As tensions with Russia rise to levels not seen since the Cold War, NORAD may need to detect and counter increasing numbers of aerial intrusions. One way to strengthen NORAD's capabilities: Invite Greenland and Denmark to join the command.
The United States and its Arctic partners suspended cooperation with Russia at the Arctic Council in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. The prospect of returning to the council's business as usual seems very far away.
The decision of seven Arctic countries to suspend collaborative work with Russia in the Arctic is by far the most severe and consequential break in cooperation the region has ever seen. This breakdown of Arctic diplomacy could have several important impacts on the region and could potentially threaten the United States as well as its allies.
Operating in the Arctic is inherently expensive. Despite this, it could be critical that the United States make the necessary investments to ensure a robust ability to operate in the Arctic to withstand Russian challenges there.
The multifaceted nature of Arctic policies, stretching from climate security and scientific cooperation to economic development and conflict mitigation, may require a whole-of-government approach from the United Kingdom. Such an approach could be necessary for the United Kingdom to appear a credible partner to Arctic countries and other third parties.
U.S. strategy is shifting toward a renewed focus on the Arctic region, reflecting increasing Russian military activity there. U.S. forces could benefit from the knowledge and capabilities of partners and allies with extensive Arctic experience.
Norway, Sweden, and Finland have dramatically shifted their plans and actions in response to Russian threats in the European Arctic. This change could provide an opportunity for the United States to further strengthen cooperation, enhancing security and better countering Russia in the region.
For decades, NATO forces have used nearby bases to keep tabs on Russian submarines, surface ships, and aircraft transiting the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Gap. Strong independence movements in Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Scotland could soon jeopardize this position.
Continued positive U.S. engagement in the Arctic Council could be important for balancing the influence of Russia and China, and in moving toward the Biden administration's climate change goals. Washington's new priority on climate change could be an issue that will now bind, rather than divide, Arctic states.
The international structures that have helped address many Arctic problems through negotiation and cooperation are insufficient for the military and security challenges brought on by climate change. A new forum is needed to address military and security issues in the region.
Greenland's resources and geographic position would confer economic and strategic value to the United States. But its postcolonial history and unique governance regime complicate the prospect of direct ownership.
The Arctic defies simplistic views of geopolitical friends and foes. The United States and its allies do not necessarily agree on key issues, while U.S. strategic competitors might find common ground with America. The United States could fine-tune its defense policy tools in the Arctic to ensure that its actions do not hamper relations with allies and shore up the position of adversaries.
Risks for serious tensions in the Arctic during the 2020s are likely to be overstated. Key players in the Arctic appear likely to continue working together to enhance the economic potential of the region and resolve conflicts before they emerge, as opportunities in the Arctic continue to grow.
Abbie Tingstad discusses how the opening of the Arctic by climate change could strain relationships among Arctic nations, how these changes will affect indigenous communities, and what to make of Russia's military buildup in the region.
The shift in U.S. climate policy away from greenhouse gas reduction is significant for the Arctic, which is experiencing global warming at an accelerated rate. And a recent executive order will pave the way for expanded oil and gas drilling. How will these changes shape the Arctic in years to come?
A series of small steps is more likely to improve Western and Russian security than an attempt at a total reset. At the same time, sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine, and NATO actions to reassure and protect allies, must continue.
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.
In September, a relatively new kind of storm, made possible due to larger swaths of ice-free Arctic Ocean, battered Barrow, Alaska, washing away chunks of coastline, threatening businesses, houses, and the freshwater supply. While mitigation efforts are necessary on a macro level, adaptation measures are needed now for such Arctic communities.
Russia possesses the world's most Arctic shoreline, water, and operating resources. But the United States is also an Arctic nation, even if much of the American public tends to under-appreciate this special status.