In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin's criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the "autonomous" republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia's Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, Kalmykia, Kamchatka, Tatarstan, Tuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the "destruction forever" of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression.
Exiled leaders of Russia's Itelmen, Kamchadal, Udege, Shor, Saami and Selkup indigenous peoples issued a statement on March 10 declaring that they are "outraged by the war President Putin has unleashed against Ukraine. At the moment, the entire population of Ukraine is in grave danger. Old people, women and children are dying. Cities and towns of an independent country are being destroyed because their inhabitants did not want to obey the will of a dictator and a tyrant." The statement adds: "As representatives of Indigenous peoples, we express solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle for freedom and are extremely concerned about ensuring the rights of Indigenous peoples during the war on Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula that remains illegally occupied by Russia."
Belarus on Feb. 28 voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that include dropping the country's nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country's territory, saying: "If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions."
Climate change is "unequivocal" and rapidly intensifying, and some of the changes already in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years, finds the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Aug. 9. The IPCC Working Group I report, "Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis," was approved by 195 member governments of the IPCC, having been prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries. The report concludes that human influence has warmed the planet at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe—including heatwaves, droughts, and tropical cyclones.
The government of Greenland announced July 23 that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory "wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis... The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain." While no oil has been found yet, the US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory's lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to achieve independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark.
In snap elections April 6, Greenland's indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland's south, has divided the territory's political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the "potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths," adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resources owns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals.
After a week of blockading an airstrip and road to an iron mine on north Baffin Island, a small group of Inuit protesters packed up their tents Feb. 11, agreeing to give dialogue with authorities a chance after the mining company won an injunction ordering them to disband their encampment. The self-declared Nuluujaat Land Guardians began blocking access to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp’s Mary River mine on Feb. 4. The group of seven men travelled by snowmobile from the communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, journeys of approximately 12 hours and 36 hours, respectively. The protesters oppose a proposal for expansion that would see the mine's output of iron ore double to 12 million metric tons per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometer railway to the facility. The Land Guardians say the expansion would drive caribou away and harm other wildlife in the area, including narwhal, upon which their communities depend for subsistence.
Native American activist Winona LaDuke and a small group of opponents of the planned Line 3 oil pipeline project braved frigid winds Dec. 15 to demonstrate outside the Enbridge Energy office in Park Rapids, Minn. LaDuke and her self-proclaimed "water protectors" carried signs reading "Mother Earth Revolution," "We are here for the future," and "Protect climate, water, treaties." The planned pipeline would bring more shale oil from northern Canada to US markets. Local Ojibwe bands in Minnesota have brought legal challenge against the pipeline, asserting that the potential for oil spills from the line poses a risk to their treaty-guaranteed hunting, fishing and gathering rights.