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Bear’s And Barack’s Great Arctic Distraction

President Obama has been joking from the White House’s Instagram account about his encounter in the Alaskan wilderness with survivalist Bear Grylls. You’ll never guess what he said.

“Glad this was the only Bear I met in the park.”

Yes. It’s for spur-of-the-moment quips like this that the President so often hears himself mentioned in phrases like “funnier than the bastard lovechild of Richard Pryor and Chris Rock…on crack!!!” (Until he wakes up, at any rate).

I’m afraid I find myself similarly sceptical of claims that POTUS may have gone on some kind of “crash survival course” for his appearance on the NBC show Running Wild with Bear Grylls.

Yeah. That would have happened. The most powerful leader in the world really would have spent time alone in the wilderness with just Bear Grylls and a skeleton camera crew, scavenging for edible insects and drinking his own urine, without the presence of a vast Secret Service protection team, or a portable luxury hotel suite or his personal chef dispensing organic wheatgrass shots.

So what exactly was going on here?

My suspicion is that some bright spark somewhere in the Obama team recognised that his Arctic summit in Anchorage, Alaska, over the weekend was going to be a massive flop, and staged this stunt as a distraction not dissimilar to the ones Putin’s people arranges when he’s pictured naked from the waist up disembowelling a freshly killed bear with his teeth.

If so, this person deserves a medal, because it was a flop. Obama – who, remember, has staked his presidency on his environmental achievements – hoped to use the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic to urge swifter pan-global action on climate change.

But as is increasingly the way these days, the big emerging economies just weren’t playing ball.

Here was Russia Today‘s take:

The US-led GLACIER environmental conference in Anchorage ended with a joint declaration calling for more international action to tackle climate change. But Russia (the world’s leading oil and gas producer), China (the world largest producer of goods), and India with its huge emerging economy opted not to sign the document, however nonbinding it might appear. For China and India reducing emissions entails huge expenditure and loss of economic effectiveness, and for Russia the upcoming environmental deal brings additional costs to the oil and gas extraction industries. Moscow is boosting Russia’s presence in the Arctic, including militarily, for at least two reasons: future hydrocarbons extraction and the Northern Sea Route, a much shorter way from Asia to Europe, which could soon be operable year-around because of less ice in the Arctic Ocean.

As Fox News reminds us, 40 per cent of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves lie under the Arctic. Greenpeace and its amen corner in the White House may not want them to be exploited. But not everyone is quite so squeamish about the environmental consequences. China, for example, has begun pointedly referring to itself as a “near Arctic state.” Does this mean it wants to devote more efforts to preserving polar bears? Probably not.

But don’t worry, it’s all OK. Funny stories about POTUS drinking his own urine (or not!) with TV’s hunky Bear Grylls make nasty geopolitical problems vanish just like that!

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