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‘No Coherence’: Hawkish US Think Tank Blasts Pentagon’s Lack of Arctic Policy


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Academics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a hawkish Washington, DC, think tank with heavy influence over US foreign policy, have criticized the paucity of the Pentagon’s Arctic policy, where it ostensibly aims to challenge growing Russian and Chinese presence as global warming opens the region’s icy sea lanes.

With Arctic sea routes expected to become ice-free in summertime as early as the 2040s, nations are rushing to position themselves to maximally benefit from the newly available sea lanes. However, for policy wonks at think tanks like CSIS, US policy toward changing circumstances in the region has been largely reactive and lacks depth.

‘US Does Not Know What It Wants’

“There’s no coherence to it,” Heather Conley, CSIS’ senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic, told the Washington Times on Monday about the US Arctic policy. “Our strategy ends up being a description of what Russia and China are doing in the Arctic because we are not really able to articulate what we are doing in the Arctic.”

“The US does not know what it wants. It does not know what it wants to accomplish. It does not have a positive policy agenda. And the problem is our adversaries know what they want. The strategy is just reacting to what they can do,” Conley told the paper.

In a May 2019 paper for CSIS, Conley blasted “stagnation” on the matter by both the Obama and Trump administrations, noting “the United States ‘makes do’ by ‘making it work’” with other nations in the region.

RIA Novosti .

Arctic Ice Melting

“Years of underinvestment now leaves the United States ill-prepared as other nations prioritize the region as one of future geostrategic value,” she stated, noting as one example the 800-mile distance between the strategically important Bering Strait waterway and the closest US deep water port, Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutian Islands chain.

“To date, the United States does not have a meaningful policy response to either Russia’s or China’s increased economic and military ambitions in the region,” Conley wrote. “For now, Washington is acknowledging Russia and China’s growing footprint in the Arctic, but it is allowing both nations to largely shape the region’s future. With the exception of the construction of a polar security cutter, there are no other significant infrastructure initiatives on the horizon.”

Pentagon Attacks Russia’s Claims

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy handed Congress its Arctic Strategy report in June of last year, in which it elaborated what policy it does have toward the region.

Curiously, while the report attacks Russia as “claim[ing] the right to regulate Arctic waters in excess of the authority permitted under international law,” the Pentagon levels the same criticism at US ally Canada.

“Russia views itself as a polar great power and is the largest Arctic nation by landmass, population, and military presence above the Arctic Circle,” the Pentagon report states. “Russia’s commercial investments in the Arctic region have been matched by continued defense investments and activities that strengthen both its territorial defense and its ability to control” the Northern Sea Route. The report notes increased Russian defense efforts in the region, including refurbishing old airfields and establishing “a network of air defense and coastal missile systems.”

“China’s operational presence in the Arctic is more limited. It includes China’s icebreaking vessels, the Xuelong and newly-constructed Xuelong 2, and civilian research efforts, which could support a strengthened, future Chinese military presence in the Arctic Ocean, potentially including deployment of submarines to the region,” the report states.

AFP 2020 / STR

Man taking a photo of Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, literally “snow dragon” (File)

Russia’s interest in the Arctic comes as little surprise: it has 15,000 miles of Arctic coastline, according to Russia’s Arctic Institute. China, however, is at least 900 miles from the Arctic Circle at the country’s northernmost point – even longer if the trip is by sea – and has little in the way of economic investment in the region, which is mostly closed to fishing.

‘A Polar Silk Road’

China spelled out its entitlement to the region, despite not having an Arctic shoreline, in a January 2018 white paper.

“China is an important stakeholder in Arctic affairs,” the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China white paper stated. “Geographically, China is a ‘Near-Arctic State,’ one of the continental States that are closest to the Arctic Circle. The natural conditions of the Arctic and their changes have a direct impact on China’s climate system and ecological environment, and, in turn, on its economic interests in agriculture, forestry, fishery, marine industry and other sectors.”

However, the report states the Belt and Road Initiative, an increasingly expansive infrastructure network across Eurasia, Africa, the Pacific and even Europe, “will bring opportunities for parties concerned to jointly build a ‘Polar Silk Road,’ and facilitate connectivity and sustainable economic and social development of the Arctic.”

US, UK Navies Drill in Barents Sea

However, just four days ago, the US Navy and British Royal Navy dispatched warships to the Barents Sea, a waterway north of Norway that forms Russia’s primary northern gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, for the first time since the 1980s.

Sputnik / The Norwegian Armed Forces

Battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy

Four destroyers, accompanied by a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and an RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft, performed their own drills in the area for a week while Russia’s Northern Fleet performed its own drills nearby, Sputnik reported.

“The Arctic is an important region and our naval forces operate there, including the Barents Sea, to ensure the security of commerce and demonstrate freedom of navigation in that complex environment,” US Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said in a May 8 news release by the US Navy. “Our operations with the UK demonstrate the strength, flexibility, and commitment of the NATO Alliance to freedom of navigation throughout the Arctic and all European waters.”

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Record number of people claim unemployment benefits in Spain as coronavirus leaves millions out of work — RT Business News

Despite unemployment rising at a slower pace in April, some 3.8 million people were left without jobs, and the number depending on benefits hit a record 5.2 million, Spain’s Labor Ministry has revealed.

Last month, the number of Spaniards who registered as jobless rose by nearly eight percent, meaning that 282,891 people were rendered out of work as the country imposed strict restrictions to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The figures published by the ministry on Tuesday are lower than the ones seen in March, when unemployment rose by over nine percent.

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Spain’s economy may dive 12.4% this year amid coronavirus lockdown uncertainty

Those working in food and beverage services have felt most of the pain of the coronavirus-induced crisis, with over 720,000 losing their jobs, while workers in the retail and wholesale trade industries were also hit hard, along with accommodation services.

April’s filings have pushed unemployment to its highest figure in nearly four years, according to AP. At the same time, the country’s Minister of Labor Yolanda Diaz said the benefits paid by the government to nearly 5.2 million people amounted to a “historical record.”

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Eurozone faces deep economic crisis after its worst quarter ever

Last week, Spain’s economy minister said that the nation’s economy is set to fall even deeper than it did amid the Great Recession of 2008-2013, partly confirming predictions made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The ministry expects that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) will contract by 9.2 percent this year. According to the worst-case scenario released earlier by Spain’s central bank, the country’s economy may dive by 12.4 percent in 2020 if the Covid-19 lockdown lasts up to 12 weeks.

Spain, the worst affected country in Europe by number of coronavirus infections, started easing restrictions after nearly two months of lockdown on Sunday. Some small businesses, including shops and salons, started reopening on Monday, while still observing strict disease control protocols.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

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April Jobs Report May Show Highest Monthly Unemployment Rate Ever Recorded – Economists


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The US Labor Department’s employment report for April, which will be released Friday, is expected by experts to show that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the largest one-month hit to the US labor force ever recorded.

According to economists who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, the new report will show that from March 15 to April 18, the unemployment rate increased by 16.1%, and employers eliminated 22 million nonfarm payroll jobs, which is “the equivalent of eliminating every job created in the past decade,” the outlet noted. 

About 26.5 million claims for unemployment were filed in the US between March 15 and April 18. Another 3.8 million people filed unemployment claims during the week afterward; however, that number will be represented in the May jobs report.

The job losses would result in the highest unemployment rate since 1948, when that figure started being reported. In addition, the number of jobs lost in the month of April would be the highest since 1939.

The April statistics are in sharp contrast to the unemployment rate recorded in February, which was at a half-century low of 3.5%, the Wall Street Journal reported. The report will also show the industries most affected by the pandemic. According to University of Chicago economist Joseph Vavra, the six industries most impacted by the virus are restaurants and bars; travel and transportation; entertainment; personal services, such as dentists, day care providers and barbers; some retail stores; and some manufacturers, like those of aircraft and cars.

Arizona State University economist Alexander Bick, who conducts online surveys to determine unemployment rates, estimates that the unemployment rate between April 12 and 18 was 16.2% compared to 20.2% in late March. However, he believes the decline in unemployment was caused by Americans leaving the labor force, rather than by more people finding work.

“Just because you’re not counted as unemployed doesn’t mean you don’t want a job. And a lot of people fall in that category now. In times like these, it’s better to look at the employment rate,” Bick told the Journal.

Bick’s data also shows that more women than men lost their jobs from mid-March to mid-April, although men’s job losses picked up recently due to layoffs in construction and office work. Furthermore, his data showed that people older than 50 lost more jobs than younger people.

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