Tipping Points in the Arctic
The Arctic is a vast and complicated region that has been relatively isolated from increasing tensions in other parts of the world. Rising temperatures and declining sea ice levels could increase competition for natural resources, especially gas and oil, and make possible new shipping routes. Russia claims a large extended continental shelf that reaches as far as the North Pole, and it is increasing its military footprint in the Arctic region.
In this Events @ RAND podcast, a panel of experts discuss several potential economic, environmental, and political "game changers" that could affect strategic decisions in the Arctic region.
Warren Olney (moderator)
Host and Executive Producer of the nationally syndicated Public Radio
International program To the Point and the KCRW local affairs show Olney in
Adjunct Senior Fellow, RAND Corporation; Executive Director, RAND Business Leaders Forum
Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Despite tensions between Russia and the West, Arctic cooperation has remained intact. But America should prepare for changes that may alter Moscow's incentives. These include rising interest in Arctic resources and greater maritime access due to climate change.
Over the last few decades, the U.S. and Russia have often found common ground on Arctic affairs, at least in such areas as search and rescue and environmental integrity. The Arctic has the potential to remain resistant to tensions building elsewhere.
The Arctic is more accessible than it once was, but it's still a formidable place to travel. An emergency involving a cruise ship or a downed plane could stress the search-and-rescue system. But modest investments and planning measures can make a big difference.
Russia's rebalancing toward China is particularly important in the Arctic, a region in which Russia has great ambitions, but also struggles with major vulnerabilities. Russia needs China as an investor, as a technological partner, and as a key consumer of energy to support its flagging, energy-dependent economy.
The United States should continue with its policy of engagement with Russia within Arctic institutions. This is the only way to keep building on a track record of successful agreements that make the Arctic safer for all.