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Russia and the Race for the Arctic

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In 2007, Russia planted a titanium flag in the chilly arctic depths at the North Pole. "Our task is to remind the world that Russia is a great Arctic and scientific power," said the leader of the expedition.

Global climate change has caused unprecedented changes to the Arctic environment, especially a rapid decrease in the summer sea ice sheet. While perilous to the survival of the iconic polar bear, many humans are watching these changes with an eye to what riches an open Arctic Ocean might bring forth: in oil and gas, mining, and open-water transportation. Five countries can lay claim to the potential wealth of the Arctic Ocean: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States. But it is Russia and Canada in particular that have jumped out to the early lead in this new race for the Arctic. This month, Nicholas Breyfogle and Jeffrey Dunifon explore Russia’s long history in the Arctic and the roots of its current assertive policies in the region.

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