Potential incidents in the Arctic could endanger safety, security, and environmental integrity. Regional cooperation and governance will influence demands on the maritime transportation system and the U.S. Coast Guard. By making the right investments, the United States can prepare for future problems in the region.
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.
Climate change is increasing worldwide interest in the Arctic, where the physical impacts of the change are being felt sooner and more intensely than in other regions. But climate is just one of many key factors that will influence the Arctic's geopolitical future.
Two changes have altered the geopolitical environment in the Arctic over the past five to ten years. Russia continues to increase its assertiveness in the region. And non-Arctic states, including China, have begun to play a larger role. What new challenges and opportunities do these developments pose to Canada and other Arctic states?
NATO allies and partners are refocusing on the maritime dimension of deterrence in the North Atlantic and Northern Europe in response to Russian assertiveness and deployment of new naval capabilities. They need to better integrate defense plans.
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.
This Perspective summarises the results of a table-top exercise on factors that could upset Arctic cooperation in the 2020 decade. While this exercise confirmed the solidity of cooperation, it also identified "wild cards" that could create tensions.
It is becoming more important to determine how to operate in the Arctic, given changing climate conditions and the potential for increased activity that may demand more frequent U.S. government presence. Identifying gaps in capabilities now could help the U.S. Coast Guard mitigate future challenges.
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.
Explores the U.S. capability to handle the Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Agreement, a landmark treaty that gives the U.S. responsibility for conducting SAR in a slice of territory that surrounds Alaska and stretches to the North Pole.
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?
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.
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.