributions from Indigenous authorities”.  This cognitive place is therefore created by eight interdisciplinary case-studies, written by different authors, that explore knowledge transfer and knowledge practices of the Inuit in Canada, East and West Greenland, and the Northern Sámi of Norway. There is no given methodological explanation regarding the selection of Arctic regions treated in the book, but probably it is the result of the geographical areas of expertise of the authors, all members of the Research Group Circumpolar Cultures.

After a dense introduction, aimed at clearing out both the theoretical background and the histories of the peoples involved, the book is divided conceptually into two parts: the first one comprises five chapters on the Inuit of Greenland and North America; the second one three chapters on the Northern Sámi of Norway.

The first part considers the Inuit concept of IQ, “knowledge that has proven to be useful in the past and is still useful today”, in different contexts, historical times and geographical areas. Although following separate patterns, all the authors come to highlight, on the one hand, the disruptive effects that the introduction of Western education, with missionaries first and national school systems later, has had on individual, social and family relations. On the other hand, the dynamic and flexible nature of this IQ makes it still today a valuable body of knowledge(s) (inclusive of its spiritual component) for the younger generations’ well-being, both mental and physical. A correct transfer of this knowledge (or IQ), however, faces today several challenges, as for example the impossibility of extracting this knowledge from its material support, that is to say, the environment, and teach it in a classroom; obliging educators and researchers to experiment and find more suitable solutions (some of them are addressed in the book).

The second part takes the reader to a completely different location, Northern Norway, and into a different culture, the Sámi. This second part focuses on a variety of topics, yet connected with the main area outlined in the introduction, i.e. transfer of knowledge and knowledge practices.

Presented as a book for “students and scholars in anthropology and ethnology and for everyone interested in the Circumpolar North”, this collection of essays offers indeed different reading levels. However, probably due to a general lack of coordination among the authors of the first part, where the five essays share the same main topic, IQ, and different yet similar background (Inuit), make the reading often repetitive and redundant, hampering a fluid reading. The second part, while being definitely more diverse, sometimes struggles in showing clearly its connections with the overall scope of the book, leaving the reader a little lost.

Some peculiar design choices – such as the font and its size, slightly smaller than usual, and the left-side alignment – make the reading not easy, as they give the feeling of an endless footnote. On the bright side, this book includes also some interesting historical figures and drawings, such as those (pp. 166-167) illustrating stories related to “tupilat” (i.e. “evil spirits” in the form of small sculptures carved out of bone, ivory, wood or stone, depicting monstrous figures and believed to have destructive and sometimes lethal effects on rivals).

A question, however, remains unanswered.

Why is no essay in this book openly written by an indigenous scholar or an “indigenous authority” of the actual Arctic communities that are discussed therein, a child of their lived experiences and living cultures?  The feeling is that one very important classic dichotomy was not addressed at all, that is to say, indigenous cultures and indigenous peoples as proactive “subjects” of research rather than “objects”. If this dichotomy persists, can then the authors’ competent scientific approach really achieve the declared aim of the book’s editors, namely to “mak[e] a place in scientific discourse for contributions from Indigenous authorities”?

John V.H. Dippel, To the Ends of the Earth: The Truth behind the Glory of Polar Exploration (New York: Prometheus Books, 2018)

To the Ends of the Earthis a magnificent lost opportunity. Dippel takes his readers on a journey to the poles, describing the suffering, passions, delusions, ambitions, and cultural absurdities of the 19thcentury and early 20thcentury expeditions. But he does it in a tumultuous way.

Discovering the poles is not a “regular” discovery/exploration. Conquering the poles is not like conquering any other territory. The poles have an environment that is not simply inhospitable for humans, but that brings out the worst in them.

Explorers would head either North or South by boat, until their ship would get stuck in ice. The ships may or may not be crushed by the pressure of the ice. The men would spend the winter on the ice, in the hope to have a better start in the spring, assuming they survived the winter.

The months of darkness, freezing temperature, lack of food, and isolation from the known world bring almost inevitable depression and madness, aside from frostbites, malnutrition, and diseases. Having other people around in confined spaces drives people out of their minds. Having nobody at all, equally drives humans out of their minds. Deadly boredom would be alleviated with repetitive tedious scientific measurements, which eventually were doomed as irrelevant, but done nevertheless, in deadly conditions, in an attempt to keep a routine in a place that felt timeless.

The conditions on the way to the poles in the 19thand early 20thcentury were such that it is estimated that one in every two explorer died on expeditions.

Why go facing almost sure death? Or why facing conditions that may scar one for life, assuming one makes it back? Dippel offers a variety of answers, all of which are not necessarily flattering. Mostly, they boil down to greedy personal ambition. Scientific knowledge was just an excuse as testified by some penguin eggs collected risking human lives, and then left to gather dust in a box for decades in the British Museum.

Being a “successful” explorer meant fame and money. The glory to be recognized as “the first” and the royalties from the books one would publish upon their return (which often amounted to millions of today’s dollars). But the money was more often than not just instrumental to finance the next expedition. Glory remained the driver.

19thand early 20thcentury public fascination with polar expeditions, which drove the sale of books and newspapers, and most importantly drove the blind desire for glory, was often linked to nationalism and a craving for heroes, especially in times of peace.

But the attempted conquests of the poles were approached with the same attitudes people used to approach situations at home. British explorers would show up at the poles in their leather boots, flannel pants, and wooden coats. They would refuse to learn from indigenous people and wear snow shoes and animal skins. Indigenous people could not possibly have anything to teach the “obviously superior” British. Social status and ranks ought to be respected at all cost. Even when forced to live in a hand-made ice cave for several months. A line should be marked on the floor to divide lower-rank and higher-rank people. The superior and impeccable morals of the West implied both a divine investiture to conquer the poles, and thus a superiority over nature. Nature should be tamed by human will.

Not at the poles. At the poles, or on the way there, “success” was merely surviving; it was enduring indescribable suffering; it was still being a gentleman. Expedition after expedition would fail to arrive at the poles, or to discover the Open Polar Sea (an alleged warm and open body of navigable water at the North Pole), and would even fail to bring back men alive. Yet, these failures were heroic and thus were the celebrations of the cultural superiority of the explorers. So much so that even the disappearance of the Royal Navy officer Sir John Frankin and his 128 men was transmuted into a heroic gentlemen’s tale, so strong in the popular mind than when, after several years of search for him, evidence was brought back that he and his men may have engaged in cannibalism in the futile attempt to survive, the popular uproar discredited the evidence (and its discoverers) and not the Royal Navy officer or the inhuman conditions of an ill-equipped journey to the pole.

Dippel attributes the first arrivals at the poles by Norwegians (South Pole) and Americans (allegedly to the North Pole) to their more democratic and less stuffy culture, which allowed them to more easily adapt to this alien environment and to learn from past mistakes as well as from the Inuit.

But while Dippel remains almost silent on the Antarctic success of Ronald Amundsen, he describes the Arctic alleged successes built on the lies of Frederick Cook and Robert Peary. Both Cook and Peary were so driven by blind ambition and hunger for glory that they both willingly lied and falsified their records and accounts to claim something they did not achieve. The truth was only dug out later when, after the Vietnam War, the myth of an immaculate hero was no longer sustainable.

Dippel’s account of polar explorations is potentially a magnificent account of the darkest parts of the human soul that the darkness of the poles brings out. But his narrative, at least in the eyes of this reader, renders it into a polar storm. Each chapter swipes back and forward and without warning from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from one ship to another, from an explorer to another, from a time to another, leaving the reader disoriented. Not all explorers are present or presented with balanced importance, and no explanation is given for this. The volume does not provide a chronology of events or a list of explorers to aid the reader. It does not even have a map. It does instead have some period pictures, which do not quite help a reader not deeply familiar with all the expeditions. The constant back and forward makes several parts repetitive, without any necessary gain in clarity.

It is a book worth reading, if only because it may whet the curiosity to read more, to read something written more linearly on the topic.

Duncan Depledge, Britain and the Arctic (London: Palgrave Pivot, 2018)

Does geographical proximity make you closer to a region than long-standing historic ties? Is Britain a “forgotten Arctic State”? How can Britain find its way in the “Global Arctic”? These are the questions, Duncan Depledge, director of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions Secretariat in Westminster and Special Adviser to the UK House of Commons Defence Committee tries to answer to in his new book Britain and the Arctic. In the field of polar research – in Britain or abroad – Depledge does not need any introduction anymore. His name, alongside his former professor at Royal Holloway, University of London Klaus Dodds, has become synonymous with high-quality research in both international relations and polar studies. Based on a doctoral thesis Depledge defended at Royal Holloway in 2014, this book might be regarded by some as a timely contribution to the field of polar studies, especially at a time where Britain is gauging its involvement in the Arctic. On a more structural level, Britain and the Arctic is written as a collection of six thematically self-standing essays that each tries to assess Britain’s relation to the high north in an all-encompassing and detailed manner. Written in a short, punchy format, each chapter takes the form of an essay (with an abstract at the beginning) that makes the whole book more reader-friendly.

As pointed out at the beginning of the introduction, Britain’s present interest in the Arctic has never been as high since the Cold War. Although one might be forgiven to think that British interests in the North is an offspring of Britain’s colonial past, Depledge posits the Arctic has come into focus based on the need to make sense of how the Arctic is changing and how understanding these changes can help Britain be more productive in terms of science, trade, conservation and national security (p.6). With this new contribution, Depledge endeavours to analyse four overarching themes to better assess Britain’s relation with the Arctic. Drawing on Britain’s long history as a global power, Depledge first shows that Britain has had a massive role in influencing and defining the Arctic for centuries. He then argues that in spite of the “circumpolarisation” of the Arctic where the Arctic Eight (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US) have pushed non-Arctic states such as Britain towards the periphery of Arctic affairs, interests for the region within Britain domestic political, scientific and public landscapes have continued to grow in the last decades. The third theme is linked with the production of new scientific knowledge and the interests of British scientists in understanding how the region is likely to evolve in the future. This comes at the interplay of science, environmental, military and security concerns. Finally, Depledge also assesses the extent to which Britain’s contemporary engagement in the region, mainly due to its colonial past, is shaped by the country’s need to atone and demonstrate sensitivity in engagement in postcolonialism and neocolonialism debates.

As Lassi Heininen suggests in one of the blurbs, the idea of that Britain might be a “forgotten Arctic State” definitely comes as a surprise at first. The layperson might indeed wonder how a State whose northernmost tip (Out Stack, Shetlands) lies a bit further north than Bergen, Norway but still south of the Faroe Islands  could be an Arctic State, let alone a forgotten one.  In Chapter Two (Britain: The Forgotten Arctic State), Depledge cleverly demonstrates that closeness is not only a matter of topographical proximity. In the Arctic, a geopolitical region that is being construed as more and more global, Depledge highlights the problems with creating an arbitrary dichotomy between Arctic and non-Arctic States that relies solely on geographical proximity. Such closeness, he argues, is also a matter of topology. While acknowledging that Britain’s longstanding history in the Arctic comes as a result of its colonial past, Depledge demonstrates that topography and topology offer two different ways of thinking about Britain’s proximity to the Arctic. Although topography might play a more important role in the contemporary geopolitical landscape and also makes the Arctic look further away from Britain – demonstrated in framing Britain as “The Arctic’s Nearest Neighbour” in successive government policies since 2010 -, Britain, he argues, share deep and extensive topological links with the Arctic. From a topographical perspective, Depledge points out that the Arctic as a regional construct would still be vulnerable to further changes if and when the Faroe Islands and Greenland ever chose to become independent. In this changing Arctic landscape, Depledge also briefly mentions  the “spectre of Scotland one day becoming independent” and how, he argues, “few would seriously question whether the rest of Britain’s interest in the Arctic should be at all diminished or that Scotland should have a greater role than the rest of the Britain in Arctic affairs” (31). However, this analysis might come as oblivious of Scotland sharing a similar set of commonalities with northern/Arctic European states. Scotland’s growing role in Arctic affairs over the past few years from its involvement in para-geopolitical fora such as the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik to being one of the driving Arctic forces within British politics.

Elsewhere in 2011 and 2012, Depledge had already made the case for the UK government to develop an overarching formal Arctic framework which would help Britain and other stakeholders reflect on what actually matters for Britain in the region. Following the release of the Arctic Policy Framework in 2013, British involvement in the Arctic has not ceased to grow. Depledge highlights the challenges the Polar Region Departments have encountered in their attempts to communicate Britain’s Arctic interests at home and abroad and the need for a new British Arctic strategic document. Such challenges include the recent short-term vision that has been dominating British foreign policy making. In Britain and the Arctic, Depledge argues for a review of the Arctic Policy Framework and for a new strategic document to be published. Since Britain and the Arctic’s publication however the UK Polar Regions Department did publish a new Arctic policy (Beyond the Ice: UK policy towards the Arctic) in 2018. However, the 2018 policy did not surprise much and had a rather conservative approach to Britain’s relation to the region.

Britain might not be a forgotten Arctic State, but the book’s overall raison d’être appears less to be putting Britain on the Arctic map once again and more a statement for Britain to become even more involved in the Arctic than it already is. As Depledge argues if Britain wants to have a bigger role and an impact on Arctic affairs, the focus should be less on claiming topographical proximity (“Britain as the Arctic’s nearest neighbour”) and far more on making Britain the Arctic’s closest neighbour through science, defense, trade and cultural links (127). This kind of involvement from contemporary non-Arctic actors is to be welcomed as the Arctic is being construed as a more global and evolving region. Cooperation between Arctic and non-Arctic stakeholders is key to build a better integrated region. Britain and the Arctic is an exemplar of quality research about the globalisation of the Arctic. With its practical outlook, Depledge has made many positive contribution to academic research in the field of polar studies and Britain and the Arctic offers the most recent example of such contributions. Its concise format and affordable price tag make it a must-read for everyone interested in Arctic affairs, from decision-makers and politicians to senior academics and undergraduate students.

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Danielle Marie Cudmore and Stefan Donecker (eds.), Imagining the Supernatural North (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2016)

Imagining the Supernatural North is a collection of sixteen essays written by scholars from various fields of study, who have investigated, from multiple perspectives, the theme of the North as part of the collective imagination throughout history, while focusing on the kindred connection between Northerness and the supernatural.

It is my belief that because of the subject at hand and the specific expertise of the authors involved, this book encourages the reader to reflect on one, or rather, two highly topical areas of study, which are strictly related to one another. The first area concerns cultural and imaginative geography, the attention paid to spaces and places in which the meetings of cultures and cultural phenomena occur, and to the multifarious area of maps and mappings, both geographic and mental. The second area is concerned with real and imaginary encounters with the ‘other’ and the ‘others’ as well as the complexity underlying the construction of otherness with its ensuing ambivalences.

To Europeans, the North is the exotic space of otherness, where dreams and fears can be relegated, and which is the perfect space where the supernatural dimension can be freed and nurtured inasmuch as it is alien to ‘western’ civilisation and rationality. However, the book’s standpoint is not merely Eurocentric. In fact, it is quite interesting to discover that the very Nordic peoples have their own northern ‘peripheries’ or, in other words, their ‘other’ places, which are designated for the dissemination of the magical, the monstrous and the diabolical.

This collection of essays maps out a journey around the theme of the Supernatural North through a cross-disciplinary approach encompassing the history of religions, mythology, historiography, anthropology, philosophy, geography as well as music and literary theory and criticism. This journey is built diachronically and attempts to outline the transhistorical trajectory of a theme through a narrative, following the variations of the image and concept of the Supernatural North from classical antiquity to very recent contemporary cultural phenomena.

The four parts the book is divided into mirror the evolution and the development of this central idea and are titled, respectively, “Ancient Roots. The Menace and the Divine”, “From the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period. The Monstrous and the Demonic”, “The Nineteenth Century. The Scientific and the Spiritual” and “Contemporary Perspectives. The Desire of a Supernatural North”.

In the first part, the reader is confronted with the multifaceted ambiguity of the image of the North developed within Jewish (Ya’acov Sarig) and Greek (Maria Kasyanova e Athanasios Votsis) cultures: ancient Jewish rituals and legends seem to identify the origin of every evil with the North, although this image leads to more positive characterisations over time. On the other hand, in Greek culture, the ambiguity inherent in the figure of Boreas, the god of the North wind, is compounded by the virtuous yet mysterious myth of the Hyperboreans, creatures halfway between the gods and the human race.

This semantic duplicity seems to take a darker and more monstrous turn in medieval times, which the second part of the volume is dedicated to. This part of the book, besides following the diachronic transmission of the more fascinating “Monstra Septentrionalia”, from Adam of Bremen to the 16th-century maps still teeming with them (Rudolf Simek), delves into the relationship between witchcraft and the North, including those elements of Aristotelian natural philosophy, medicine and theology which form its theoretical basis (Brenda S. Gardenour Walter).  Additionally, this section introduces the reader to the manner in which certain specific literary sources make up the North’s supernatural otherness. On the one hand, it illustrates how Icelandic sagas portray Greenland as a place filled with monstrous ‘Wilderness’ (Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough), while on the other hand, the reader is introduced to the context and the strategy through which Somnium (1634), a peculiar posthumous work by Johannes Kepler, creates a magical Iceland and encapsulates the North in the early modern age, while using Olaus Magnus’s Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus as its primary source (Stefan Donecker).

The third part of the volume is centred on a dual encounter with the North: one that is a concrete and first-hand account of Arctic explorations and one that is romantic and which, by rediscovering northern cultures, reintroduces the image of a magical and mysterious North: the age-old fears arising from northern monstrosities now take on a lasting and darkly alluring aura. Both aspects (explorations and romantic ideas) are intertwined: romantic travellers, for example, seek the spirit of the songs of Ossian in real-world Scotland (Angela Byrne), while in 1845 the Austrian traveller Ida Pfeiffer explores Iceland as she deconstructs the romantic expectations she had set out with. (Jennifer E. Michaels).  In their travel books and books of legends (written between 1875 and 1921), the two anthropologists and explorers Knud Rasmussen and Hinrich Rink give an account of a magical and monstrous Greenland, in particular its desolate interior, thus meeting the general public’s ‘romantic’ expectation, which had by now been established, while also becoming an integral part of that tradition which can be recognized as Northerness (Silvije Habulinec). One last connection between Arctic travels and the supernatural may be identified in the mesmeric practices used for contacting lost explorers: even the voices of the clairvoyants seem to convey an image of the North which encapsulates all the knowledge and the tales, spun over time, surrounding the kingdom of ice (Shane Mccorristine).

The last part of the book explores the importance of the image of the supernatural North in a variety of current discourses between literature, the academic world and subcultures, such as heavy-metal music and the world of “Otherkin”. In Pale Fire, Nabokov describes a world that is alien, remote and northern, a longed-for place, a lost homeland that can preserve the freedom of the imagination while asserting victory over reality (Brian Walter), whereas Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass creates a northern world which, by drawing on the traditional and romantic topoi of the Supernatural North, is rendered deliberately realistic and concrete in an attempt to communicate its environmental, anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist message more vehemently (Danielle Marie Cudmore). Again, it is the romantic legacy, sifted through the countless literary and filmic revisitations, which breathes new life into some subcultures that are particularly related to the supernatural north. In fact, black metal, pagan metal and newfolk music are all infused with the north and its myths in every respect, be it aesthetic, acoustic, performative and even linguistic and stylistic, often based on an idea of obscurity and irrationality, which sometimes take on martial and anti-Christian overtones (Jan Leichsenring). Conversely, the relationship that Otherkin has with its Nordic and mythological source seems to be more existential and philosophical, in that the individuals of these predominantly virtual communities feel the need to incorporate non-human (i.e., animal or supernatural) elements into their identity. Influenced directly by the Nordic myths and folklore, these communities prompt a philosophical reflection on the modern individual by also relying on such contemporary practices as New Age and New Shamanism (Jay Johnston). The last essay aims to reshape the romantic and exotic idea of the shaman rooted in the academic world by means of anthropological tools. In fact, the relationship with the supernatural is a practice men and women from various Arctic peoples engage in on a daily basis (Erica Hill).

In summary, this brief overview of the wealth of information, expertise and thought-provoking suggestions contained in this book cannot do full justice to its alluring potential as a research instrument. While on the one hand the scientific approach and language make for a delightfully riveting read, on the other hand, the trans-historic perspective helps the reader identify a number of threads which crisscross the whole volume and which call for further investigation (e.g., the relationship between the geographical landscape and the collective consciousness; the North from an eco-critical perspective; the role of the feminine in the supernatural construction of the North and so forth). I am sure this line of research still has a lot to reveal, partly and precisely because of this invaluable contribution.

Leif Christian Jensen & Geir Hønneland (eds.), 2017 Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2017)

Over the last four decades, the study of Arctic politics has developed into a considerable disciplinary niche, extending to also incorporate perspectives from other fields such as developmental studies and law. Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland’s edited collection, Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic is a large and useful addition to this body that supplies current topics of relevance to the overall field. Employing contributing authors from multiple areas of expertise and institutions, this handbook provides an extensive and dynamic overview of the Arctic’s most pressing political issues and topics.

As pointed out in the introduction, Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic was compiled in response to a change in political climates, from the “age of the Arctic” to the “scramble for the Arctic”. This volume consists of twenty-nine unique articles of impressive assortment, separated into four thematic sections: ‘Geopolitics and Strategic Resources’, ‘Law of the Sea’, ‘Arctic Institutions and Specific Fields of Cooperation’, and ‘National Approaches to the Arctic’. As the title suggests, the collection was intended cover the breadth of political development and change experienced by today’s Arctic, with all manner of expertise addressed by many contributors from European countries, North America and Australia. As the editor remarks, other additional functional fields are also covered, such as climate change, energy, indigenous issues, jurisdiction, marine resources, pollution and preparedness and emergency response.

The first section is “Geopolitics and Strategic Resources”. In this part, articles such as “Arctic Securitization and Climate Change”, and “Strengthening US Arctic Policy through US-Russia Maritime Cooperation” trace the developments and conundrums transforming the political arena of our contemporary Arctic. Of particular interest in this section is Mark Nuttall’s piece “Subsurface Politics: Greenlandic Discourses on Extractive Industries”. In his article, Nuttall takes an ethnographic approach to explore and discuss the challenges of Greenland’s position as a new resource frontier, emphasising how political discourse surrounding the subsurface (what it entails and how it is imagined) intersects with resource development. Nuttall details the politics surrounding resource development in Greenland with sufficient enough range as to give the reader a general snapshot into the overall resource debate encountered by other Artic nations. Other articles in “Geopolitics and Strategic Resources” have also been chosen for their ability to render specific issues into their larger implications.

The second section, “Law of the Sea”, confronts many of the Arctic’s delicate legal enigmas, such as maritime boundary disputes, Arctic marine mammals in environmental and trade law, legal frameworks of outer continental shelf claims, and Canada’s Artic sovereignty. Purposely approached from a legal point of view, these articles manage to dissect the various arguments encompassing these legal dilemmas without any accompanied personal opinions. Unique to this book of Arctic politics is a dedicated legal section. Its utilization helps to both separate the many voices of this collection and lend clarity to overall debates in current Arctic politics.

The third section, “Arctic Institutions and Specific Fields of Cooperation”, is a carefully chosen collection with the specific purpose of highlighting the abundance and importance of cooperation in the Arctic. Well known topics, such as the Arctic council, are blended with newer subjects, such as China’s increasing Arctic ambitions, and together generate fresh ideas and areas of research pertaining to Arctic cooperation. This section is of particular interest due to its bridging of cooperation topics with alternative social concepts, such as Carina and Keskitalo’s article on “The role of discourse analysis in understanding spatial systems”, in which the concept of the Arctic is analyzed through discourse topics. While this section’s inclusion into the overall work is important for its coverage of new topics in cooperation, it has gathered some of the articles that may not have been easily classified into the other three sections, such as “Arctic change through a political reading” by Monica Tennberg. As a result, this section does seem to lack a general cohesive theme with regards to the articles presented. Regardless of its slightly miscellaneous nature, this section still helps take in the pertinent articles that would have been perhaps otherwise overlooked due to their contrasting content.

The final section is “National Approaches to the Arctic”, an interesting juxtaposition to its preceding section on Arctic cooperation, whose articles command the final pages of this collection to illustrate the various political interests, policies and complexities of Arctic and non-Arctic nations. This section exhibits the new and current policies in regards to national interests produced in the last while. This section particularly succeeds at demonstrating the book’s theme of demonstrating the changing from the “age of the Arctic” to the “scramble for the Arctic”, with articles on Russia’s northern interests, the European Union’s Arctic policy and Poland’s new science diplomacy approach. It is this collection that helps allude toward the plausible political topics and conundrums of the future, and leave the reader with these possibilities churning in mind.

Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic is superb overall. One of the volume’s few drawbacks is its size. In reality, the book’s title as “handbook”, may justify its extensiveness, however the length of this 617-page collection simply doesn’t make for light reading. Consequently, the targeted audience is slightly limited by its size and specialized content. Indeed, this book can be enjoyed by all readers, however it is better employed and possibly appreciated by Arctic scholars, students, and experts.

This minor criticism aside, Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic serves as an excellent and essential compendium of current topics in Arctic politics. This collection should be celebrated as a fundamental staple to any person involved in the field or study of Arctic politics.

Timo Koivurova, QIN Tianbao, Sébastien Duyck & Tapio Nykänen (eds.), Arctic Law and Governance: The Role of China and Finland (London: Hart Publishing, 2017)

This edited collection of essays is the product of a two-year project to assess and compare Chinese approaches to the Arctic with Finnish and/or EU approaches. These three entities are quite distinctive in population, politics and power and hence are not an obvious triumvirate. Nevertheless, the books’ chapters draw out interesting points of comparison. China is a relative newcomer to international relations and economic development in the Arctic. Backed by both military and economic clout, it triggers concerns amongst Arctic inhabitants and other stakeholders regarding its ambitions. Such worries are not helped by China’s closed political decision-making and limited official statements on its Arctic policies. This project, therefore, aims at increasing knowledge and understanding of China’s interests and expectations in the region.

The introduction to the book provides a good summary of the analyses that follow in the self-standing chapters which are themselves grouped into three Parts: Chinese Perspectives; Comparison between Finland and China; and Comparison between the EU and China. As a collection of essays, the book does not have a single or overarching thesis as such but a number of common themes are identified in the introductory and concluding chapters (by the 4 editors). One repeated them is climate change and pollution. Climate change is not coming to the Arctic: it is already here. China is the World’s biggest fossil fuel consumer and responsible for 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions (the EU, 11%). However, black carbon – a short term climate forcer – in the Arctic comes mostly from Europe. Europe is also a more significant source of the persistent organic pollutants (POPS) that end up in the Arctic (7). Another theme is economic development: even if the rights to exploit natural resources lie with the Arctic States and the peoples within them, the viability of doing so pivots on demand – and that demand is predominantly Chinese and European (8.)

The chapters go a long way to making up for China’s decision not to publish a comprehensive Arctic strategy or make regular and clear statements about its Arctic plans. China is not necessarily to be blamed for this: China is a lot more significant in the Arctic than the Arctic is for China, even if the book demonstrates that Chinese interest (and interests) in the Arctic have grown swiftly in recent years.

QIN Tianbao and LI Miaomiao’s chapter, “Strengthening China’s Role in the Arctic Council” calls for an official Chinese Arctic strategy but is itself rather more candid than an official State policy document is likely to be and as a result, probably more useful. The two authors make a rather bold proposal that China become a fully-fledged member of the Arctic Council (42), which will raise a few eyebrows amongst the more territorially sensitive of the Arctic States. Let’s just say that an official, published Chinese Arctic strategy is the more likely of the two scenarios in the near-term!

Ren Shidan turns to Chinese Arctic research and points to, amongst other things, frustration with Russia regarding access (53). She argues for freedom of research in the Arctic and rejects arguments that Chinese research is a foil for long-term plans to strip the region of resources. However, her concerns regarding Norway’s interpretation of the Svalbard Treaty (concerns shared by a number of European states) turn the chapter back to resource development (55-57).

Julia Jalo and Tapio Nykänen identify Chinese priorities in the Arctic based on World Affairs (a government-controlled magazine and unofficial mouthpiece). Only nine articles on the Arctic have been published since 2004 (indicating that the Arctic is still a relatively peripheral zone in Chinese politics). However, eight of these articles were published in 2008 or later, peaking when Chinese sought and accepted its seat as an observer at the Arctic Council in 2013, suggesting that interest is growing. The authors recognise that China is often viewed as a ‘threat’ in the Arctic, especially by those taking a classical realist approach, but they conclude that either China is indeed playing down its real intentions or that (more likely in their view) China is genuinely concerned about climate change and other environmental problems in the Arctic. In either case, they agree with QIN Tianbao and LI Miaomiao that a published strategy would help to clarify the situation.

Xiaoyi Jiang and Xiaoguang Zhou then consider maritime sovereignty and rights in the Arctic, looking in particular at the potential of the Northern Sea Route as an alternative to (or at least a supplement to) the Malacca route – even if they also note that Chinese shipping companies are adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach (96). They comment that China “has virtually no influence on the decision-making process at ministerial meetings” (of the Arctic Council)(90) and, like the other Chinese contributors, note that China is trying to be viewed as a partner in the Arctic rather than a threat (95).

Part II brings us to Finland with Lassi Heininen’s assessment of Finland, the EU and China and the asymmetry between them. Climate change – and China’s potential to take a lead role – is once again a key theme (107). Heininen sees common interests in shipping (Finland builds; China ships) (109); scientific research; resource governance and international cooperation (129). However, Finland and China also have shared interests in resource development in the Arctic (Finland produces; China buys) (118-120).

Tapio Nykänen presents the other chapter in this Part, using critical geopolitics to explore how the Arctic is framed in Chinese and Finnish Discourses. He agrees with the other writers that China is trying to build trust in the Arctic, seeking to present itself as a constructive partner (137). He analyses China’s position as a self-declared ‘near-Arctic state’, pointing out that geographically, it is extremely far from the Arctic Circle but arguing that instead it is geocritically close (140). Nykänen recognises China’s contributions to Arctic science but sees a political undercurrent to this: science is a ‘door’ through which China can claim a legitimate interest in Arctic governance (140).

Chapter Eight (Timo Koivurova, Waliul Hasanat, Piotr Graczyk and Tuuli Kuusama) is based on interviews with participants in the Arctic Council system, Chinese officials and scholars. It produces original, qualitative research on China’s position within the Arctic Council and identifies issues that would be unlikely to be uncovered by looking only at official publications. For example, the authors report that some Chinese officials are unhappy with the Nuuk criteria on observers (169)). They also identify a problem in the delegations which both lack continuity and do not always match the mandates of the working groups (175-177).

On fisheries, Sébastien Duyck sees shared interests in China and the EU – both being major fisheries jurisdictions and being outsiders seeking to ensure that their industries are considered in any new regime for the Central Arctic Ocean (Chapter IX). China, Duyck points out, is a ‘developing country’ and positions itself as a ‘leader’ of the G77 (196). Its policies on fisheries differ from the EU, being more defensive of High Seas freedoms and rational use, compared to a more conservationist (or even preservationist) orientated EU (197-198).

Adam Stepien considers China’s and the EU’s respective engagement with indigenous peoples. China maintains the questionable position that it has no indigenous peoples inside of China (222).  On the one hand, this means that China is not unnecessarily concerned with establishing precedents that could complicate matters at home (cf its position on international straits and Arctic shipping) but on the other hand, means that it has no experience and limited understanding of the stakes for indigenous people. China talks the talk (for example supporting indigenous rights in the UN – as long as it is clear that they don’t apply to or in China! (223)) but its engagement is uncoordinated and inconsistent (216). Environmental impacts are once more brought to the fore as Stepien explains that European and Chinese emissions are a major threat to indigenous communities (210-211). The EU, recognising the Sámi as the only indigenous people within the EU itself, has a more proactive stance on Arctic indigenous peoples and is, in theory, supportive of indigenous rights (218). That does not mean, however, that the EU always gets things right.

Nengye Liu and Kamrul Hossain address navigation in the Arctic and highlight the dependence of China’s economic strategy on shipping (243). The Northern Sea Route (less so the Northwest Passage) holds the promise of faster, cheaper shipping untroubled by the politics of alternative routes but, for now, this is still only a promise. While the shipping companies take things cautiously, the government has published the first Chinese guidelines on Arctic shipping (244). Like Xiaoyi Jiang and Xiaoguang Zhou, they note that China did not get involved in the development of the Polar Code and wonder if Chinese delegates to the IMO could take a more active role (247). They also suggest that China work alongside Japan and South Korea to promote (and defend) its shipping interests at the Arctic Council (249).

The concluding chapter by the four editors draws together the main findings of the contributions, reiterating the centrality of climate change and the consequent expectations of a natural resources boom (253-254). They note the resistance of the Arctic Eight to (too much) non-Arctic State involvement and how the Arctic Council system keeps the most powerful outsiders – like the EU and China – relatively subdued (261). Like most recent academic work on the Arctic, the final conclusion is that the answers are there and can be reached peacefully. International law has the answer to most questions; and for the others, it has processes by which to find, peacefully, those answers.

Although a number of writers call for a Chinese Arctic policy or strategy, this book gives us much more than any state policy every could. The original research and analysis by both Chinese and European scholars helps readers understand the dragon and, hopefully, fear it less. Nevertheless, there are subtle differences in approaches, with the Chinese authors tending to play down China’s resource ambitions and emphasise science and environmental concerns with some of the European contributors implying that China’s scientific contributions are driven by those very resource ambitions. I would wholeheartedly recommend this collection to anyone working on international law, international relations or economic development in the Arctic. Well edited, it is an accessible read for students as well as more seasoned academics. Even were the Chinese government to respond to the call to publish a formal strategy, it will not replace the excellent scholarship in this book.

Scott Mackenzie & Anna Westerståhl Stenport (eds.), Films on Ice: Cinemas of the Arctic (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015)

Load-bearing concepts are those that enable us to think (or conceptualize) something else.  [Any] mediation—between disciplines or subdisciplines, between interests within a field, and certainly between historical moments—can only be the result of the construction of a shared discourse within which a consensus must be sought for the use of specific words (hence, concepts).                      — Peter de Bolla, “Mediation and the Division of Labor”

In Films on Ice, “Arctic Cinemas” is offered as a load-bearing concept upon which varying forms of Arctic filmmaking hitherto regarded as discrete traditions can be placed in dialogue, challenging, as the introduction claims, the very notion of “Arctic” as an unified concept and conventional views of film history, at the same time. By proposing “Arctic Cinemas” as a new lens through which to view the diverse film histories of nations and peoples spanning the vast Arctic region, including those that might seem more dissimilar than similar on first consideration—Inuit and Sámi cinemas, Scottish women filmmakers, and Norwegian horror flicks, to point out a few—Films on Ice stakes an innovative claim concerning the “dialogue between insiders and outsiders” that occur across the Arctic region (1). In so doing, the collection of essays recasts ground that has been stereotyped by the glare of otherworldly ice, Eurocentric-ethnography and the sublime.

While “Arctic Cinemas” is indeed a load-bearing concept, the introduction to the collection, penned by its editors MacKenzie and Westerståhl Stenport, performs methodological heavy lifting worthy of Atlas, and the introduction is a veritable gold mine for anyone wishing to either design a course or binge watch film from and about the North, although the rarity of many of the films in question would make finding them on Netflix a feat.  As such, the introduction serves as an ample starting place for anyone needing to strengthen their broader knowledge of the Arctic and its many discourses, including Critical Arctic Studies and Arctic Art Cinema. Further, the introductions that open each of Film on Ice’s four parts are equally indispensable and help frame the plurality of theoretical perspectives included in the collection.

Perhaps the clearest articulation of the context from which the collection emerges is located in “Transnational, World, Global, Arctic Cinemas?” Here, the editors put forth their goal: “to challenge standard national cinema histories that have generally overlooked film production in, about, and for the Arctic region” (13). By envisioning “Arctic Cinema” as a concept by which “geographically related subsections of various nation-states” are incorporated into one conceptual rubric, Films on Ice also challenges normative definitions of World Cinema. This is equally achieved by including in the collection of essays examples of “sub-national” film, or those “not representative of what is understood as a ‘national’ tradition” (14). “Arctic Cinema,” then, expands the purview of both World Cinema and “cinematic tradition.”

It is because of this aim that the study focuses on what MacKenzie and Westerståhl Stenport describe as “three distinct, yet interrelated groups” (1). It is useful to describe these groups at length since it is through their interrelationships that the concept of “Arctic Cinemas” emerges.  They are: “(1) films made by Arctic residents, but mostly seen in the South […]; (2), films made outside the Arctic, typically by outsiders, and viewed mostly in the South and; (3) films made and viewed by Arctic residents through narrowcast broadcast and alternative venues” (1). As this list suggests, the collection is acutely attuned to the ways that perceptions of the Arctic, its regions, and its peoples have been amalgamated, marginalized and propagated in film.

The collection is equally attentive, however, to the ways in which pushback and reinscription have occurred with more frequency over the last several decades of filmmaking among the Arctic regions. Because of representation’s implicit function in film, the collection equally takes cue from Critical Arctic Studies, which is interested in exploring how cultural representation can serve as a humanistic counterpoint to the definition of the Arctic region by climate, geopolitics, or cartography (2). The collection’s broad scope is further organized into four parts, each highlighting a distinct frame of reference through which to view “Arctic Cinema.”

Part I, “Global Indigeneity,” focuses the notion of “unified singularity” on the indigenous peoples who populate the Arctic, representing “the first instance that the multiple cinematic traditions from various indigenous cultures and regions of the Arctic are placed in dialogue with one another” (31). There are very few venues, indeed, where an examination of Sámi, native Alaskan and Canadian, “Eskimo,” Inuit, and Greenlander film traditions would make sense standing side-by-side; this is one of them. This juxtapositioning succeeds in large part because of the engagement with the relationship between hybridity (cultural, ethnic, cinematic) and play in contemporary Arctic film, which stresses the reality of transnationality for the region’s indigenous peoples, both for the good and bad.

Part II, “Hollywood Hegemony,” constructs a thorough history of how, beginning at the turn of the 20th century, “the Arctic” has figured in American cinema and its “cinematic imaginaries” (121). The tradition of “location substitution” is one of the focuses in this section, as is the line between fiction and “actuality” in representations of the North. Perhaps one of the most startling aspects of this section is, however, the connection drawn between polar expedition, film production, and the way in which proto-fascist aesthetics reemployed the Arctic in its own image within German Bergfilm, the arctic landscape inscribed with sublime, masculine whiteness.

At the core of Part III, “Ethnography and the Documentary Dilemma,” are questions concerning time, chronology, the concept of historical progress and the ways in which ethnography and documentary film have grappled with and, in many cases, perpetuated notions of “cultural evolution” akin to those developed in stadial theory and disseminated in conjectural history and its descendants from the eighteenth century forward. It is in this section where the collection’s multiple threads begin to fully unite, and “Arctic Cinema” begins to signify in ways indicative of a functional, load-bearing concept: by juxtaposing the Arctic’s many unique regions and film histories with one another, it becomes apparent that, regardless of the differences among them, film made about the regions and peoples of the Arctic have repeatedly participated in forms of history-making predicated on the representation, evaluation and hierarchization of “otherness.” From this premise, one can more fully appreciate the flip-side of “Arctic Cinema” set forth in Part I, that of contemporary, indigenous filmmakers subverting, hybridizing, and playing with tropes long held within a film tradition that for too long functioned outside of their control. Although I appreciate the choice to place “Global Indigeneity” first in the collection, allowing indigenous voices to speak first and for themselves, I cannot help but wonder if Part III should have come before it, as the incredible contrast between early ethnographic film and contemporary, indigenous responses to it would deepen the significance of the latter, especially for a reader not wholly versed in the cinemas of the Arctic. After finishing the collection, read in order, I felt as though I needed to return to the opening chapters with the insights I collected along the way.

Part IV, “Myths and Modes of Exploration,” is perhaps the most daring section of the collection due to the broad geographical, cultural and temporal scope of its subjects: topics range from the earliest depictions of the race to the North Pole in silent film, circa 1901, to a comparison of 1930 and 1970s Soviet images of the North where, in the case of the later films, the Arctic space is imagined as “the place of possibilities where socialist dreams come true” (321); the collection closes with two works that scrutinize contemporary, visual interactions with the Arctic, examining new models of representing the region through “creolization” and “info-aesthetics.” Despite its diverse material, Part IV succeeds in connecting method, mythmaking, and exploration along several lines, including how film has mediated or attempted to mediate varying histories of the Arctic, personal, political, and environmental.

In its own words, Films on Ice demonstrates how the concept of “the Arctic” “elides the political, geographic, national, transnational and linguistic differences that define and populate the region;” foregrounding, even, how “the Arctic” encompasses an “intertwined” and “unifying singularity” (2). For even the most casual student of the Arctic, this conclusion will be unavoidable because although it signifies in so many interrelated ways, it is particularly prescient regarding climate change, which will not pause at borders and which will impact the Arctic and its peoples hardest, its uniqueness, its interwoven fabric, the first victim rent by modernity’s hubris. As a whole, the essays in Films on Ice speak among one another, pick up threads of common focus, and, in numerous cases, offer readings and arguments concerning the same films, scaffolding up, as it were, from the concept of “Arctic Cinema” to demonstrate the concept’s ability to provide a foundation for a new, counter history of film.

 

Geir Hønneland, Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy & Leif Christian Jensen, International Relations in the Arctic: Norway and the Struggle for Power in the New North (London/New York: IB Tauris, 2016)

Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen, both friends and colleagues at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, wrote one book each that were published in the early part of 2016 by indie publisher, I.B. Tauris. Although each book discusses a subject of its own, for many reasons, the two books seem to nicely complement each other especially for scholars seeking a more holistic approach to Norwegian-Russian Arctic relations. As the present author started reading Hønneland’s book first and then went on to read Jensen’s, this review unfolds in exactly the same manner.

In “Russia and the Arctic: Environment, Identity and Foreign Policy,” Geir Hønneland goes back to one of his most prolific research subjects, namely Russia, and more specifically how Russia defines its own Arctic identity. Indeed, the aim of Hønneland’s book is to shift the discourse from the more media-friendly notions of the “Arctic buzz” and the “Scramble for the Arctic” to discuss what Russia actually wants in the Arctic, and how Russia actually defines itself, through its own Arctic and political discourses, as an Arctic nation. At the heart of the book lies an essential conceptualization of narrative and identity theory in which narratives are not construed as being a mere reflection of the world, but rather constitutive of the self, and as Hønneland puts it, narratives are rarely of one’s own making. In having Russia as the main protagonist of his book, Hønneland is able to further explore the role of the Arctic in shaping Russia’s projection of its own identity at the national level as well as onto both the international and the inter-regional (i.e. Arctic) stages. To do so, Hønneland divided his book into six chapters of relatively equal size touching upon subjects such as the so-called “Rush for the Arctic”, the delimitation of the Barents Sea, management of marine resources, continental shelf issues and Region building processes through identity formation. As a Norwegian researcher, Hønneland also strongly focuses on the relation between Norway and Russia, especially at the Barents-region level but also onto the broader stage.

Ambivalent relations could be said to be one of the major premises on which this book is built. Internally, Russia is perceived as the epitome of the epic absurdist genre, the “anti-Disneyland” where everything that could go wrong actually goes wrong, but Russia also likes to be seen as “the territory without limits”, the boundless, borderless land with no edges. And, to this respect, Hønneland shows the readers that the characteristics, which are generally associated with “Northern-ness” or with the Arctic, are the ones Russia associates with itself in a process that aims at constructing its own Arctic identity in blurring the boundaries between the Arctic as such and Russia. On this subject, Geir Hønneland even concludes that the Arctic is more Russian than Russia itself.

In the collective unconsciousness, the Russian struggle for identity is often perceived as being linked to its unconventional relation with the West and, in this view, the only choice there is to make for Russia is between being willing to create relations with the West – to get closer to Europe – or to create a sense of national identity more focused on Russia itself.  In either case, Russian identity is construed as being a narrative in which Russia needs to other the West in order to have a more stable identity. In modern days, as Hønneland points out, the Arctic is the modern incarnation of Russia’s willingness to work with the West, especially when Vladimir Putin talks of the Arctic as “our common Arctic home.” In this mind-set, Russia is both depicted as being warry of the West – especially Norway in the Barents Region and Canada in the broader Arctic – but also as being willing to sit at the table with other Arctic nations.

On top of discussing four key Arctic issues from a Norwegian perspective (i.e. security, Russia, the environment, and the exploitation of natural resources in the Barents Sea), with “International Relations in the Arctic: Norway and the Struggle for Power in the New North,” Leif Christian Jensen aims at offering a new methodological and analytical framework to the field of discourse analysis and to social sciences (more so than Hønneland), thus the first two chapters of the book are heavily theoretical. These methodological chapters focus on how dominant discourses enable and disable actions both at the domestic and the international levels and “how socially oriented discourse analysis can be relevant to analyses of actual political issues.”  Indeed, Jensen himself states that one of his sub-aims is to demystify discourse analysis and make it more accessible (to make it “less frightening and more tempting”) to both scholars and students who are active in political science and other fields within social sciences. Therefore, Jensen’s book, which is an extended version of his doctoral thesis, could well be read with a non-Arctic approach if one was to focus on the broader theoretical framework. Nevertheless, the case study being the Norwegian ‘struggle’ to construct itself as an Arctic nation, being knowledgeable in Arctic matters helps to understand how Jensen’s analysis is to be applied.

Throughout the book, Jensen wants to demonstrate that discourse is constructive, and that, through discourse, it is possible to construct truth, meaning, and knowledge. To do so, he divided his book into eight chapters in which he covers subjects such as discourse analysis of Arctic policy debates and official Norwegian and Russian foreign policy discourses on the New North. Relying on a well-constructed database research analysis of four of the main Norwegian newspapers (i.e. Aftenposten, Dagens Næringsliv, Klassekampen, and Nordlys), Jensen researched how national identities are constructed in newspapers and texts written by those holding power. Furthermore, Jensen uses the example of Norwegian mineral resources exploitation to show to what extent discourses and narratives can be co-opted and how Norway’s main official discourse in the Barents Sea shifted from being environmentally-friendly to “drilling for sake of the environment.” Indeed, the argument of Norwegian environmentalists was co-opted and reversed by the pro-oil side whose argument has been to focus on others, such as Russia, and say that if Norway left it to other states or private businesses, they would do a worse job at being environmentally friendly. To link this with Hønneland’s theory, this can be seen as a Norwegian attempt to other Russia to justify its own Arctic identity. Jensen even goes further in his analysis in stating that this kind of shift in discourses is accentuated by the press and by official publications, through which the main discourse reinforces itself.

One of the most positive aspects of Jensen’s book – and something rare in academia – is Jensen’s strong commitment to connect with his readers and to involve them through the text itself. Far from the generally dry and anonymous academic approach, which, more often than not, tries to suppress any trace of temporality and of self in order to make a lasting contribution to the researched field, Jensen’s inclusion of himself and of his readers into the structure of his research manages to make it easier for the readers to relate and to understand the theoretical framework.

Both Hønneland and Jensen managed to avoid talking of the Arctic as the new hotspot in international affairs, and, to some extent, their down-to-earth approach to Arctic relations can be seen as an attempt to normalise Arctic issues and to hush the “rush for the Arctic” discourse and to finally put it to bed. Both books can also be seen as a successful attempt to show how important it is, in terms of international affairs, to understand how countries perceived themselves and how they would like to be seen on the international stage. Far from gathering dust on libraries’ shelves, these books will be interesting for students, academics, and anyone interested in Arctic relations, especially in Norwegian-Russian Arctic relations and how this relation is construed on both sides of the border. However, these books should not only be read by Arctic scholars, as they also have much to offer to those seeking to read more about identity and discourse analysis and how it can be used in nation building and in international affairs.

Little Italy: Seeking a Niche in International Arctic Relations

In December 2015, The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation published Verso una strategia italiana per l‘artico (Towards an Italian Strategy for the Arctic). In this article, the authors explain and evaluate the document in light of Italy’s connections to and interests in the Arctic, the Kiruna rules for observers at the Arctic Council, and the Arctic policies of other observers. They conclude that the intended audience for Verso una strategia is the Arctic States. Therefore, the document emphasises relevant Italian scientific efforts and promotes Italy’s oil and gas industry while downplaying the rights of indigenous peoples and avoiding issues of controversy. Publication of the document as a work in progress indicates the ministry’s willingness to listen to feedback and adapt its approaches as it develops a more comprehensive and nuanced strategy.

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Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Offshore Oil and Gas Development in the Arctic under International Law: Risk and Responsibility (Leiden: Brill, 2015)

The Arctic is estimated to hold the world’s largest remaining untapped gas reserves and some of its largest undeveloped oil reserves. Developing these resources in the harsh Arctic environment will be complex and challenging and can have far-reaching consequences. Consequently, the prevention of offshore marine pollution from oil and gas development activities is amongst the more important issues that need to be discussed in this context.

Continue reading Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Offshore Oil and Gas Development in the Arctic under International Law: Risk and Responsibility (Leiden: Brill, 2015)

Leive Lund, Yang Jian & Iselin Stensdal (eds.), Asian Countries and the Arctic Future (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015)

The past few years Asian governments, companies and organizations, have showcased increased interest towards the Arctic region in terms of policy, science, climate, culture and economy. The most notable evidence was the acceptance of China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea as observers to the Arctic Council at its 2013 Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, while Asian economic activity in the Arctic region is also on the rise in fields such as transportation and natural resource development. Asian stakeholders have a keen interest in climate change in the Arctic region, and its interlinks with middle/low-latitude areas, as well as running scientific programmes in the Arctic with explorations and research stations. The book, Asian Countries and the Arctic Future (2015), is a groundbreaking publication for dealing comprehensively with the rising importance of the Arctic within global affairs, in context with Asian perspectives.

Continue reading Leive Lund, Yang Jian & Iselin Stensdal (eds.), Asian Countries and the Arctic Future (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015)

Uttam Kumar Sinha & Jo Inge Bekkevold (eds.), Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy (New York: Routledge, 2015)

In the mid-2000s, the Arctic started to receive greater international attention given its growing importance in environmental, scientific, economic and political affairs. The acceptance of five Asian states – China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea – as Observers in the Arctic Council, the region’s preeminent intergovernmental forum, in 2013, became both representative of this trend and a consequence of it. This is the premise of Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy, which describes the interest and engagement of Asian states in Arctic affairs, and stems from papers presented at a conference on the topic of Arctic geopolitics held at New Delhi’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in September 2013.

Continue reading Uttam Kumar Sinha & Jo Inge Bekkevold (eds.), Arctic: Commerce, Governance and Policy (New York: Routledge, 2015)

Pävi Naskali, Marjaana Seppänen & Shahnaj Begum (eds.), Ageing, Wellbeing and Climate Change in the Arctic. An interdisciplinary analysis (London: Routledge, 2015)

The rationale behind this book is that little has been written and limited sources of information are currently available about ageing, wellbeing and climate change in the Arctic region. The Arctic is defined in political terms, not in terms of geographical, ecological, or climatic criteria. “The region is seen as both a direction and a location; the definition varies according to the describer’s position” (2). The editor’s also point out that men and women are not affected equally by climate change and there exists a knowledge gap on this issue of the ageing population (4). The book addresses this and explores three important main discussion areas: “first, various political issues that are currently affecting the Arctic, such as the social categorization of elderly people; second, the living conditions of the elderly in relation to Arctic climate change; and third, the wellbeing of elderly people in terms of traditional knowledge and lifestyles” (1).

Continue reading Pävi Naskali, Marjaana Seppänen & Shahnaj Begum (eds.), Ageing, Wellbeing and Climate Change in the Arctic. An interdisciplinary analysis (London: Routledge, 2015)

Klaus Dodds & Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles: The geopolitics of the Arctic and the Antarctic (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016)

When I begin the writing process, I try to start with a title. I figure that if I get that right, then the rest will fall into place. When I saw the title of this new book by Klaus Dodds and Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles, my attention fixed on the word ‘scramble’, and it immediately resonated with me that this might be yet another polemic on the actions of polar states to shore up favourable access to polar resources in the future. And then I discovered that the authors actually devote a whole page in the Preface to explaining and justifying their use of this (and similar) terms, which was quite simply because they are in use in the everyday lexicon of polar commentary (p.xiii). So yes, in some respects this is yet another polemic – but at the same time, different.

Continue reading Klaus Dodds & Mark Nuttall, The Scramble for the Poles: The geopolitics of the Arctic and the Antarctic (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016)

Richard C. Powell & Klaus Dodds, Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014)

This edited collection brings together 18 scholars from different disciplines to discuss their latest insights into the Arctic and Antarctic regions. While the Antarctic has always been a distinct conceptual space in the World owing to its isolation from inhabited territories, the formation of the Arctic qua region has developed rapidly in the 21st Century. The editors, Richard Powell and Klaus Dodds, have asked the contributors to develop “critical polar geopolitics”, focusing on knowledges, resources and legal regimes. However, the book does not clearly follow these three priority areas but is in fact structured according to three parts: Global and Regional Frameworks; National Visions; and Indigenous and Northern Geopolitics.

Continue reading Richard C. Powell & Klaus Dodds, Polar Geopolitics: Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014)

Douglas C Nord, The Arctic Council: Governance within the Far North (London: Routledge, 2016)

The Arctic Council: Governance within the Far North by the rather aptly named Douglas Nord is a succinct primer on the history and development of the leading intergovernmental forum in contemporary Arctic international relations. It is well-written and highly focused, making it an accessible read for students and an easy and quick read for busy academics.

Continue reading Douglas C Nord, The Arctic Council: Governance within the Far North (London: Routledge, 2016)

Marlene Laruelle, Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2014).

 

 

Nevertheless, in scholarship on the Arctic, Russia is very often the weak link. The reasons for this are principally linguistic. While all other seven Arctic States routinely publish (or at least translate) major research initiatives, laws and policies in English, Russia does not. Nordic scholars can usually make their way around all the Scandinavian languages and Finland publishes all governmental regulations and documents in Swedish (an official language). Most Arctic scholars, the present reviewer included, are ashamedly at a loss in the face of the Russian language.

 

Marlene Laruelle has no such problem. Fortunately for the rest of the World‘s non-Russian speaking Arctic scholars, she has combined her linguistic skills with insightful, sensitive and clearly-expressed analysis in Russia‘s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North. This book is long overdue and has no comparator.

 

The title already gives a clue to the subtlety of Laruelle‘s approach: the use of the plural “strategies” in lieu of the more common “strategy” indicates the complexity of Russian interests in the North and the competition between differing priorities at different times.

 

Russia’s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North begins with a succinct introduction to the Arctic and its many players. Laruelle then devotes a chapter to each of the following topics: 1) Russia’s Arctic policy and its balance between domestic and international agenda; 2) The place of the Russian Arctic in Russian identity; 3) Demographics of the Russian Arctic; 4) the impacts of climate change; 5) Territorial disagreements and their resolution; 6) Military security; 7) Resource management; and 8) the Northern Sea Route. Laruelle concludes with a presentation of “four Russian Arctics”: the Murmansk-Arkhangel’sk Arctic (European transborder region); the Central Arctic (mineral and hydrocarbon rich); the Yakutia-Sakha Arctic; and the Bering Arctic (Chukotka and Kamchatka) (203-201).

 

In each of these chapters, Laruelle explains the historical development of the High North through Soviet times, the disastrous years for the people of the Russian Arctic following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the renewal of interest in economic development in the 2000s. She is sensitive to the history and contemporary challenges facing the indigenous peoples of the Russian North and the difficult balance of power between indigenous communities and “Russian” leadership. In her examination of demographics, she describes Arctic Russia evocatively as “archipelagic”: there are population centres like islands surrounded by wilderness and almost entirely cut off from one another (48-51). Her historical account of the population shifts from Stalin, through Soviet times, and post-1990 is essential if a reader is to understand fully the challenges facing the contemporary North (51-60). Population blips over the 20th Century and collapse post-1990 (attributable not only to low birth rates but also high mortality rates) create intractable problems for Russian development; but Laruelle also notes that these are not uniform through a geographically enormous and ethnically diverse federal republic (54). The North, especially the Far-Eastern North, has been disproportionately affected by internal migration (Southwards): some regions of the Russian Arctic (e.g., Magadan and Chukotka) lost over half their populations, with entire settlements abandoned (57-58).

 

In the account of climate change, Laruelle explains Russian reluctance to commit to mitigation of climate change in light of the perceived advantages to Russia from increasing temperatures (68; 84-85). These advantages will not be equally shared and will be accompanied by many serious problems, not least the melting of the permafrost on which Arctic infrastructure is built, more extreme weather events, fires, invasion of alien species and the end of some ice-roads (77-80). Perhaps reflecting the American discourse by which she is surrounded, she grants a little too much credibility to the “climate change sceptics” and implies that there is a genuine dispute about the causes of climate change, when in fact, the climate science is quite clear about the anthropological contribution to global warming (69).

 

If there is a weakness in Laruelle’s analysis, it is one that is only likely to be evident to pedantic lawyers: sometimes the word choice is insufficiently precise, especially when dealing with law of the sea. For example, in her discussion of the Northern Sea Route, she talks of “international waters” (170) and the right of transit passage, but the technical term is “international strait”. This is important as “international waters” could also refer to the High Seas where there is complete freedom to sail, fish, and conduct research (in addition to “passage”).[1] She also suggests that some States might “bypass” the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which seems remarkably unlikely given that it is accepted even by the United States (which is not a party) as defining customary international law in this area (198). Nevertheless, her general account and conclusions are convincing: the Northern Sea Route remains ultimately a Russian route for Russian vessels servicing Russian communities and resource developers. The melting of the ice does not necessarily make the route safer: ice is replaced by hazardous and unpredictable weather conditions (high winds and waves), there is still a major shortage in search and rescue and communication services; and harbour infrastructure (for repairs, safe haven in bad weather, etc.) is limited. Similarly, in analysing the respective rights to the outer continental shelf of Norway and Russia, she uses the term “claims” which international lawyers would avoid (99). (The shelf accedes automatically to the coast; it is not “claimed” like terra nullius.) More misleading is her use of “verdict”, “ruling” and “decision” with reference to the recommendations of the Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) (101-102). The CLCS is an advisory body composed of scientists. There are no lawyers on it. It is most pointedly not a judicial or quasi-judicial body and issues only “recommendations” and not “decisions”, “judgments”, “rulings” or “verdicts”. The CLCS will simply not consider a submission if any other State with a potentially overlapping area of shelf objects. The CLCS can advise on the outer limits of the CLCS; but it has no power to decide between competing States as to which a particular area of seabed pertains.

 

The book was published on the cusp of 2013-2014: just weeks before the dramatic events in Ukraine, Russian intervention and the consequences for Russian-European relations, Western investment (following the introduction of sanctions) and the manipulated collapse in the oil price which distorts the immediate prospects for offshore Arctic hydrocarbon development. The representatives at the Arctic Council have so far attempted to play down the impact of the Ukrainian situation but the speed at which Russian international relations have deteriorated is a warning that one should be relaxed, but not entirely complacent, regarding the peacefulness of the High North. Certainly, Professor Laruelle will not run out of research material over the next few years.

 

In conclusion, Russia‘s Arctic Strategies and the Future of the Far North is essential reading for all those working on Arctic international relations, law, politics and economies, as well as those interested in Russian governance more broadly. I expect to see it on graduate school reading lists around the World and recommend it without hesitation to all scholars interested in contemporary developments in the Arctic.

 

 



[1] See also, e.g., 198 (discussing two treaties that “have been ratified by the Arctic Council”). 

Beyond the Cold-War Reprise of the Arctic Super-Powers. Decoding the Structural Meaning of the Ukrainian Crisis

 

 

In fact, one more US-directed violent overthrow of an elected government has carved off the biggest country of Europe from next-door Russia. Yet Russia gets all the blame for “brute force” in reclaiming Crimea – although 96% of a voluntary turnout of 82% voted to rejoin its traditional mother country. While denounced as “violation of international law”, the Crimea referendum choice expresses the “self-determination” of a society guaranteed under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Ukraine’s coup government, in contrast, has prohibited any referendum on its rule – especially the Eastern regions where popular uprisings with no mass deaths or beatings (as in the Kiev coup) call for self-determination against illegal rule from Kiev.  

 

The uprising cities of East Ukraine – beginning with Donetsk, then Kharkiv, Luhansk, Slavyansk (the Slav has been removed from the Westernized Sloviansk),  Kramatorsk and other centers and villages – all demand a democratic referendum for their future status as equal citizens in a Ukraine federation. Integration with Russia is not favoured by Russia, but the dominant popular feeling unreported in the media is peaceful and pragmatic. Ukraine’s government has been broken by the US-led coup and cannot provide what people need in jobs, healthcare, income security and pensions. Certainly “the Greek model” planned for Ukraine is not in its people’s common life interests. Under the coup government of prime minister Arseniuy Yatsenyuk, a banker who is already prescribing mass dispossession by austerity programs, what will happen to Ukraine is foretold by has happened in Greece.   

 

The EU’s financial rule by banker mechanisms has already been almost as great a failure as the oligarch-marketization of Russia after 1990. It is a complex system of one-way powers of life deprivation and social ruin which I define in The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure (1999, 2013). Elected governments lose all control to the new absolute and overriding imperative of European rule – to grow and multiply private transnational money sequences. In accord with the ruling formulae, the Greek economy has been slashed by 25 per cent, unemployment is an official 28 per cent excluding the unpaid, the public health system is dismantled to pay foreign banks, wages are cut by a quarter, the public sector is sacked and privatized, and jobless youth rises to 60 per cent even with mass emigration. These outcomes now await Ukraine.

 

Those in Ukraine who are not under the spell of its father cult, oligarch riches, and post-1991 dispossession know better. Outside of Kiev they have had enough, and that is why the election and presidency of the Party of Regions and its allies whose popular support lies outside Kiev have been repeatedly overturned. It is also why their decentralized federal alternative has been removed from the table. The murderous insurrection in Kiev and violent coup of elected government reveals how far the Kiev oligarchy and plotters are prepared to go backed by the US. Yet this time Russia has drawn a red line. With near-unanimous support of the Crimean people and the uprising of the Eastern cities and villages as I write, Russia has stopped the US-led transnational corporate-machine and NATO from further expansion for the first time in 25 years.

 

It is true that Ukraine – the biggest country and bread basket of Europe – has now been pried wide open for transnational Western banks, agribusiness, Big Oil and NATO to feed on. And it is true that all talk of “land grab” has been projected onto Russia even as US Greystone  and Blackwater mercenaries – now called “Academi” in the Big Lie lexicon – move on the ground in Ukraine as the US and NATO propagate ever more threats of force and embargo against “Russia’s aggression”.  Reverse blame is always the US geostrategic game. “Russia’s designs to take the whole of Ukraine” is again US projection of its own objective, as in the old days when “world rule plot” was attributed to the former USSR. Yet a line has been drawn at Crimea, and drawn again in Eastern Ukraine, and it is backed by a country that cannot be arm-twisted, propaganda invaded, or air-bombed with impunity. That is why the one-way threats never stop. It is the first line yet drawn by an historical power outside of China against the exponentially multiplying US-led private transnational money sequences devouring the world.  

 

People now have a chance to reflect on who is the aggressor and who stands for democratic choice as events unfold. They can observe the patterns of Orwellian distortion day to day. Never is the other side presented. The US and NATO alone continuously denounce, lie and threaten. Financial contracts and assets are violated by one side alone. Hate campaigns without evidence go one way. Uprisings have been mass murderous from the US-coup side and without harm from the resisting side. Russia is behind its own borders, and the US deploys threats, covert operations and mercenaries from thousands of miles away. But this time US-NATO-led corporate globalization cannot destroy nations at will. Sometimes history can happen as it should.

 

 

The Mechanisms of Reverse Blame to Justify Destroying Societies

 

Reversal of blame is always the US method of pretext and justification. This is why Russia is pervasively vilified in the mass media, and another significant Arctic actor, Canada’s big-oil regime, joins in along with the UK.   As always, denunciation rules without reasoned understanding. As always, the US-led financial and military forces of private money-power expansion move behind the abomination of designated enemies. Any nation or leader not serving transnational corporate control of resources and markets across borders is always the villain. This is the ruling meta program.

 

Thus too in Ukraine. When Europe tried to broker a peace deal between the opposition and elected government of Ukraine, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continued to  court the neo-Nazi coup leaders to overthrow the state, instructing  “Yats” (appointed PM Yatsenyuk) to consult with the main putsch leader Oleh Tyahnybok “at least four times a week”.  When she is reminded of the EU peace talks and agreement to stop the bloodshed, her response is telling, “Fuck the EU”. The coup peaked after three days of murder by the neo-Nazi faction. When former “Orange revolutionary” and gas oligarch leader of the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko, then got out of jail for criminal embezzlement of state property, she expressed the logic of power shared with the US regarding Russia. She says without denial of the words: “take up arms and go and wipe out these damn katsaps” [Russian minority] – – – so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia.” Yet in every Western media of record, it is Russia who remains “the aggressor”, “the growing threat”, “the source of the rising crisis”, and “the out-of-control power that must be stopped”. 

 

There are exact thought governors at work throughout. I have analysed these structures of delusion in learned journals as ‘the ruling group-mind’ (collectively regulating assumptions that are false but taken for granted) and, sustaining it, the ‘argumentum ad adversarium’ (the diversion of all issues to a common adversary). The “escalating crisis in Ukraine” expresses these fallacious operations in paradigm form. So does the false claim of “Syrian use of chemical weapons” which almost led to US bombing of Syria’s civilian infrastructures a few months earlier. The mind mechanics at work form the inner logic of the lies which never stop. The grossest operations go back to the Reagan regime naming Nicaragua as “a clear and present danger to the United States” to justify US war crimes against it which in turn fed the ever- growing corporate-military complex and murderous covert operations. Always the mind-stopping mendacity and criminal aggressions are justified through the ruling group-mind and enemy-hate switch which form the deep grammar of this thought system.

 

At the most general level, the “Russian threat to Ukraine” diverts public attention from the really fatal problems of the world and their global causal mechanism – transnational money sequencing – which is metastasising further in Ukraine. The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade from its transnational corporate looting and polluting. The climates and oceans destabilize from the same cause at the same time. Species too become extinct at a spasm rate, and the world’s forests, meadows and fisheries are cumulatively destroyed. The global food system produces more and more disabling junk as commodity diseases multiply. The vocational future of the next generations is eliminated for a growing majority of people. All these trends and more are one-way, degenerate, and undeniable. All are driven by US-led private and transnational money-sequence multiplication which now moves into and through Ukraine. Without Russia’s past financial and energy assistance worth tens of billions of dollars and completely destabilized by the US-led violent coup, Ukraine verges towards collapse. That is where the Greek model comes in – the stripping of Ukraine to pay for what it has lost from Russia by the US-led coup which further enables military advance to Russia’s borders.

 

 

As usual, such geostrategic intervention is life destructive at every level of its consequences, but the underlying causal mechanism is unspeakable in official culture. From Africa to Europe to the Middle East to Latin America, the unspoken master trend is systematic society destruction. Look, for example, forward and backward from the last manufactured crises geared to enable US-led destabilization to bombing – the “weapons of mass destruction of Iraq”, the “genocidal plans of the dictator Gadaffi”, “Assad’s chemical weapons used on his own people”, or, across the ocean, Venezuela’s “despotism” which prioritizes the elimination of public education, healthcare and poverty elimination. Always the victim society has more developed social programs than its neighbours.  The ultimate enemy is social life bases themselves. 

 

Observe the common pattern of social destruction. It begins with US covert forces sponsoring opposition forces in the society featuring fascist and jihadist terrorists, mounting global media campaigns against the targeted leader, murders committed by snipers pretending to be state agents, growing civil division and hate towards civil war, and absolutely one-sided reporting of the US point of view, and reverse-moral justifications for what ends as society destruction.  The US bombing stage has not yet been reached in Syria because Russia led the alternative of UN chemical-weapons destruction, even though Syria had never used the weapon. Not long after destroying Iraq and Libya on known false pretexts, the US proclaimed again and again the mass-murderous gas used in Syria was by “Assad the war criminal” although the evidence kept disconfirming the big lie mega-phoned by John Kerry. It went all the way to a White House plan to bomb civilian infrastructures as in Iraq and Libya. In revealing contrast, Russia “the world bully” has never bombed a city. Yet US reverse projection rules. As for Assad’s “war crime”, the truth found by multiple analysis was that “kitchen sarin” manufactured in Turkey and crude-missile lobbed by the al Nusra jihadists allied with the US and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar was the source of the gas massacre (as Seymour Hersh has finally made public). 

 

Much the same generic script of engineered civil conflict and war combined with false threat and crimes of the constructed foreign enemy has been used over and over again against Iran and its “nuclear threat” with no evidence, while Israel has an illegal stockpile of them threatening to use them to stop Iran’s “nuclear threat”. In all, the reverse-projection tactic has become the signature of everything the US and its allies allege of others to ruin them. 

 

 

Ukraine in Motion as Another Paradigm Example of US-led Society Destruction

 

Serial false allegations and pretexts thus unfold again against Russia in regard to Ukraine. The US-led mayhem and violence varies widely, but the dots have not yet been joined on what is always achieved beneath the political-ideological shows – the tearing apart and dispossession of one society after another by US-led financial and armed means.  Here it is Ukraine and the set-up of Russia at once. Not only is the society decapitated, as in Ukraine or Libya or Iraq or as demanded in Syria. That is the official script. Much more deeply the society’s civil bonds are rent asunder, its productive base is sabotaged, its social life supports are stripped, its environment and resources looted and its future despoiled. Always. There is no objective fulfilled except social life-system destruction. But the connections still go unmade. As General Rick Hillier, commander of Canada’s forces helping to bomb Libya said afterwards: “We did it because we could”. As CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard acknowledges about the permanent US war, but still without the consequence named: “It will be won by forces you do not know about, in actions you will not see, and in ways you may not want to know about”. 

 

The supremely evil truth becomes testable by its continuous repetition. Dismantling or destroying society’s very life bases is the innermost meaning of US-led “freedom” and “globalization”.  It includes even US society itself by ever more monstrous misallocation of public resources away from what serves life bases to what deprives them. If one reviews the post-1980 trajectory of ruin of nations, the objectively evil pattern becomes clear. No other actually working goal has been achieved since the Reagan-Thatcher turn. It is the DNA of the global cancer system. Try to think of exception. Since the war-criminal destruction of poverty-ridden Nicaragua’s new schools and clinics by the signature method of covertly US funded and armed forces within, the society-destruction method has only grown and multiplied by terrorist as well as financial means. When Obama says “every society must chart its own course”, he follows the reverse moral syntax at work. The deliberate mass-diseasing of 500,000 children in the first manufactured crisis of Iraq as the nearby Soviet Union collapsed revealed what we could expect from the US without another superpower to contain it. In all cases, there has been one underlying principle of outcome – US-led civil disintegration of societies across the world. That is how a cancer works at the transnational level of life organization.

 

Engineering civil war is the favored method with effective genocide the long consequence. This is true not only in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria, but Somalia, Sudan and the Congo. Direct US invasion may lose the war from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but its defeat is, more deeply, another US-led success at destroying another society. The Wall Street metastasis to EU banker-run Europe has worked without invasion or even proxy uprising, but society destruction is still achieved by the small print of corporate treaties and bank powers people never see. Greece, Spain and Italy are effectively ruined, and behind the dismantling of these and all victim societies is the same transnational corporate system multiplying itself through societies. Big Banks, Oil, Military Contracting, Big Agri-Food and Pharma are themselves only vehicles of the one underlying economic disease of transnational money sequences self-multiplying across all borders without life limits or functions. They feed on ruined societies as their carrion.  

 

Ukraine follows this macro pattern. It comes into the fold of the EU through a US-led fascist coup posing as “freedom” and “revolution”, but in fact hollowing out the society’s lifeblood and bases as the US-led coup and EU financial straitjacket suck it dry. This is the unseen law of transnational money-demand multiplication to the top. In Ukraine the method features similar tools – increasingly armed and destructive oppositional forces on the ground, US bankrolling and direction of the opposition’s factions in orchestrated destruction ($5 billion under aid guises, $20 million for the street reported by Secretary Nuland in a speech to business), and pervasive transnational corporate propaganda about the constructed civil war as a “struggle for Ukraine’s  freedom” – decoded, transnational corporate and bank freedom to loot and pollute. As always, inside allies include  fascist and terrorist forces – the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor factions in Ukraine which now have key executive posts in the coup government and trace their history back to the Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) led by their hero Stephen Bandera who allied with the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941 and helped to round up Jews.

 

The worst is yet to come. Never is there any US building of the victim society’s economy and life support systems, and so too Ukraine. Again we might compare Russia here to the US in Afghanistan over 14 years. The self-multiplying corporate money sequences which reap all gains have no committed life function or obligation including to the imperial state itself. They pay ever fewer taxes to it, and bleed ever more public money and resources from it. There is only one pattern of consequence and Ukraine too is now almost occupied by its ruling mechanism to impoverish the people further to feed the rich. As always, society’s common life capital bases will be further defunded, privatized for profit, and saddled by unpayable transnational bank debts. The real economy will be flooded with more junk foods, media products and social-dumping commodities, and bred to a violence culture already hatched by the coup. Collective life capital bases will be further laid waste for multiplying private money fortunes across borders.

 

 

The Life-Blind Thought System Behind Global Society Destruction 

 

Since using the spectacular 9-11 event as pretext for the new PNAC plan of “full-spectrum domination”, falling on the anniversary of the destruction of Chile’s society in 1973, the U.S. has been on a non-stop crusade of destroying societies across the world. The hollowing out of social bonds and bases includes the US itself. Its impoverishment grows as non-productive riches multiply at the top, middle classes fall to ever new levels of debt, the growing majority of youth is without a future, public squalor spreads across the land, and over 2000 million dollars a day is spent on armed force threat and operations with no real enemy to justify them.

 

It all goes back to first principles. “There is no such thing as society” declared the fanatic Friedrich von Hayek who was mouth-pieced by his disciple Margaret Thatcher. “We owe our very lives to capitalism”. But deeper than words, the principle of no-society is built into the ruling economic paradigm. Without notice, every life coordinate is erased from account. There are no life needs, no environment, no society, no children, no relations with others, and no history in this life model. All unpriced life goods from water and sewer infrastructures and services to universal public education, culture and healthcare to social security support in age, unemployment, and disability are blinkered out except as “cost burdens”. The very terrestrial biosphere on which everything depends is ruled out of this moronic frame of reference. Demand itself is never people’s needs or necessity. It is private money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back it to indebt the great majority and to gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being as far as corporate globalization extends.  Ukraine can look forward to this US-led thought system ruling over it from within the financialized European Union which is now as banker-run as America.

 

The ruling value mechanism can be crystallized into natural language equations:  Freedom = freedom for private money demand = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.  Even more generally, the underlying master equations of the globalizing system now moving to rule Ukraine into Russia can be defined as follows: Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice = Always More Money-Value for Self is Good = Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top = All Else is Disposable Means to this Pathogenic Growth. This is the innermost value logic of the US-led global system and it has no limit of dispossession and ruin if not stopped. It is perhaps emblematic irony that the favorite for Ukraine’s post-coup President is a billionaire sugar-commodity maker producing no food value, but more and more obesity and diabetes.

 

 

World Empire or Globalizing Disease?

 

Left critics coalesce around “US imperialism” as the common cause of the global meltdown on organic, social and ecological levels. Yet it is strange to call a system an “empire” whose imperial center is increasingly hollowed out on every plane; whose interventions and wars destroy productive forces at every level; and whose outcome is not more amenities for the poor, as apologists like Leo Strauss claim, but ever more societies as black holes with life support systems cumulatively devoured.  “Sometimes I think they feel like they’re in a lab and they’re running experiments on rats and not understanding the consequences of what they are doing,” Vladimir Putin wonders in partial sense of the derangement at work.

 

More clearly, the states which the US planned to destroy in 2001 (as reported by General Wesley Clark in his memoirs) – Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Syria – are now in fact destroyed societies.  All but Iran are left with civil war and majority destitution where once they had been relatively prosperous and life secure. For example, before Western bombing of Iraq under the usual blame-the-enemy diversion to its leader (a paid CIA agent implanted in office by the US), Iraq led the Middle East in free public healthcare and higher education, and Libya provided free downpayments for young couples’ housing as well prior to its bombing. U.S.-led interventions and aerial bombing have destroyed the social life-organization of both nations without even the electricity and water back on. Syria was also a middle-income quasi-socialist nation, but was independent, friendly with Russia, and capable of fighting an expanding Israel. So Syria too was marked for destabilization. Its internal protests received US-Israel covert support, and turned quickly into civil war with US special operation forces and orchestrated funding of rival camps including jihadists still incinerating the country. As usual the national leader is blamed for everything. All the while, Iran is periodically threatened with annihilation while Venezuela across the ocean is subjected to US-led destabilization too as in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.

 

While gas bombs have been thrown freely in Venezuela and Ukraine with US support against democratically elected states, Venezuela’s government serves the poor while Ukraine’s has been  oligarchic on both sides. Putin thus understands Ukraine’s protestors as “tired of seeing one set of crooks replacing another”. In contrast, no common life interest at all exists for the US. When bribes of officials, street gangs and press slander are not enough, US-led destabilization by financial system levers, covert operatives and civil war follow behind reverse-projection cover stories.  One can imagine if Molotov cocktails were thrown during the Wall Street uprising as in US-financed protests in Ukraine and Venezuela. “Violence-threatening protestors” is all they can say about peaceful demonstrations at home however just the cause. Concern about people’s lives, in short, never arises except as a media mask. This is why the US-led coup in Ukraine murdered people and usurped democratic process and legal warrant without a pause. It is also why it demanded the sieg-heiling violent thug Oleh Tyanybok of the Svoboda Party to be a chief advisor to the coup government although he blamed a “Muscovite/Jew mafia” for Ukraine’s problems and “Germans, Kikes and other scum” who want to “take away our Ukrainian state”. He is a symptom of the deep-structural derangement of US rule. In all cases – from Honduras to Paraguay, Egypt to Mali – covert funding, forces of destabilization and chaos are the modus operandi with US special operations leading the repertoire of financial destabilization, demonization of resistance, and armed civil-war training. Unlike classic imperialism, the system spreads by greed and fear, never by productive force development and universalizing rights and laws.   

 

Invasive war in 2014 is not so acceptable to the world after the obliteration of the societies and life infrastructures of Iraq and Libya. So drones, suitcases of money, special operations, propaganda campaigns and whatever else can sabotage resistance are deployed to pry societies open for competitively self-multiplying transnational corporations to exploit foreign resources, labor and forced markets. This is known as “the free movement of private capital and commodities”. Until 1991, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still the biggest block and resource treasure of all to US-led global financialization. Thus military encirclement, pervasive international slander, ruinous armaments races and illegal embargoes followed for 50 years. It eventually worked to cause the intended collapse of the Soviet Union by spending it bankrupt on the armaments race, and forcing repression by perpetual war threats from richer societies. But US market magic and miracles for the world’s biggest country and its neighbours did not work at all. So the GDP’s of the Soviet republics fell by 60%, and polls today show that 56% of Ukrainians would prefer to be governed as before. Social priorities and universal life necessities matter more to them than majority dispossession and glitz for the rich. But no Western journalist dares say it. And so the spectacularly failed global capitalist experiment has passed without a word of notice from “the free world”.  It remains unspeakable to name.

 

Yet reality catches up. The US-led empire was itself unravelling in historical time without recognition. Its most gigantic failure has come back to haunt it – running the once relatively well-off societies of the USSR into productive and cultural ruin. “Well and good”, one is taught to think. “The Soviet Union repressed free speech”. But like Cuba today, a state which is continuously threatened with war, plague, assassination and hate by richer states reverts to tight control. But if one considers all the universal sciences, arts, pensions, education, and health-care provision of the Union of Socialist Republics which have been systematically destroyed, the meaning takes on a different complexion. It remains unspeakable but lies at the heart of the Ukraine-Russia crisis today. Nothing is better but only worse in collective life capital evolution.  

 

Many prefer the language of the imperial past. In this way reality is categorized as familiar, not mutant, backward and chaotic. The repetitions are not from “tragedy” to “farce”, as Karl Marx memorably observed in the case of Louis Bonaparte III of France. Today there is nothing but tragedy. It may all seem to be about oil and imperialism, what opponents focus on. Yet possessing others’ oil and territory are comparatively rational objectives compared to the actual performance of metastasising destruction. Far more is spent on unproductive technologies of killing and terror than has been won in new oil and territory. Both land and energy sources have been largely despoiled and wasted. The oil produced in Iraq, for example, is not close to pre-1990 levels and the oil in Libya is the site of unending civil war. The pattern is destroying not producing through generational time.  Corruption and insecurity are universalized, not life as human. Ukraine’s coup now binds it in the pathological direction – more civil strife towards war, more mountains of bank debt, more lack of affordable energy, more ethnic hatred, more mass homicidal weapons, and more rot of dysfunctional wealth inequality.

 

Can this be an advance of empire? Or is it the next sign of morbid overreach, corruption and fall? An empire has a unified center, a state in control of its subjects and private enterprises, a productive capacity that leads the societies within its imperial reach, an historical civilization of architecture, art, and culture, and most of all enduring public infrastructures and great works across its domains of command. The US global system has ever less of any of these. Its imperial center is divided into gridlock, its productive powers have been increasingly exported or surpassed elsewhere, its architecture, arts and culture are increasingly mindless and violence-ridden, its capacities of civilization and public infrastructures are defunded and collapse at every turn. The US now leads only in monopoly of world currency issue, capacities to destroy life and life conditions, and mass propaganda methods. Its transnational corporations are no longer subservient to any imperial center or purpose but multiply their private money sequences on the back of monopolies of force and money-issue paid for by increasingly impoverished citizens.  

 

The collapsing US civilization cannot comprehend its derangement. Its money-party leaders can only see more opportunity for transnational corporate profits – the moral DNA of the cancer system. This is why the destruction of Russia has been long planned by the geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski – first in Afghanistan where he rallied the original jihadists to fight the Soviet Union along with tens of billions in US cash and weapons which developed into 9-11 and the 9-11 wars. In Ukraine the US continues the strategy. In Afghanistan the route to the ex-Soviet oilfields, the US funding was the beginning of the Taliban and al Qaeda forces whose US-manipulated function was and remains destroying societies by armed civil war to complement financial bleeding. This same method bled Yugoslavia and then the USSR dry and has worked from Afghanistan through Iraq and Serbian-Kosovo wars to Syria to Somalia, Mali and Nigeria under many names, but almost always it turns out the terror is manipulated by US money, arms and connections. Today Brzezinski has former Harvard graduate students who strategically game for the Obama administration to smash Russia into ungovernable pieces – the long game.

 

This is not an exaggerated sense of danger, but a long track record. Wrecking the society in crisis is the testable generalization of all US interventions. More exactly, the unseen law of the ruling system across borders including those of the US is: Ever more public money is hemorrhaged into private money sequences with ever more ruined societies the result.

 

Consider Ukraine with this diagnostic principle in mind. We can predict from this system law that only more disintegration of society and mutual life support systems will occur in Ukraine with more US-EU bank and corporate feeding on the post-coup remains. US and EU countries themselves will come apart more in the process, and the US will bleed vastly more public resources to keep metastasising the unrecognized fatal disorder while 90% of its own people and the world grow poorer, more malnourished and life insecure.  

 

 

US Script of Democracy and Freedom versus Facts of Violence and Society Destruction

 

To put the matter in one sentence, the collapse and overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has been financed and directed by the U.S, cored in violence by the Nazi roots of the uprising linked with the US-selected coup leaders now in power, and after the swift take-back of Crimea by Russia fanned into hysteria by the corporate media. Revealingly, the Bandera-loving Nazis on the street leading the chaotic terror of Feb 22-24 caused the overthrow of the legitimate government exactly when the civil battle had already been won.   The elected President Yanukovych made concessions on everything – his PM was fired, the new protest laws against helmets, metal shields, and masks were revoked (even although banned everywhere else), with legitimate democratic turnover of government plainly in sight and further brokered by the EU in presidential succession. But there was no assurance of electoral victory of the US-allied Kiev forces. They had already lost two elections to the federalist Party of Regions and its alliance governments. It was then the US-led violent overthrow happened in bloodshed return of the Nazi past proclaimed as “freedom” and “revolution”. The violent coup was instantly validated by the US state, but the EU paused for days before diverting blame to Russia too.  No media of record appeared to notice that the US had criminally led the coup, and selected and instructed the new coup-government leaders with no vote, no election, and no public discussion. All the while the democratic referendum so abused in Crimea was never imagined for Ukraine by “the free press” and “leaders of the democratic world” even when eastern Ukraine popular uprisings demanded it.

 

The coup was precisely rushed ahead to avoid any election. The US-backed forces had already lost two in a row. No reports mentioned this in the Free World.  The track-switch of attention was instead to Russia. How could the strategy fail? If Putin draws the line at Crimea, he forwards the plan of blaming Russia. If he does not, the long game to dismantle Russia moves faster. If Putin calls a sudden referendum in Crimea to show its citizens’ overwhelming support, he can be ridiculed for “the farce”, “the region under military occupation”, “the gun to the head”. If almost all the people of Crimea want in fact to join the historic mother country in a peaceful vote, just keep repeating “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”, “brute force”, “Russian aggression”. The violent putsch in Ukraine is thus erased from view. It disappears into reverse projection. The most basic reality test is always blocked – Does the society rise or fall in life means available and produced, social life infrastructures and services, employment levels, youth life purpose, and ecological integrity after US-induced “regime change”. It always falls. Is there any exception?  

 

Crimea joining historic Russia again after it was won from the Ottoman Empire centuries ago revealingly goes the opposite way.  Bridges, roads and tunnels are promised and planned in immediately in the wake of the Olympic building spree. Pensions, minimum wages and healthcare are invested in to “raise life standards”. Exposure of the world to Crimea’s historical treasure begins. In contrast, the opposing US-led forces silence the EU agreement for presidential succession in Ukraine, lead coup of the elected government with neo-Nazi snipers and violent chaos, direct IMF austerity and social dispossession for the people’s collapsing life support systems, set the main languages, cultures and identifications of citizens into irreparable division and civil war footing, and proclaim virulently against Russia taking an opposite path.  

 

Dividing society from within with no common or productive goal but only more tearing apart is the generic meaning – as in Yugoslavia before it, Libya and Syria in between, Honduras, Paraguay, where does it stop?  Direct the destabilizing in the street with billions for the purpose, play on real and invented problems, insert special forces to lead the mounting violence, bribe the people with dollars and bananas, divide classes and cultures to the death, proclaim freedom and prosperity, and run the country into the ground with no life construction undertaken nor any life base any longer secure for 90% of the people. The special forces at work here incredibly included Israelis trained in Gaza allying with the legacy of Ukraine Nazism. But the stakes are large and undiscussed. Ukraine is the biggest land mass of Europe, a leading global grain producer, and home to newly found gas-reserves of possibly trillions of cubic feet. The US-led lockdown on all of it is clear in the new coup state.  A neo-liberal banker is Prime Minister, a violence script-writer and chief aide to the Fatherland Party is President, and various neo-fascists are in cabinet positions with none elected. To complete the destruction of democratic legitimacy of Ukraine took only a few hours. But public panic and appointing banker presidents has already been managed in Italy and Greece, why not here too? With no mass media noticing the growing reversal of democracy and freedom in their name, Putin-bashing is the corporate-press game.  

 

 

Media Censorship and the Violation of International Law

 

Crimea joining Russia was the lightning rod for the defining US operation of reverse projection, always blaming the other side for what one is doing oneself as the reason for attacking it. Since the Reagan regime made this the signature operation of US propaganda which is always repeated by the media as fact , an Orwellian rule of big lies has been normalized. Reverse projection combines with the earlier defined ad adversarium fallacy and ruling group-mind to overwhelm all reasoned understanding with cartoon-like masks of good (US) and evil (Them) where fact never interferes. Media-conditioned publics are in this way stampeded through one US-led war and civil war after another with official oppositions rationalizing the same belligerent stupefaction. With only the point of view of the US or its allies reported, only the US story line and point of view can be seen or heard by the great majority.

 

So too in “the Ukraine crisis”. That Russia “invaded Crimea and annexed it against international law” has been the basic story for global denunciation of Russia.  In fact over 80% of Crimeans voted, over three times the electorate participation in the US, and almost all of them for integration with Russia not “annexation by it”.  The striking fact is that given the accuracy of these figures which is not denied, it is far more than could enable Quebec to legally secede from Canada even with universal language rights lacking in Ukraine. By mathematical deduction, the referendum also included the great majority of the nearly 40% identified as Ukrainians and Tatars. How is it that all you ever heard or saw in the mass media were selected opposing voices from Ukrainian and Tatar minorities? This is the ruling censorship by unseen means – selecting out of public view all facts that are not consistent with the ruling script. More exactly, the corporate media select for public showing only what sells the transnational money-sequence system. This is why we never hear of the US placing itself above all international laws as it enforces this ruling program. Its entire record here is blinkered out a-priori. So blame of others easily enters the ruling group-mind internalized by mass media audiences

 

This point is worth pausing on because the US is the very “rogue state”, “international outlaw”, “criminal violator of human rights” and, above all, perpetrator of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” which it is always projecting onto other states. It has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court to uphold the law against war crimes and crimes against humanity, and publicly repudiated the Court’s right to investigate US criminal violations including the “supreme crime” of a war of aggression. While it is always invoking international laws to falsely blame others of violating them (e.g., Syria’s use of chemical weapons), the US has systematically undermined virtually all international laws to protect human life – treaties and conventions against landmines, against biological weapons, against international ballistic missiles, against small arms, against torture, against racism, against arbitrary seizure and imprisonment, against military weather distortions, against biodiversity loss, and against climate destabilization. Even international agreements on the rights of children and of women have been sabotaged. Yet this unrelenting profile of lawless US right to terror and destruction is nowhere published. This is how censorship by selection works without people knowing it.

 

What then are we to say about “Russia’s brutal invasion and seizure of Crimea”?  In fact the number of Russian soldiers in Crimea were fewer than agreed by contract with Ukraine long prior to the referendum.  Crimea is and was also an historic Russian port and strategic peninsula even under Ukraine’s interregnum, and its place in Ukraine occurred only by a 1954 decree of the now-defunct Soviet Union. All of these facts are selected out by corporate media and states which only repeat “Russian brute force”, “illegal seizure of territory”, “war of invasion”, and even “what Hitler did back in the 1930’s” (Hilary Clinton). There is no limit to the absurd hypocrisy of accusation. Thus attention is diverted again and again onto the latest enemy as lawless and the US as law-abiding in contradiction to the facts.

 

In reality, no injury occurred in the peaceful and overwhelmingly popular integration of Crimea with Russia. Ukrainian troops yielded in peaceful transition and were extended offers to stay. There was no bloodshed with one exception – a soldier in Sebastopol murdered by two men at night in masks and a getaway car tied back to the Ukraine coup leaders. They called it “the entry into the stage of military conflict” and the corporate media reported it without evidence or question. But the sniper murders of 21 people in the Kiev uprising by US-led coup agent was already diplomatically registered by March 4. Predictably, every detail was gagged in ‘the free press’ and the official ‘Free World’. Even the EU’s Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to whom the facts of the mass murder were communicated by a fellow Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet of Estonia, remained silent. He reported that in fact the medical and forensic evidence proved all 21 murders were by “the same type of bullets” and from “the same handwriting” which could only be from “the new coalition” [of the coup government]. “The new coalition”, concluded Foreign Minister Paet in English, “don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. So that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”

 

Such mass murder is grounds for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and prosecution by the International Court. But due process of law and criminal prosecution are repressed at the same time as the known diplomatic evidence is silenced in the public sphere. Group-mind, reverse projection and blame-the-enemy operations have become so automatic that the most important historical facts and heinous crimes do no register through their prism. Thus Russia goes on being accused of the “violations of law” and “international law” with John Kerry bawling loudest against the evidence. That the violent coup itself was propelled by mass murder of protestors perpetrated by the US-led insurrection to blame on the elected government has thus never made the news. The murderous logic was again evident in microcosm when troops of the coup state opened fire on unarmed citizens approaching their barracks to talk on the Easter eve of the Geneva agreement to repudiate armed violence. The day after the Geneva accord a worse attack exploded in Slavyansk with gunmen (named as Right Sector, the fascist armed group behind the coup whose activities the accord banned)  racing up in jeeps to a checkpoint killing at least three people including a bus-driver before disappearing. As always the US-orchestrated government in Kiev projected all attacks onto Russia with no evidence.

 

All the while heavy Ukraine armed forces moved into eastern Ukraine blocked by citizens while Kiev’s own central street still remains occupied by coup forces. “Putin’s threats” continue to be manufactured along with “Russia’s forcible annexation of Crimea” despite the inhabitants voting peacefully and overwhelmingly for re-unification with Russia in affirmation of a relationship over two centuries old. Altogether erased from reports are the facts that the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter and “the right of nations to self-determination” (Article 2, Chapter 1), the very right Ukraine invoked in seceding from the USSR in 1991, and the same right invoked for the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Also erased is the UN International Court ruling in July 2010 that “general international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence” Once again we find on closer inspection that what is proclaimed as fact and law by US leaders and allied states is yet another level of a big lie system.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Ukraine crisis is another variation on the great crisis of the world – the undeclared global war of transnational corporate money sequences to multiply themselves through human societies and life on earth in the diagnosable form of an invasive cancer. Yet what is different in Ukraine is that eastern Ukrainian citizens and the world’s largest nation have stood against the new metastasis across traditional borders and cultural regions. Activists with weapons and massive local support across Donetsk region hoist their own flag and demand referendum for constitutional independence from the fascist-led coup state. The elected Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the equivalent of the US Congress, has given unanimous approval for defense of eastern Ukraine protestors against armed assault from the coup government, already underway with NATO flexing armed power all around. Yet this time the resistance cannot be just overrun or bombed. And this time the system DNA begins to be recognized – US-led destruction of societies to ensure their servile dependency and open borders for hollowing out.

 

The very words “Russia” and “Putin” may provoke ruling group-mind reactions pro or con, so analysis here sticks to track records, trends and policy directions – the defining past, present and future lines of system decision on both sides. What is clear now are set-point differences and shifts towards recognition of the society-destroying forces. The most visible shift has been set into motion by the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, big-lie pretexts and serial murders in another US-made civil chaos. But Russia has moved decisively to stop it in the historical process still unfolding. The never-named enemy behind the coup and behind the collapse of evolved social and natural life systems across the planet has been blocked on the ground. Neither Putin nor Russia are a model, but like Venezuela and much of Latin America, they now stand against the invasive disorder overrunning life bases and needs in every region. The deepest issue is the US money-cancer system. In murderously destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government and advancing towards Russia’s borders in the latest metastasis, the pathogenic forces are now confronted by the world’s largest country, the longest-tested army and once socialist superpower. All the lies in the world cannot overwhelm this resistance. Everywhere the US-led collapse of world life security is being decoded outside corporate states and media. The Ukraine crisis, perhaps linked to Russia-China movement from the US oil-dollar, could be a new turning point against the Great Sickness of our world.

 

 

N.B. This contribution is based largely on an essay by John McMurtry published previously on GlobalResearch.ca.

Natalia Loukacheva (ed.), Polar Law Textbook II (Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2013)

The publication is intimately related to the Master’s Programme in Polar Law (run by the University of Akureyri, Iceland), which had housed the initiative in 2012-2013, and the Polar Law Symposium, an annual conference which brings the major experts on Polar issues together and organized by the Polar Law Institute (also based in Akureyri).

Clearing forthwith the air, it must be first said that “Polar Law Textbook” may be a somewhat misleading title. Although the structure actually resembles a proper textbook specifically designed for students, with 15 chapters written in the form of intensive lectures (inclusive of suggestions for further reading and questions aimed to check on the understanding of the text), each contribution is an in-depth, up-to-date, and brilliant review of distinct Polar-Law-relevant issues, suitable therefore not only for students, but also for politicians, decision-makers, scientists and academics. Having said that, the reader must also know that the legal part, albeit being the main focus of the book, is here mostly explained in its social, environmental and historical perspectives, rather than being scrutinized in depth, making the reading feasible also for non-lawyers (just watch out for some “avoidable” difficulties, as for instance the alternation between “UNCLOS”, used by Loukacheva and Heininen (Chapter 1 and 2), and “LOS Convention”, used by McDorman (Chapter 5)).

Overall, the book is a wise balance between innovation and continuation of the first volume, published in 2010. The general concept broadly describing “Polar Law” used in the previous book is here re-proposed verbatim as “a developing field of law that deals with the international and domestic legal regimes that are applicable to the Arctic or the Antarctic, or both”, including also legally non-binding instruments, commonly referred to as “soft law” (e.g., various Memorandums of Understanding concluded by Arctic stakeholders; declarations of the Arctic Council, etc). Furthermore, it has also been re-confirmed that Polar Law as a developing discipline, educational and practical tool, not only cross-cuts distinct branches of Law, e.g. Human Rights Law, Law of the Sea, Environmental Law, Resources Law, Wildlife Law, to name but a few, but also draws upon several areas of the social sciences and humanities, e.g. international studies and politics. Polar Law is indeed a highly multidisciplinary approach to the Arctic and Antarctic legal issues, involving in the debate not only legal experts but also scientists, politicians, practitioners and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

Apparently, a concrete necessity for a second volume was already disclosed in the first book, which, despite its comprehensiveness, left enough room for further research (Chapter 1, Loukacheva, 2010). In fact, each relevant area in the field of Polar Law may include in turn many different topics.  For intance the discourse on indigenous people and governance has been here re-proposed, but focusing on the Sami of Norway and Nunavut instead of the Inuit of Alaska and Chuckotka’s indigenous people, while the common topic of Greenland has been analysed under the lens of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, instead of the legal processes leading to self-determination (2010).

An example of a refreshing new perspective on governance and autonomies in the Arctic is the captivating chapter on “Faroese Governance” (chapter 13, Kari a Rogvi). A seemingly unusual choice at first glance, considering the relevance commonly accorded to indigenous people and autonomy by academics and media alike, the study has revealed itself to be nevertheless essential to introduce the reader to the compelling issue, whilst little studied so far, of the struggles of “small states” in achieving a satisfactory but functional autonomy (missing in the first volume). The author of the chapter suggests as a major outcome that a study on Faroese governance may outline a realistic model for achieving a feasible but high-level degree of autonomy notwithstanding marginal conditions and limited capacities, hopefully serving also as a “workable paradigm for other polar or marginal polities than, say, either Greenland or Iceland”.

Understandably, an additional strong rationale for a new volume was the necessity to update the book with the newest developments occurred during the past three years. Indeed, all the articles were written between May 2012 and February 2013, and were requested to catch the most updated news and tendencies in both regions, as the case of the essay on “The International Legal Regime of the Continental Shelf with Special Reference to the Polar Regions” (Chapter 5, Ted L. McDorman). The author, anticipating that both Canada and Denmark will be submitting information to the Commission on its proposed continental shelf outer limit in the Arctic Ocean, respectively in December 2013 and sometime in 2014, has brilliantly contributed to tackling, with a realistic and expert insight in its legal features, a growing and rather alarmistic media attention on States’ claims.

 

Although the textbook is undoubtedly rich of cutting-edge research aimed to cover a wide range of topics, some of the editor’s choices may not please everybody. An awaited but unfortunately missing insight is probably an in-depth research on the role of non-Arctic States/actors in the rapidly evolving geopolitics of the Arctic. The topic was briefly hinted at in the first volume, while a brief mention is made also in the current one; however, nothing more is offered. Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that countries such as China, India and South Korea, among others, gained the observer status on the Arctic Council only ar the last Arctic Council Ministerial meeting (held in Kiruna, Finland, in May 2013), the speculation on their potential role started way before, while the attention of the media and the interests of scholars have been increasing accordingly.

To conclude, the book is a wide selection of updated Polar law articles dealing with several topics, written in a clear but not superficial language, and truly stimulating. What makes the book even more enjoyable, if anything else was needed,  is perhaps the fact that the possibility for its free download in electronic format has been maintained (as already done for the first volume, published in 2010). This is something that is highly appreciated considering the high level of each contribution and the often-prohibitive prices of Polar-issues related books. A hard copy can also be ordered on the same website for a reasonable price (338 DKK). Specifically, the volume can be downloaded in electronic format or/and ordered in hardcopy format at: http://www.norden.org/en/publications/publikationer/2013-535/

 

 

 

Ethical Challenges Facing Greenland in the Present Era of Globalization: Towards Global Responsibility

 

 

Introduction: Ethics and the Arctic

Recently, the developments of ethics and politics in the Arctic region have again become an issue for international discussion. One main issue is the problem of climate change and sustainability of the Arctic region. This problem is linked to the issue of exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic region, not at least in Greenland. Indeed, the general issue is how we should define ethics of the environment and sustainability as a general principle for the Arctic region. It is important to discuss what is at stake and how we define the problem in relation to the different participating stakeholders.

  Continue reading Ethical Challenges Facing Greenland in the Present Era of Globalization: Towards Global Responsibility

G. Alfredsson, T. Koivurova (eds. in chief), D. Leary, N. Loukacheva (spec. eds.), The Yearbook of Polar Law (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2010)

 

The symposium is now an established annual affair with the first three held in Akureyri and the fourth scheduled in September 2011 in Nuuk, Greenland. Although the symposia continue to provide rich fodder for the yearbook, submissions are encouraged from all scholars in pertinent areas of research. Submissions are subject to double-blind peer review.

 

The Yearbook has attracted some of the best known experts in their respective areas. A subjective selection of the most noted will always be unfair in such a distinguished field, but scholars of international law will recognise, besides the editors, established experts Malgosia Fitzmaurice, Nigel Bankes and  Asbjørn Eide.

 

The Yearbook of Polar Law responds to the growing strategic and economic importance of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The Arctic is changing rapidly, not only geophysically in response to climate shifts but also geopolitically as human technology and security issues give it new social  meanings. Where the Yearbook departs from other Arctic and Antarctic scholarly publications is that it approaches the challenges of the polar regions principally from a legal standpoint. Nevertheless, studies in these areas require almost invariably an interdisciplinary approach: one cannot assess continental shelf claims under the Law of the Sea Convention without a basic grasp of geography; climate change governance without scientific evidence; nor indigenous peoples’ self-determination claims without anthropological and historical knowledge.

 

In contrast to the Polar Law Textbook which is intended as an introduction to Polar Law, the Yearbook is aimed at academics and policy makers already established in their respective areas of expertise.

 

The second volume includes a new “recent developments” section as well as relevant book reviews. What it lacks that was valuable in the first is an overall review of the symposium and the conclusions and recommendations of its participants. That overall review provided an excellent – and gentle – introduction to the sometimes highly technical and specialist papers that follow, in the manner of an introductory chapter in an edited collection of essays. In it, key general issues were identified, including climate change; human rights; new commercial activities at the Poles; shipping challenges; threats to native species; environmental governance; peace, security and dispute settlement. Then specific pressing issues were highlighted: management and protection of at-risk species; a more proactive approach by the International Maritime Organization in identified areas; the need, if any, for new laws, treaties and processes; and living marine resources management. States were advised of areas requiring immediate attention, such as: implementation of existing law; mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change in cooperation with indigenous peoples of the North. Long-term issues were noted:  namely, climate change and environmental governance. Finally recommendations from the symposium’s participants were recorded, aimed towards academics vis á vis needed research and states vis á vis needed action. This summary gives context to the rest of the articles and allows the reader to go on to read any one of the individual contributions with the bigger picture in mind.     

 

While all the articles in the two published volumes could easily have found homes in alternative fora – specialist journals on the law of the sea, environmental law, natural resource law, dispute settlement, human rights, arctic studies as well as general international law and social science volumes – the Yearbook of Polar Law is, as its title indicates, the first journal to draw together all these fields with a specific focus on the Polar Regions. By tying together all these related fields in one publication, it gives scholars, policy makers and stakeholders the opportunity to form a more holistic view of the challenges facing the Polar Regions.

 

At 156 Euros per volume, the Yearbook is presumably aimed at institutional subscribers: law school libraries, governmental institutions and research facilities; principally those focussed on the Arctic and Antarctic. This is a little unfortunate as these perspectives from the Poles are informative not only to specialist researchers at the World’s ends, but for people all over the World facing challenges such as climate change, resource management, territorial disputes and indigenous claims. One can only hope that, price notwithstanding, the Yearbook’s contents will nevertheless reach the wide audience that they merit.

Natalia Loukacheva (ed.), Polar Law Textbook (Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2010)

In conjunction with the programme and with the financial support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the programme director, Natalia Loukacheva, solicited and collated these articles from leading academics, practitioners, politicians and indigenous peoples working in associated disciplines to compile the first ever “textbook” in Polar Law. The four designated aims of the textbook are to promote interdisciplinary education; to disseminate current research and developments; to improve Nordic and Arctic cooperation; to facilitate long-distance education on Polar Law and to encourage Nordic and Arctic collaboration in education (Summary).

 

Polar Law as a concept requires some working definition, even if it is constantly evolving and taking on new fields of inquiry as it matures. This definition is provided by Loukacheva in the introduction who advises us that, “broadly speaking, ‘polar law’ is a developing field of law that deals with the international and domestic legal regimes that are applicable to the Arctic or the Antarctic or both” while also taking into account the normative force of “soft-law” instruments (13).

One immediate question that springs to mind is “why polar law?” What is special about the polar regions that justifies such specialized attention? And despite some superficial similarities between the Arctic and the Antarctic, geologically, politically, sociologically and economically they are, if one will pardon the expression, “poles apart.” Loukacheva raises these questions in her introduction, drawing attention to the most significant differences between the two regions as well as areas of common concern and lessons that one region might have for the other.

On reading the textbook, it becomes apparent that these areas are of ever increasing strategic and political importance and facing challenges of governance and deployment that have serious consequences in much more temperate climates. The focus on polar law suggests a preference for legal regulation to solve problems, but in reality, the approaches taken are all interdisciplinary to greater or lesser extents. Only the chapters on the law of the sea and on human rights and indigenous peoples rely principally on legal sources and even in these chapters, the law is explained in social and environmental context. In other words, whilst to some extent it is assumed that law is one useful tool to address the relevant issues, it is nowhere assumed that law is the only tool, nor even the preferred one.

Although marketed as a “textbook”, the essays do not provide a superficial account of the issues they each address. Instead, the book is packed with information, providing knowledge and analysis that will serve well scholars, scientists and policy-makers in, inter alia, international law, international relations, development, governance, natural resources law and climate change, whether or not they seek a specific focus on the polar regions. Where it shares a “textbook” approach is in the inclusion at the end of each chapter of suggested material for further reading (useful to researchers at all levels) and a pedagogically-focussed list of questions for reflection by the reader.

The content is weighted towards the Arctic, which can be understood to the extent that there is a necessary focus on the social sciences (e.g., economics, Arctic governance) and emphasis is rightly put on indigenous peoples (4 of 11 chapters). The human issues pertaining to the Arctic have no equivalent in Antarctica. There would be scope, however, for further development of Antarctic issues in a future volume, such as questions of governance of the South Pole, legal and political claims to territory, potential exploitation of non-living resources, and other economic interests.

The textbook taps into the most contemporary information available, containing numerous references to developments in 2010. However, the effort to publish the state of the art developments in polar law have come with some editorial costs that might be rectified in a second edition, or a future second volume with new essays dealing with yet to be identified topics. First of all, a non-specialist approaching this textbook may feel at times bombarded by acronyms and it can become difficult to keep these all in focus. Furthermore, the acronyms are not consistently used by different authors, for example, the Law of the Sea Convention is abbreviated to LOSC (45) and later as UNCLOS (214). The inclusion of a simple table of acronyms could make it much simpler for authors to use the same acronyms and for readers to check these quickly when memory fails. The styles of the questions also vary between chapters, with some being answerable by reflection of the contained text alone and others requiring further research. There are formatting inconsistencies, with most chapters listing questions at the end of the text, but chapter six including these after subsections within chapters, and some typographical and layout errors. Ultimately, however, the technical detractions of the textbook should not detract from its innovative content.

Finally mention should be made of the open-access nature of the project and the willingness to make this content available to as wide an audience as possible without the barrier of cost. The book is available for purchase in hard copy, but can be downloaded in its entirety in pdf form free of charge, something that cash-strapped students and universities in developed and developing countries alike will no doubt embrace enthusiastically.

* Online pdf version: 

 http://www.norden.org/en/publications/publications/2010-538