Arctic Warming and Eurasian Grand Strategies

In May 2013, several Asian countries obtained the status of “permanent observer” at the Arctic Council, the body that gathers the eight countries bordering the Arctic. These new “observers” are China, India, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan (Russia Today, Northern exposure, May 15, 2013). This rush of Asian (some of them tropical and equatorial) countries to the Arctic is one of the most important dimensions of the current global race to the Arctic region (see Valantin, “Arctic, the New great game”), triggered by the combination of the rapid warming of the North and the global competition for natural resources (Klare, The Race for what’s left, 2013). The new grand strategies ruling over this race to the Arctic, which combine national …

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The Arctic Power Race: the New Great Game

This post opens a new series dealing with the Arctic, its environmental change and its evolving geopolitics and security. The Arctic death spiral, or “Melting is coming” Thanks to the widespread rapid melting of Arctic sea ice during the 2013 summer season, a Chinese freighter crossed the famous Northwest passage, shortening its journey from Dalian, China, to Rotterdam, by more than two weeks in August 2013. Between 22 and 26 September, the Nordic Orion, a bulk freighter going from Vancouver, Pacific Canada, to Finland, used the same passageway. It was transporting coal. The opening of this mythical passageway in summer over the last few years is the result of the way global warming is massively impacting the whole Arctic region. …

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The Persian Gulf, between Power and Collapse

A tale of two cities:  Warsaw, Teheran At the international United Nations conference on climate change in Warsaw, Poland, started on the 12th of November, the Philippine diplomat begged for the negotiators to find an international binding accord on climate, one day after a monster storm left a trail of mass destruction in his country. At the end of tense negotiations, it was established that each country should define national contributions for this global effort, which will be discussed during further negotiations. At the very same time, in Geneva, a historic deal was struck between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany, about Iran nuclear program: Teheran promised to suspend it, in exchange of a …

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Climate of Change on the Red Sea

Since the “Arab spring” in 2011, one has seen a series of old and entrenched dictatorships topple (Georges Corm, Le Proche-Orient éclaté, 2012), from Tunisia to Yemen, or, as in Syria, being replaced by a monstrous civil war. However, the very complex political forces thus unleashed, are not only rooted in the changing social, political and religious Middle-East context. New socio-environmental dynamics have also appeared, which reveal the dire vulnerability of some of these societies, about to lose the very resources upon which they depend. So, they struggle to find new resources, or new ways and means, in a very tense strategic context. These new trends are particularly impressive around the Red Sea, where Middle-East power relations are deeply transformed by …

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Surviving the Gulf of Aden: a New Strategic Paradigm for the Future of the Region

On 15th September 2013, saboteurs blew up the pipeline linking Yemeni oil fields in the North to the Hodeidah export terminal, on the Red Sea coast. It was the third time in two months. In the meantime, the Yemeni political life was also marked by a deluge of US drone strikes against militants of “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (AQAP).  On 18th October, a militia of armed and well-organised Islamist militants attacked a Yemeni military base in the Southeast, preceded by a car bomb suicide attack, which killed five soldiers. The two following weeks saw endless attacks and manifestations, against the government as well as sectarian violence, leaving dozens dead. In the meantime, on the other side of the Gulf of …

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Somali Piracy: a Model for Tomorrow’s Life in the Anthropocene?

Pirates, scientists and climate change “It was like the wild west out there”. This comment was not made by a soldier after fighting in the streets of Bagdad, or by a police officer coming back from a difficult raid in a dangerous favela in Rio. No, it was made by Peter deMenocal, a marine geologist of …

Climate Change, a Geostrategic Issue? Yes!

“Winter is coming” This is the motto of the Starks, the eminent feudal family depicted in “Game of Thrones”, the fantasy novel series, by George R.R. Martin [1]. Its members are involved in numerous and interlocking power struggles between the different Houses of a kingdom, whose ruler is weak ( and meets a sad fate). This continent is dominated by a strange climate, divided in two seasons, a summer and a winter, each potentially lasting several years. Winters can be fearfully cold and snowy, induce mass starvation for a very long time, as well as terrible conflicts, and decide, by their harshness, like war, of the destiny of nations. When “Winter is coming”, the moment has come to get prepared for times dominated by cold, despair and …

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