- by Hannah Middleton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2065
The military tentacles of imperialism reach out into all parts of the globe as it struggles to maintain its domination. The Arctic is no exception.
The US has an imperial strategy in which it will use its Thule Air Base in Greenland to project its power into the Arctic.
This is a growing arena of geopolitical and military competition. The move comes as competition over the Arctic’s resources with Russia intensifies as polar ice melt opens access to rich mineral resources and the new Cold War heats up.
On 2nd June this year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US would open a diplomatic office in the Norwegian Arctic town of Tromsoe.
The Pentagon has plans to increase its presence and capabilities, with the Army releasing its first strategic plan for “Regaining Arctic Dominance.” The US Air Force has transferred dozens of F-35 fighter jets to Alaska, announcing that the state will host “more advanced fighters than any other location in the world.”
In 1951, the Truman administration acquired the Thule Air Base in Greenland. Thule provided refuelling for long-range Boeing B-29 bombers that could fly directly from the US to the then Soviet Union with nuclear weapons.
The base illegally stored nuclear weapons, including Nike, Hercules and Iceman missiles with nuclear warheads. Thule was also linked to the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System constructed between 1958 and 1960.
In 2020, Thule was placed under the command of the newly created Space Force.
Many workers at Thule have developed cancers from radiation exposure, as have members of a clean-up crew who collected snow contaminated with plutonium after a B-52 carrying hydrogen bombs crashed near the base in 1968.
In April this year Thule was officially renamed Pituffik Space Base.
The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), which represents all Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, welcomed the new Inuit name but called for investigation into the effects of the construction of the military base and colonisation in general on the area.
The ICC wants an investigation into the consequences of the forced displacement of the indigenous Inuit families to make way for the base and also the impact on the use and preservation of knowledge about places, resources, hunting grounds, and free movement across Inuit land.
In 1960, US army engineers began building Camp Century, a nuclear powered subterranean city under the Greenland ice near the Arctic Circle.
The project was intended to research the environment on the ice sheet in order to enable the US to establish its military supremacy in the Arctic.
Camp Century’s tunnels contained a nuclear reactor, research, and living quarters plus a hospital, a shop, a theatre and a church. The total number of inhabitants was approximately 200, mostly military personnel and scientists.
This “city under the ice” was no secret but its true purpose was. In reality, Camp Century was designed as the first step toward the military’s Project Iceworm, a top secret program which aimed to install a vast network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites that could survive a first strike inside the ice. It was closed down in 1966.
In 1959, as the Cold War reached a fever pitch, the US military planned a colossal underground highway of tunnels stretching across more than 52,000 square miles below Greenland’s ice sheet that would enable the launch of up to 600 specially designed nuclear missiles at virtually any target in the then Soviet Union.
Camp Century was shut down in 1966, as it was extremely difficult and costly to maintain and the development of Polaris nuclear missiles launchable from submarines made it obsolete.
However, its remains may soon resurface. Its toxic and radioactive waste, up to 70 meters beneath the surface of the ice, includes not only buildings but also radioactive, chemical, and biological waste. Due to global warming, melting ice could release the nuclear waste plus 200,000 litres of diesel fuel, carcinogenic PCBs, and 24 million litres of untreated sewage into the environment as early as 2090.