(This information was taken from the CIA World Factbook at turn of the millennium and edited to match the conditions of 2039 AD.)
Location: body of water mostly north of the Arctic Circle
Geographic coordinates: 90 00 N, 0 00 E
Map references: Arctic Region
total: 14.056 million sq km
note: includes Baffin Bay, Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, Northwest Passage, and other tributary water bodies
Area - comparative: slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the US
Coastline: 45,389 km
Climate: polar climate characterized by persistent cold and relatively narrow annual temperature ranges; winters characterized by continuous darkness, cold and stable weather conditions, and clear skies; summers characterized by continuous daylight, damp and foggy weather, and weak cyclones with rain or snow
Terrain: central surface covered by a perennial drifting polar icepack that averages about 3 meters in thickness, although pressure ridges may be three times that size; clockwise drift pattern in the Beaufort Gyral Stream, but nearly straight-line movement from the New Siberian Islands (Russia) to Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland); the icepack is surrounded by open seas round the year although it grows considerably in the winter; the ocean floor is about 50% continental shelf (highest percentage of any ocean) with the remainder a central basin interrupted by three submarine ridges (Alpha Cordillera, Nansen Cordillera, and Lomonosov Ridge)
lowest point: Fram Basin -4,665 m
highest point: sea level 0 m
Natural resources: sand and gravel aggregates, placer deposits, polymetallic nodules, oil and gas fields, fish farming and cultivation of algae along the coastlines at summer.
Natural hazards: ice islands occasionally break away from northern Ellesmere Island; icebergs calved from glaciers in western Greenland and extreme northeastern Canada; permafrost in islands; drifting ice can damage small vessels around the year and temporarly block shipping lanes and harbours from October to June; ships and low-flying aircraft subject to superstructure icing from October to May
Important cities: Keflavik, Godthab, Murmansk-Severomorsk, Churchill, Barrow, Dikson, Tuktoyaktu, Akureyri, Tromsö (cities in italics are crucial Arctic ports with more than 2 million inhabitants).
Geography - note: major chokepoint is the southern Chukchi Sea (northern access to the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait); strategic location between North America and territories acknowledged to be under the control of the New Siberian Federation; shortest marine link between the extremes of eastern and western Russia; floating research stations operated by the US and NSF; maximum snow cover in March or April about 20 to 50 centimeters over the frozen ocean; snow cover lasts about 10 months
Arctic Ocean is rich in natural resources and only a short distance away from most of the First World countries like US, Canada, European Union, St. Petrograd-Murmansk Military Precinct (the most wealthy and technologically advanced of the Russian military dictatorships) and New Siberian Republic. More importantly the large continental shelves and stable hydrographic conditions beneath the polar icecap are well-suited to building underwater habitats and industrial rigs.
With all that wealth this close to home it is no wonder megacorps are at each other's throats over its ownership. As the use of government forces this close to their homelands could easily lead to a complete disaster (and the rather autonomous EU and US military forces could use the sites they've occupied as hostage for even greater autonomy), the Arctic Campaign has become the most intense and long-running corporate war in history. It has wreaked so much destruction, involved so many mercenaries and claimed so many lives that it is difficult to keep a lid on things and most First World citizens on the northern hemisphere are aware of something "sinister" going on around the pole.
Now that Arctic resources have become more and more important to the global economy, the face of the Arctic Circle has changed. The old coastal towns have grown considerably and many have appeared. Vast industrial areas for processing the oceanic resources have sprung up and extensive (and ice-proof) harbour facilities continue underwater, so that the cargo submarines coming from bases beneath the polar icecap can offload their cargo and return without surfacing. It has been estimated that more than 27 million people have moved above the Arctic Circle since 2017 and that 4 million of them belong to the highly specialised workforce that mans the ocean-floor habitats for in 4-month shifts. A particularly interesting new group are the prospectors who seek out signs minerals and oil with their leaky ships and even less reliable submersibles and then sell their discoveries to the highest bidder.
Although there are some small companies make a living with manned or automatic harvester subs that pick up polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor or operating land-based or off-shore mines in Greenland or Arctic islands, Arctic Circle is definitely a megacorp area. National law enforcement or military have no authority inside megacorp industrial zones or office blocks, and the local police chiefs have been carefully selected from the most obedient pawns.
The only exception to this are the US military forces occupying much of the Arctic Canada who control the local resources and offer extraction rights to megacorps only in exchange for political and financial favours. This is a definite disadvantage for the megacorps operating in North America and a source of much political turmoil between the corrupt Washington DC and the would-be military dictators of Pentagon.
The long-running corporate conflict over the ownership of the Arctic Ocean has been named "Cold War" in the kind of media that can report such things (Rebel Front newscasts in G-Net). Except for having over a dozen active factions and some random elements (such as the US military and the Rebel Front), it resembles its historical counterpart in terms of intensive espionage, deportations and eliminations of suspected enemy agents, granting political asylum to defectors. And finally there are Black Ops, top-secret military operations against designated enemies by corporate forces or corporate-employed mercenaries. They are more common than is generally believed and the number of victims runs in thousands every year. These incidents are hushed up if possible, or explained away as terrorist actions if not.
Typical targets include but are not limited to research facilities, large shipments of valuable cargo (privateering), sea-floor habitat takeovers, assassinations of key personnel, eliminations of exploration teams from the competitors, pre-emptive strikes against corporate military bases and misguiding terrorist actions against a third party to provoke it into attacking your enemy. Loss of civilian lives is avoided when possible to preserve the secrecy of the conflict. The objective is almost always to capture enemy installations and sites intact so that production may continue uninterrupted and perhaps even with the same workforce.
Corporate wars are usually carefully planned operations carried out with their own troops and designed to be complete before the enemy has time to react. Unfortunately, no battle plan survives the contact with a real enemy unchanged and mercenaries are increasingly important in spontaneous operations where the megacorp does not have the luxury of planning and waiting. A typical example of a spontaneous operation is when an enemy has failed to secure its hold on a submerged or surface site and can be driven off with a rapid counter-attack. Or another megacorp contests the ownership of a resource by constructing its own site at the other end of the oil deposit and has to driven off, although the affair as such is not a provocation worth of a corporate war.
Blades, another frequent employees of corporate wars, don't like to get their feet wet and stay on the surface. Too expensive to be used as ordinary soldiers they are used when all else fails and as a result their missions tend to be complicated and extremely dangerous and they can expect zero support from their employer if (and when) shit hits the fan. They chase down enemy agents, arrange extractions of defectors from deep within the enemy territory, perform acts of high-tech espionage and sabotage. They are also sometimes called in where the corporate special forces have failed.
In Cold War both Blades and their employers often face the problem that by carrying out highly sensitive missions Blades come into possession of sensitive information about megacorp affairs. How they deal with it varies. Blades are usually highly reliable with confidential information, but even they can be captured and interrogated by the enemy, to the risk is there. If given chance the employers will almost certainly try to eradicate the Blades immediately after the mission has been completed, which why most Blade teams make sure that such an opportunity does not present itself.