Commentary

Obama Rejects Alaskan Oil and Gas as Putin Prepares for Arctic War

Ron Arnold
By Ron Arnold | February 5, 2015 | 11:43 AM EST

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Will President Obama’s new drilling policy give the Arctic over to Russian domination?

The anger, outrage and frustration in Alaska are palpable after the president stripped the state of vast stores of its oil and gas wealth. His reckless offshore oil and gas restrictions reduced Alaska’s Arctic Ocean presence to one exploration site each in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and left us with the lowest number of prospects in the history of the Outer Continental Shelf leasing program.

Alaska’s U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and at-large Rep. Don Young, all Republicans, vowed at a press conference to fight Obama’s offshore decision, which came only days after his Interior Department announced the shocking designation of nearly all of Alaska’s 19.6-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as untouchable wilderness lands. These two moves would lock up the nation’s richest continental oil prospect and lock up America’s share of the Arctic Ocean’s estimated 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of its oil reserves.

The famously outspoken Rep. Young said, “It’s becoming undeniably clear that this administration does not view Alaska as a sovereign state, but rather an eco-theme park for the most extreme environmentalist allies of the president and his party.”

Young didn’t know how stunningly accurate his claim would turn out to be. A day later, a story about some of Obama’s “most extreme environmentalist allies” broke under the headline, “Foreign Firm Funding U.S. Green Groups Tied to State-Owned Russian Oil Company.”

Former Heritage Foundation investigative reporter Lachlan Markay wrote for the Free Beacon that Russian money for anti-oil and gas campaigns had been laundered through a Bermuda investment house, bank, and shell corporation and the California-based Sea Change Foundation.

“The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters and the Center for American Progress were among the recipients of Sea Change’s $100 million in grants in 2010 and 2011,” Markay wrote.

John Podesta, White House Counselor to Obama, founded the Center for American Progress, which acts as a two-way pipeline for administration and Democratic Party policy promotion.

One of Markay’s key sources was an untitled, exceptionally detailed report by the Washington-based research group, Environmental Policy Alliance, replete with names, amounts, source documents and infographics.

It reveals money flows from two notorious Russian money launderers—the convicted IPOC Group run by Russian telecommunications minister Leonid Reiman and Russian telecom firm VimpelCom, which is under criminal investigation. Both Mikhail Fridman, VimpelCom’s majority owner, and Reiman are close advisors to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In addition, three Russian energy investment firms kick in money to Wakefield Quinn, a Bermuda law firm which runs it through Klein, Ltd., an “exists-only-on-paper” firm with Kremlin ties that was mentioned in a 2014 Senate majority report on “Billionaire Club” donors to environmental groups.

Klein passes the money to Sea Change, which dispenses it in perfectly legal laundered grants to U.S. anti-oil-and-gas green groups.

That’s infuriating, but what’s it got to do with Obama’s war on Alaska’s Arctic offshore oil and gas resources?

Well, perhaps everything: While President Obama panders to the extreme environmental left, Putin prepares for an Arctic war.

The very day Rep. Young slapped Obama for appeasing his extremist green group base, the respected global intelligence company Stratfor released a report titled, “Russia’s Plans for Arctic Supremacy.”

As Obama retreats from the Arctic Ocean with contempt for its fossil energy might, Putin sees in it global power. Russia is laying claim to great swaths of Arctic oil and gas with deployed rigs, more nuclear-powered icebreakers and a huge new strategic military command: the Northern Fleet, which represents two-thirds of the entire Russian Navy.

In addition, Putin has activated Arctic warfare units in a 6,000-soldier military group with two motorized infantry brigades and air force facilities from the Soviet era on the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, “renovated to accommodate modern and next generation fighter aircraft in addition to advanced S400 air defense systems,” the report says. In other words, according to Stratfor, the Russians are out to dominate the retreating United States.

Putin is no fool when it comes to dealing with weak enemies – witness Ukraine. He is particularly harsh on those who give policy power to the sort of people he puts in jail. Putin is grabbing Arctic resources while Obama turns his back on them.

The U.S. has no leadership anywhere in the high north and Russia does. There are no U.S. military bases on the entire Alaskan Arctic coast; our fighter pilots have to fly long distances to intercept increasingly numerous and bold incursions.

In August and September of last year, Russian jets made several incursions to the Air Defense Identification Zones off the coast of Alaska (officials say such incidents happen around 10 times a year), and Russian strategic bombers in the Labrador Sea near Canada practiced cruise missile strikes on the United States. American and Canadian fighters intercepted and diverted the Russians.

Russia has increased its bomber patrols and submarine activity and is watching Obama’s every move with a newly opened Arctic military reconnaissance drone base 420 miles off mainland Alaska.

The United States lacks ships able to operate in or near Arctic ice – two medium icebreakers to Russia’s 25 nuclear-powered monsters that look like battleships. We could send our ships, but Arctic Alaska has scant support facilities and hopelessly inadequate communications.

Our nation is in a bind that few even realize. Who will take action and put our energy wealth to use for the strength of America?

Alaska is in the middle of that bind. Alaska is not nearly angry, outraged and frustrated enough with President Obama, Harvard Law graduate—and not yet fearful enough of President Putin, former lieutenant colonel, KGB.

Ron Arnold is a free-enterprise activist, author and commentator. He pioneered investigative methods to expose money and power links of the American left in nine books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. He is a veteran consultant for non-profit organizations and businesses faced with crisis situations and governmental abuses.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Heritage Foundation.