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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

Putin-Xi “friendship” threatens Arctic

A new report quoted in the Globe and Mail suggests how Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping’s “friendship without limits” is progressing: Russia is giving very generously in exchange for China buying its oil.

The report by Strider Technologies says China is gaining a major foothold in the Arctic as Russia shifts its defense priorities to the war in Ukraine. Since Putin’s invasion, 234 Chinese-owned companies have registered to operate in the Russian-controlled Arctic, Strider said, an 87% increase on the two years prior. Besides resource exploitation and investment aimed at developing Russia’s Northern Sea shipping route, the two have been deepening security ties in the form of joint exercises in the Bering Sea.

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Graphic Truth: Russia's icebreaker fleet dwarfs US & Canada

When you think of an island nation, what comes to mind? Maybe the vast archipelagoes of Indonesia and the Philippines? Or Japan, which discovered over 6,000 more islands in its territory this year thanks to advancements in satellite cartography?

Probably not Canada, right? Well, the fact is with over 52,000 islands, Canada has more than three times as many as any of the above countries. What’s more, three of the 10 largest islands on earth are found in Canada’s arctic archipelago, which results in Canada having – by far – the longest national coastline in the world.

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A NASA satellite image from September 16, 2007 and released on September 21, 2007, shows Arctic summer sea ice. Arctic sea ice melted to its lowest level ever this week, shattering a record set in 2005 and continuing a trend spurred by human-caused global warming, scientists said on September 20, 2007.


Rising temps and tensions in the Arctic

As leaders convene in Reykjavik, Iceland, for the Arctic Circle Assembly, geopolitical tensions are rising as fast as the Arctic’s sea level.

Historically, Arctic diplomacy has been shielded from external matters. But melting sea ice is opening up new military, trade, and extraction opportunities up north, pitting NATO Arctic countries against China and Russia, which have been proactively showing dominance in the region.

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line graph of shipping volume through the arctic

Paige Fusco

The Graphic Truth: Shipping volume through the Russian Arctic

Climate change has opened Arctic shipping channels that can be navigated by freighters without icebreakers for several months a year – and year-round with icebreakers. Canada and Russia dominate the region, but Moscow is much more aggressively exploiting the economic opportunities there.

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Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspects remote Arctic garrisons.


Northern exposure

Russia’s been nothing if not provocative this week – from Putin’s virtual BRICS address and the fiery death of Yvegeny Prigozhin to showboating in the polar region. Scientists this week stretched a 1,400-square-metre Russian flag on the Arctic ice to mark Russia’s Flag Day.

The Arctic University of Norway Professor Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv told The Barents Observer that the move was a provocation: “They are not just raising a flag. It’s a massive flag. It’s a sign of dominance. And I suspect it’s a sign of defiance,” she said, noting how Russia likely feels emboldened to flex its muscle while the work of the Arctic Council is halted, owing to the war in Ukraine.

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Luisa Vieira

The Graphic Truth: The politics of polar bears

There’s a new “cold” war playing out through inaction on climate change, and it’s melting ice in the Arctic. The casualties? Polar bears. Nanuit – as they’re called in Inuktitut (the language of the Inuit) – roam across the Arctic, and can be found in the US, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. They rely on sea ice to hunt, mate, and raise their young, making them particularly vulnerable to climate change.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping surrounded by other members of the Chinese government at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 5, 2023.

REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Hard Numbers: Xi’s tea party, Hamburg church shooting, deadly DRC attack, Russians favoring China, blight of the living dead

2: He’s got a thirst for power. Keeping your tea hot is a symbol of political relevance in China, and President Xi Jinping is setting himself apart at this year’s National People’s Congress by having … two tea cups placed before him (and just one for everyone else).

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