• March 23, 2023

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The Biden Administration released its Arctic Strategy, which is built on the four pillars of security, climate, sustainability, and cooperation. Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan commended the four pillars but that it was missing a fifth: responsible resource development in Alaska. Compared to the sparse White House document, Russia and China have far more detailed plans for the region. A recent Hudson Institute event on xx examined China’s role in the Arctic. Notably the world’s largest deposits of oil and natural gas may be in the Arctic, an area largely impenetrable for ice and glaciers. However, with melting, the Arctic Ocean could become navigable in 10-20 years, offering to cut international shipping routes by weeks.

Former NATO Ambassador and Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson decried the double standard that Russia and China “cooperate” to extract liquified natural gas from the Arctic while bona fide Arctic nations like US, Canada, Denmark, Norway are expected to uphold climate goals and eschew fossil fuels. The irony, she observes, is that US companies are best positioned to develop the resources in the most innovative and environmental-friendly ways but is restricted. More largely the invasion of Ukraine could have been avoided had Europe had not prematurely ended its coal and nuclear programs. Had European nation cultivated their indigenous sources of energy, Putin would have no leverage.

Liselotte Odegard, Senior fellow at Hudson Institute and Professor at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies described points from her recent article Russia’s Arctic Designs and NATO , She explained the tenuous relationship between Russia and China in the region. Global sanctions are pushing the two to world together, increasing the benefits of their decoupling from the world economy and using their own platforms for telecommunications (Huawei), currency (yuan), global position (BEIDOU), and shipping lanes. She observed,


“Chinese investments in infrastructure, energy and mining across the Arctic provide Beijing with dual-use ISR capabilities. Data gleaned and shared by China would enhance Moscow’s and Beijing’s ability to threaten NATO supply lines in the North Atlantic and coordinate challenges to NATO along China’s coastline and Russia’s border with NATO. Integration of Russian and Chinese satellite navigation systems could further strengthen strategic collaboration by helping them to complicate NATO power projection through coordinated GPS-disruption operations. Joint reconnaissance capabilities would refine Moscow’s ability to use precision-guided missiles against NATO’s defence infrastructure…NATO may not be able to readily agree on a full-spectrum approach to China. However, expanding NATO’s cyber and space toolbox to encompass countering adversarial Chinese behaviour and collaboration with Russia in the Arctic would help ensure NATOs strategic and operational competence in defending member states.”

Former US ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands detailed the efforts to reestablish the US consulate in Nuuk, Greenland and how she learned that US forces were not adequately trained or equipment for a conflict. The US has but 2 ice breakers while Russia and China have dozens. Kåre Groes Christiansen, CEO of Odense Maritime Technology described how his company can built frigates in as quickly as 3 months and how commercial ships could be outfitted for military purposes with LEGO-style modular enhancement.

Historian David Wright of the University of Calgary observes, Beijing would delight in NATA nations expended revenue to secure the Arctic and turn their attention away from Taiwan.

Marc Lanteigne, professor of political science at The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, and the editor of the Arctic news blog Over the Circle and author of Chinese Foreign Policy (3rd edition) agreed that China has malign designs, he cautioned about overstating the capabilities. He pushed back on the notion that China staking a claim to the region is illegitimate, for many nations say they have a stake in Arctic policy even if they don’t have a border.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hudson Distinguished Fellow critiqued some of the global confabs on the Arctic, calling them “environmental gab fests” which failed to discern or plan for for Russia’s aggression in the region. . . If there is no security in the Arctic, there won’t be any environment to protect. Unclear whether NATO willing to stop Russian activity in the arctic.

NATO Assistant Secretary General Angus Lapsley closed the session observing that it’s “back to the future” with the Arctic and the need to re-militarize is at hand.


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