Friday, May 15, 2020

China and Russia are making moves in Antarctica while no-one is watching

While all this coronavirus stuff has been going on, the world's attention has obviously not been focussed on Antarctica. But that might turn out to be a problem down the road.
Most Western countries with scientific interests in Antarctica - including USA, UK, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands - have severely curtailed their activities there in recent months. Russia and China, however, have not, and have if anything increased their Antarctic activities. Which has some countries concerned about their motives and the transparency of their Antarctic operations.
While most countries' presences in Antarctica are indeed science-driven, geared to climate change and biodiversity issues for example, there is increasing evidence that China and Russia have resource extraction (mining and oil drilling) and fishing on their minds.
Antarctica is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty System, which is dedicated to preserving and protecting the continent for scientific research, and which specifically bans nuclear activity and mining. Which sounds like a slam dunk, but the treaty comes up for renegotiation in 2048 (less than 30 years away now), and there are hints that China and Russia are looking for a radical departure from the current treaty setup. China has been pursuing krill fishing operations in Antarctic waters (yes, krill, the essential basis for most oceanic food chains, apparently has some commercial value for "krill oil"), and Russia has recently re-commenced seismic surveying (supposedly for purely scientific reasons).
It's such a bore that everyone has to be constantly vigilant of China and Russia, not just in Antarctica but in everything they do. They're always trying to "get ahead" in some way, usually by some subterfuge or devious trick. The USA under Trump has been going in that direction too, but it remains a rank amateur at the side of China and Russia. There is just no transparency in anything they do, and it is no surprise that absolutely no-one trusts them as far as they can throw them ... which obviously is no distance at all.

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