One of the most important (but little-covered) geopolitical events of recent years is the contest over the Artic. With polar ice receding, raw materials and a vital geostrategic position is becoming available for exploitation. The Arctic Circle contains crucial minerals and gas reserves, and not surprisingly there has been a scramble to acquire those resources. According to Der Spiegel, Russia is about to unveil a plan to expand its borders by at least 150 miles and 463, 000 square miles. Russia already depends on the Arctic region for 11% of its GDP and 22% of export earnings. Expansion would likely yield more material riches.
Geopolitics is not just a matter of balance sheets, however. There is a strong element of nationalism involved that would make even Halford Mackinder blush. Der Spiegel also has a rather hilarious quote from political scientist Alexander Dugin advocating expansion:
"The purpose of our being lies in the expansion of our space. The shelf belongs to us. Polar bears live there, Russian polar bears. And penguins live there, Russian penguins."
I hate to rain on Mr. Dugin's parade, but there aren't any penguins in the Arctic. That being said, some national security bigwig is probably going to use this statement as evidence of a "Penguin Gap" that needs to be corrected lest we let those Russkies gain an advantage.