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Russia Moves to Protect Her Arctic Interests

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Russia has embarked on a massive and much publicized effort to secure the 6,200 km of her northern border and to be ready to defend her interests in the Arctic shelf up to 500 km from her border. This means that 3,100,000 square kilometers of extremely difficult and inhospitable terrain will have to be secured. Why such a huge effort?

First and foremost, because of the need to protect the huge resources contained in the Siberian and Arctic shelves and waters, estimated at 15 percent of remaining oil and up to 30 percent of gas deposits. Second, Russia wants to expand the so-called “northern sea route” which, courtesy of the global warming phenomenon, is becoming much safer to navigate. Currently, only 4 million tons of cargo transit through that shortcut (the northern sea route from Europe to Asia takes 35 days vs 48-day via the Suez Canal) between Europe and Asia, but in the future the Russians estimate that this figure could be increased 20 times to a total of 80 million tons. The resources allocated to protect this route are huge and they include drones, space-based satellites, underwater monitoring stations and a network of radars. Russia is also building 14 new icebreakers, including several nuclear powered ones. But the biggest effort will be a military one.

Russia has decided to create a “Joint Strategic Command – North” (JSCN) which will be based on the Northern Fleet (which used to be subordinated to the Western Military District). The JSCN will not have the official status of a military district or strategic direction, but for all practical purposes this will become a single, independent, operational-strategic command with a powerful naval component (the Northern Fleet has always been the most powerful of the 4 fleets or Russia) and a large aviation component which will include search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, early warning aircraft and helicopters and, of course, long-range interceptors, including the formidable MiG-31BM. Coastal defense missiles of the “Rubezh” class will also be deployed.

The air-defense component will immediately include the Pantsir-S1 system but in the future Russia plans to deploy her newest S-400 Triumf on her northern borders. Units from the various military districts have now been re-subordinated to the JSCN and a Joint Tactical Group (JTG) force has been created. It is too early to predict the size of this JTG but the Arctic maneuvers launched by Russia this summer included 80,000 troops, 220 aircraft, 41 ships, and 15 submarines, which probably gives us a decent indication of what is being planned for the future.

Finally, both the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Anti-Terrorism Committee (ATK) have announced that because of the huge, fragile, and very expensive infrastructure being deployed by Russia, the Russian security services will make a special effort to prevent any terrorist attacks in this sensitive sector. Considering the ecological fragility of the Arctic, this is a very sound measure.

Please take a look at this map which illustrates the current situation:

saker-arctic
(a big “thank you!” to SouthFront that created the map for this analysis)

Predictably, the West is quite horrified as these Russian efforts. Reactions typically range from concern, to bafflement to outright panic. The sheer hypocrisy of all that whining is breathtaking.

In reality, of course, the West has been planning to take control of the Arctic resources for years. Actors in this planning stage have included the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pentagon and the US Navy. In fact, there is clearly a consensus in Washington – Uncle Sam wants to grab as much of the Arctic as possible. The problem is that, unlike Russia, Uncle Sam has neither the know-how, nor the financial resources nor the means to do so. Take, for example, the US Navy.

The US Navy has always been primarily a “warm waters” navy. With anywhere between 10 to 14 aircraft carriers the main purpose of the US Navy has always been to place a few runways off the shores of any country daring to defy the self-appointed World Hegemon. The US Navy is, therefore, the most powerful “blue water navy” on the planet. In contrast, the Soviet/Russian navy, a “green water navy”, has always had a totally different purpose: first and foremost, to protect the Russian nuclear submarines (SSBNs) with intercontinental missiles (SLBN) and to protect the Russian coastlines. The two biggest Soviet/Russian fleets have traditionally been the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet and they have always operated in high latitudes, primarily the Arctic and the Sea of Okhotsk, where the Russian submarine bastions are located. The two smaller fleets – the Baltic Fleet and the Black Sea Fleet) had a much more modest role. Thus we can say that the largest and most capable part of the Soviet/Russian Navy has always been an high latitude, Arctic, one. Even the single Russian aircraft carrier was designed primarily with an air-defense mission and initially had no strike-aircraft on board at all.

This is also generally true for the rest of the US and Russian armed forces: the former were mostly designed to operate in low latitudes (below 50o) while the latter are much more used to operating in much colder conditions. This specialization is even reflected in the US and Russian navigation systems where the US GPS is more accurate in low latitudes, and the Russian GLONASS more accurate in the high latitudes.

This specialization is now coming to haunt US force planners who have to design almost from scratch a polar capable force to try to catch-up with the Russians who have had a 80+ years head start. There is no doubt that the US, Canada, Norway and others will catch up, at least to some degree and with time, but the big difference is this: Russian military capabilities in the Arctic are already a reality today, not a goal to achieve in a decade or more.

Western politicians have, of course, tried to present these developments as yet another sign of the Russian “assertiveness” or even “aggressiveness”, but the reality is of course that this Russian policy is in full conformity with the new Russian strategic course which now prioritizes the northern and eastern directions: Siberia, the Arctic and, of course, China. Besides, it is not like Russia is trying to exclude anybody from collaborating in the Arctic. Western oil/gas companies have been actively investing in Russian exploration efforts and Russia has greatly benefited form western know-how acquired in these joint projects. Russia will gladly continue to collaborate with the West in the Arctic region, but Russia will also make darn sure that she has the means to protect and defend her interests in a strategically vital region.

The prospects for the Arctic are, in reality, pretty good. As soon as the western leaders come to terms with the reality that the Arctic is “russkie territory” and that negotiations, not unilateral and hostile actions, are the way to getting things done up there, negotiations will ensue and they will be profitable for all the parties involved.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Arctic resources, Russia

33 Comments to "Russia Moves to Protect Her Arctic Interests"

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  1. Russia moves to protect her Arctic interests | The Vineyard of the Saker
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    […] This column was written for the Unz Review: http://www.unz.com/tsaker/russia-moves-to-protect-her-arctic-interests/ […]

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  2. Do you think that there may be contentious issues of international law on which Russia and China may find common ground in contesting doctrine accepted by Western countries?

    My provisional guess is that Russia will be relying on an extension of the continental shelf from its land borders to ground its claims whereas China would find too much insistence on such traditional criteria inimical to its case for grabbing rocks in the South China Sea (and whatever the one further north is called). China seems to be relying on a fictional past such as deems Tibet and Taiwan always to have been part of the Chinese empire.

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  3. No mention of Canada? They have a lot more Arctic territory than the US and there are few institutional barriers to information exchange or military cooperation between the US and Canada. I find it hard to believe a serious discussion of Arctic geopolitics could fail to explicitly mention Canada.

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  4. A potential U.S.-Russia clash in the Arctic | Phil Ebersole's Blog
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    […] pro-Russian blogger called The Saker produced this map along with a post on Russian military capabilities in the Arctic, which are strong and […]

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  5. Canada has frequently expressed concerns about Russian claims to Arctic waters based on Russia’s pretty frail continental shelf arguments. I’d also add that the idea of a Norhwest passage has proven illusory for about four centuries now. If I were Putin, I wouldn’t count on the predictions of AGW models. The Arctic ice pack goes through cycles that no one really understands.

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  6. I’m too lazy to look but IIRC even the most conservative climate prediction models show that the NW passage will become increasingly navigable over the next century and probably for centuries beyond that. I don’t think Russia has a large ideological faction committed to completely denying the consensus of the global climatologist community so it’s unsurprising Russia is investing so much in the Arctic based on the steadily decreasing summer ice cap.

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  7. Protect high cost oil from who, and useful as the northern route is for Chinese goods going to Europe what good does it do Russia?

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  8. Just more delusional geopolitics from the empty mind of Vladimir Putin. Look, Conoco and BP have for decades now been trying to figure a way to send the trillions of cu ft of Prudhoe Bay natural gas 1800 miles to Calgary and thence connect to existing pipeline networks to the Great Lakes population centers. They haven’t yet found it a way to do it and make money. They need a sustained price of natural gas 4 to 5 times the Henry Hub , Louisiana price to make it happen and so its not going to happen. Russian arctic gas fields are even more remote and LNG tankers can only operate in the summer when demand is at its lowest. Shell couldn’t even get its drilling platform up into the Alaskan Arctic and has abandoned the idea of offshore oil production now that oil prices are below $100/barrel.

    Putin, however persists in the idea that Russia can develop a strategic energy weapon even as the Gazprom’s market cap shrank from $360 billion to $50 billion in the past few years. Everywhere you look new natural gas supplies are being found. The Japanese claim they will be commercially exploiting sea floor methane hydrates in 5 or 6 years. If that happens the world has an almost limitless supply of natural gas. As for oil, if Petrobras can’t profitably exploit is deep water oil fields in tropical waters at anywhere near today’s prices, developing arctic oil fields is economic fiction even if Russia had the capital and know how which they don’t.

    As to the miltary deployment, unless the US is planning a nuclear first strike on Russia using its SSBN to launch depressed trajectory strikes on Russian arctic bases and inland cities, there is no military reason for American navy forces to operate in the Arctic anymore than the Antarctic!

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  9. {“Just more delusional geopolitics from the empty mind of Vladimir Putin.”}

    Just one more delusional geopolitics from the empty mind of a Neocon operative.
    President Putin has single-handedly outsmarted and outwitted a dozen Neocon warmongering filth so-called leaders, with half his brain tied behind his back.
    (…to give the low-life scum a sporting chance).

    The Neocon scum are foaming at the mouth with impotent rage.
    The Neo-Nazi goons have short memories.
    This time around Russia will no raise their victorious banner on the lair of the Hitlerite scum, because this time around there will be no Nazi Reichstag: there will be a glass parking lot instead, where Russian Armata tanks will do their annual tank biathlon.

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
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  10. Anonymous
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    Russia would benefit as intermediaries in trade between Europe and China and by providing security infrastructure for the trade. Just as the US Navy does for a lot of global trade today.

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  11. There is no doubt that at present prices the exploitation of gas and oil from Arctic is unprofitable. But it is also blatantly obvious that two trends will change this in the medium term:
    1) oil and gas will become rarer commodities and
    2) technological capability will keep increasing to make it possible to extract these two commodities in less and less hospitable zones.

    The real issue here is that US and Canada lay claim to the whole of the Arctic and pay a lot of lip service to “International Law” wherever and whenever they can use it as a badgering tool. They call onto law for others, whilst calling onto “reality on the ground” that is power projection for themselves. Canada is particularly vicious in attacking Russia and the Russians – I have not seen a single Canadian TV or film production which does not present the Russians as subhuman, thieving and grabbing scum. A wonderful self-projection of Canadians. In addition, Canada is the second most active meddler, after the US, in Ukraine, fighting Russia in its front-yard.

    This article by Saker emphasizes the point that Russia has a strategic advantage in the cold domains and can project its power into this area most successfully. It will not be easy for US+Canada to challenge Russia in the Arctic militarily. But this just makes Ukraine that more important as a place to create a permanent warfare against Russia, and South China Sea to create a permanent war-like situation against China. A 30-year war in Ukraine would be a short war: as long as US and Russia stand there will be a war in Ukraine. The only question is – what can Russia and China do to repay in kind, that is bring such permanent warfare to the doorstep of their opponents. Can they learn from the master warmakers?

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  12. Canada has frequently expressed concerns about Russian claims to Arctic waters based on Russia’s pretty frail continental shelf arguments

    Canada has her own problems up there, not just with water but with land. They’ve been sending dogsled teams into remote areas so they don’t lose their claims under international law, which apparently says use it or lose it.

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  13. Canada is an example of a swift and disastrous transformation from a decent country into a whoring one, pandering to Israeli and US interests. Case in study is Canada’s ardent support for Ukrainian neo-nazis. Unlike the quiet demeanor of the former collaborators from the Ukrainian Waffen SS division, which live in Europe (the Galicia division was heavily involved into bloody suppression of the partisan movement agains fascists in East European countries), the Canadian descendants of the collaborators are quite loud and influential.
    Mr. Harper of Canada has revealed a soft spot for Ukrainian neo-nazis; the decisions to sent Canadian soldiers to train Ukrainian neo-nazis were “coming directly from the Prime Minister’s Office.” http://newcoldwar.org/controversy-in-canada-after-u-s-blocks-training-of-neo-nazis-in-ukraine/

    • Agree: Bill Jones
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  14. @Just more delusional geopolitics from the empty mind of Vladimir Putin.

    This “delusional” geopolitics is a few hundreds years older than VP. It was in the making since the very inception of Russia. It gained unstoppable momentum with the conquest of Siberia by Ivan the Terrible. It remained the main thrust of Russian policies ever after. It is worth reminding that the best European thinkers had the vision of Eurasia and of the special role of Russia as the bridge between the cultures of Europe and China and worked for translating in practical terms this vision.

    “It was Leibniz’s vision that Europe, Russia, and China would form an alliance, based on the infrastructural exploration of these countries, in particular Russia’s Siberia…
    Leibniz placed special importance on the exploration of the physical geography of the Eurasian lands; he spoke very often of the necessity of magnetic, i.e., cartographic surveying of Russia and China, especially Siberia. Only then could one think constructively about the promotion of agriculture, mining, and handicrafts, of the construction of canals, the draining of swampy areas, and, above all, of an opening up of Eurasia through industrial-transport technologies—wherein he understood the construction of roads from Russia to China and Persia, the dredging of streams and canals, and so forth. Only through the mediation of Russia, would it be possible in the future to tie Europe with China, which would bring both sides, not only political-economic but also spiritual-cultural, mutual benefits. As he wrote in the instruction drafting the Berlin Society of Science: “By this means, Chinese products and news from China would come to Europe, and on the other hand the Christian faith would spread to China and indeed spread through Moscow as the means of communication….
    Leibniz so highly esteemed the strategic importance of his Eurasian project, that in the general instruction of the Berlin Society of Science (1700) and other academy drafts, he cited the idea of the scientific mission in China and Russia as the essential aim of the academy’s work. Especially propitious for Leibniz, was the fact that he kept up a close personal relationship to the Russian Czar Peter I (the Great), and was at his disposal as adviser on questions of infrastructure….
    The idea of Europe, China, and Russia working together, led Leibniz, in the disastrous period after the Thirty Years War, to create the foundation of modern Europe. He saw the key to this in the infrastructural opening and development of Eurasia—above all of Russia and China, based upon a scientific renaissance”.
    G.W. Leibniz and the Ecumenical Alliance of All Eurasia, by Elisabeth Hellenbroich@http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_91-96/963_Leibniz_Alliance.html

    Solzhenitsyn also had the vision where the future of Russia lays:
    “Fortunately we have a home, a spacious and unsullied home preserved for us by history-the Russian Northeast. Let us give up trying to restore order overseas, keep our grabbing imperial hands off neighbors who want to live their own lives in freedom – and turn our national and political zeal toward the untamed expanses of the Northeast, whose emptiness is becoming intolerable to our neighbors now that life on earth is so tight packed….our ocean is the Arctic, not the Indian Ocean!” It is a frontier that must be protected. From the greedy neighbors from across the ocean.

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  15. A standard, worn-out excuse of the Canadians is – it is all due to the big and nasty Uncle down-south. But this is shallow and does not carry water/ice any more. The Canadians have been bitten by a mad/crazy imperialist bug and they are sick/ill. They cannot wage a war against Russia in the Arctic, but they can certainly do it in Ukraine. Therefore, do not expect Canada, the US Mini-Me, to ever pull out of Ukraine, not even under a non-Harper government.

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  16. Anonymous
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    The Schiller Institute is a LaRouche organization. I’m not sure if it’s a reliable source.

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  17. Anonymous
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    Canada is America’s bitch.

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  18. Maybe the opinions of George Friedman, the father of STRATFOR, are more reliable:

    “The primordial interest of the United States, over which for centuries we have fought wars–the First, the Second and Cold Wars–has been the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united there, they’re the only force that could threaten us.”

    It was the primordial interest of the British Empire also, as it was clearly stated by Sir Halford Mackinder his famous 1904 essay, “True that the Trans-Siberian Railway is still a single and precarious line of communication, but the century will not be old before all Asia is covered with Railways. The spaces within the Russian Empire and Mongolia (read Mongolia and China today-w.e.) are so vast, and their potentialities in population, wheat, cotton, fuel and metals so incalculably great, that it is inevitable that a vast economic world, more or less apart, will there develop inaccessible to oceanic ‘commerce’.” I.e. inaccessible to the British Royal Navy and the US Navy control of the oceans. The British Empire and USA conspired to sabotage this convergence fomenting Wars and Revolutions in that space. There is no coincidence that the study of Mackinder appeared just a few month before the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War.

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  19. Thank you for this gem of historical records.

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  20. Maybe the opinions of George Friedman, the father of STRATFOR, are more reliable

    No, they are not. It is a good chunk of BS which STRATFOR sells for profit to all kinds of “executives”. Friedman, like those proverbial broken clocks, gets it right twice a day but his opinions on Russia are worthless. Well, pretty much on anything they are worthless. Like his “prediction” of 2008 meltdown as just another correction. Sure, and I am a martian.

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  21. You are correct about the primordial interest of the British.

    However, regarding George Friedman, you are wrong and Smoothie is right.
    Friedman is a Neocon.
    Whatever he writes about Russia has an ulterior motive.
    He is an extremely intelligent man, so he is not obvious like the other (crude) Neocons.
    His shtick is to peddle Neocon disinformation and propaganda under the guise of alleged “intelligence”, for which he charges handsomely.
    Smart man: getting paid for selling pure BS.

    The quote you provided clearly shows his real agenda:
    “…the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united there, they’re the only force that could threaten us.”

    Threaten ?
    Us ? (who is “us” btw).

    When was the last time Russia invaded a foreign country ?
    Even when Russian Empire expanded, it expanded on land in their own neighborhood, and the expansion was largely due to being invaded or attacked, and the expansion was a response to those.
    Anglo-Americans, on the other hand, consider the world their back yard and consider it their God given right – Manifest Destiny – to interfere and invade anywhere in the world.

    What he means by “threaten” is that Germany+Russia will be too formidable for Neocon Anglo-Americans to cow and lord over – economically (Germany) and militarily (Russia).
    It will complicate their plans of world domination.

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  22. Well, of course Friedman is not a reliable person. But in the particular case for which I used his utterances, he was just expressing the view points of the Anglosphere policy makers. Exactly as you say: “The quote you provided clearly shows his real agenda:
    “…the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united there, they’re the only force that could threaten us.” I quoted him rather tongue in cheek, as a response to doubts about the reliability of Larouche (the informations about the vision of Leibniz are absolutely accurate).

    Friedmans’s agenda has been expressed by Mackinder more elaborately earlier. The threat was either an alliance of Germany with Russia, a conquest by Germany of Russia, a conquest of Russia by a Sino-Japanese Empire. His “nightmare” was that if Germany or Russia were allowed to control East Europe then this could lead to the domination of the Eurasian land mass by one of these two powers as a prelude to mastery of the world. The combination of the technical acumen of the Germans with the immense Russian resources, their access to the open seas, was a thing which “no Western country could contemplate with equanimity”, as the British historian put it in 1938 in his book “Brest-Litovsk the Forgotten Peace, March 1918″. It was neither in 1904, nor in 1939 (The Soviet-German Pact), nor in 1941, nor after 1945 to the present. It must be stressed that the domination of Ukraine is essential to any variant. It is what Brzezinski clamors over all roofs.
    Where indeed you, and most people who exercise their critical faculties, are right is that Russia has no intention whatsoever to “invade” the West. It never had. The West’ problem is in fact that Russia turns her back to it and put her resources beyond its reach. The smug satisfaction that Russia is “increasingly isolated” is actually a cry of frustration: the grapes are too sour!

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  23. La Russie a commencé à protéger ses intérêts en Arctique | LE SAKER FRANCOPHONE
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    […] Par The Saker Original – Le 14 août 2015 – Source unz.com […]

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  24. ” from a decent country into a whoring one, pandering to Israeli and US interests. ”

    Too true…. but not unlike so many others… Australia comes to mind.

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  25. A freely available book:
    HYBRID WARS: THE INDIRECT ADAPTIVE APPROACH TO REGIME CHANGE, by ANDREW KORYBKO

    http://orientalreview.org/press-release/

    http://orientalreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/AK-Hybrid-Wars-updated.pdf

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  26. Canada is America’s bitch.

    Other way around. Pierre Trudeau spawned “multiculturalism”, and it’s taken America like kudzu.

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  27. LaRouche is one hell of a conspiracy nut, but entertaining nevertheless.

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  28. LaRouche might be whatever. But, again, the activity of Leibniz is known from other sources and is not diminished in any way by either the appreciation of LaRouche for him, or his loathing by the British Establishment (most likely HE is the real inventor of calculus).

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  29. Leibniz and Newton were both co-inventors. The ideas were in the air, they had worthy predecessors and contemporaries; Pascal, Fermat, Barrow, Hooke, Huygens and many more. Leibniz gets full credit for his inventions of the calculus symbols we use. Newton on the other hand laid the foundations of modern physics. The reason why the calculus does not make a big showing in the Principia was that Newton was a vain man of the old school, whose standard of proof is more geometrico, nothing else would satisfy. Both were geniuses of the highest order. Though of course the wonderful Leibniz had the more attractive personality.

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  30. An excellent summary.

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  31. As a matter of fact it is still Leibniz’ philosophical and mathematical approach which laid the foundations of “modern physics”.
    BTW, Denis Papin was the real inventor of the steam engine. It was the same vain and vindictive Newton who sabotaged his work, presumably stealing his ideas and promoting the obscure Newcomen. It was actually a sabotage of Leibniz’s persistent international efforts on behalf of what he called the “Grand Design”– an alliance of sovereign nations for economic development through scientific and technological progress.

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  32. I have to disagree with you on the foundations. If you try to struggle through Newton’s Principia, which even the late Prof Chandrasekhar took about ten years to go through when writing his commentary on it, there is no doubt that Newton was a man of almost unprecedented genius. He did this along with his work on alchemy and his commentaries on the Apocalypse. That he was something of a nasty is well known: Papin has to take a ticket, and line up behind Hooke, Leibniz and Flamsteed.

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  33. Well, you would have noticed, perhaps, that recent histories about the problem stress the ugly chauvinism that underwrites the “controversy” about the precedence either of who the inventor of calculus was, or of the steam engine.

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