by Matthew Rusling
As global warming has made navigating Arctic waters more feasible, tensions in the region between the United States and Russia could escalate, analysts have said.
“Arctic activity will increase with global warming, so frictions are likely to follow naturally,” Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Xinhua.
In 2013, a report published on the Science magazine warned that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
In late June this year, temperatures in the Arctic region hit a record high of 38 degree Celsius, according to media reports.
Paal said the strategic denial of the Arctic to other countries has long been a U.S. goal, but that may not prove sustainable with global warming making the Arctic more amenable to use by a variety of countries.
The United States aims to expand its role in the Arctic and “is concerned about Russia’s military buildup” there, William Courtney, adjunct senior fellow of U.S. nonprofit global think tank RAND Corporation, told Xinhua.
As the Arctic Ocean warms and civilian shipping becomes more feasible, the United States worries that Russia might leverage its military buildup to “block or intimidate access to parts of the Ocean” for commercial shipping or NATO warships, he said.
In April 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry offered internet users a rare chance to “virtually” visit its newly-built Arctic Trefoil military base on its website.
The Trefoil base is one of the six new military bases Moscow has completed equipping on the Arctic islands and in the polar part of mainland Russia.
The completion of those bases marks a major step towards Russia’s overall goal of reopening and extending the military bases it once owned and operated throughout the Arctic during the Cold War.
In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order named “Basic Principles of Russian Federation State Policy in the Arctic to 2035.”
According to the Kremlin’s website, Russia’s main national interests in the Arctic include ensuring Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as preserving the Arctic as a “territory of peace and stable mutually beneficial partnership,” among others.
Earlier this week, during a trip to Denmark, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted that the United States sought to counter Russia’s expanded presence in the Arctic.
However, in the eyes of Courtney, a more assertive U.S. military posture in the Arctic could seem counter to Washington’s repeatedly voiced desire to reduce U.S. military presence abroad.
There are questions of both intent and capability regarding U.S. interests in the Arctic, and their importance relative to Russia’s interests, he said. Enditem