top of page
  • Giesler LLC

Updates on the Arctic: 2022

A year ago, we wrote a blog post on the importance of the arctic region and some strategies the United States Maritime services can employ to support the region. A lot has happened in the past year, so it’s an important topic to revisit and update.

A picture of the Aurora in the Arctic
Photo Credit: Pexels: Stein Egil Liland

In the last decade, the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean has been melting at a rate of 13% per decade. At this rate, it could be ice-free in the summer as soon as 2035. As a result, new shipping lanes with longer open seasons have been established. This has opened the area to more competition for military and commercial control, which has only increased since Russia invaded Ukraine.


Last January, it was reported that an undersea cable that connects the Arctic to mainland Norway allowing for real-time space surveillance for government agencies around the world was severely damaged. The Norwegian investigation proved inconclusive, although it was strongly suspected to have been Russian involvement. Russian naval maritime activity in the region has been steadily increasing over the last five years. With a fleet of nuclear-capable icebreakers, ships, and submarines, mining resources along the Arctic coastline, and increasing pressure to control the more open lanes, they have established a strong presence in the region.


So, what have we been doing about it?


The United States

In the Spring of 2022, the inspector general of the Department of Defense (DoD) released a report of how climate change is and will affect Military bases in the coming years. This includes cracking base runways and roads, increasing hurricanes, flooding, storms, and wildfires. Of the six northernmost United States military bases, none had carried out required assessments or planning to prepare their installations for such changes. This was blamed on lack of training, funding, and competing priorities.


In August 2022, President Biden announced the establishment of an ambassador-a-large for the arctic region within the state department. In coordination with the Senate, this position will help further U.S. policy in the Arctic, engage with counterparts in Arctic and non-Arctic nations and indigenous groups, and work closely with other stakeholders in the region.


In September 2022, the DoD established the Arctic Strategy and Global Resilience Office. Its purpose is to ensure U.S. strategy and policy and protecting U.S. interests in the region. Iris A Ferguson was selected for its newly created position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the office.


In October 2022, the U.S. further established its priorities for the Arctic with the release of the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. This strategy is built upon 4 pillars: Security, Climate Change and Environmental Protection, Sustainable Economic Development, and International Cooperation and Governance. Additionally, it is guided by 5 principles:

1. Consult, Coordinate, and Co-manage with Alaska Native Tribes and Communities

2. Deepen Relationship with Allies and Partners

3. Plan for Long-Lead Time Investments

4. Cultivate Cross-Sectoral Coalitions and Innovative Ideas

5. Commit to a Whole of Government, Evidence-Based Approach


The goal is to use this strategy as a roadmap to work with partners and to transform and secure the region.


Our Allies

Our partners in the Arctic – Canada, Denmark (including Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden – have also been increasing their support for the Arctic region. Canada included large increases in investments to NORAD in their defense modernization strategy. Denmark included Arctic Aspects in its New Foreign and Security Policy Strategy and several key positions to aid in diplomacy for the region. Finland initiated a report that found their arctic policies need to adapt to the changing relationship with Russia in the region. Iceland hosted its annual Arctic Circle conference – the largest platform for open dialogue and cooperation on the future of the Arctic and our planet. Norway has increased its underwater monitoring, shipping surveillance, and intelligence sharing with allies. Finland, Norway, and Sweden all signed an updated statement of intent to prioritize operations planning in the North. Most partners have also increased their defense budgets and security around their critical infrastructure.


Conclusion

We’ve touched on some of the strategies that United States Maritime Services need to do to support the arctic region in our previous Arctic post. Those steps are more important than ever to secure not just the United States, but our allies, from Russian influence.


Do you want to learn more about what goes on in the Arctic region? The Arctic Institute was established in 2011 as an independent nonprofit dedicated to assisting with the complex issues facing Arctic security. Check out their website at https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/.


Sources:

1. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/12/17/climate-change-arctic-00071169

2. National Strategy for the Arctic Region

3. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2022/04/17/climate-change-damaging-us-military-bases-in-the-arctic-report-warns/

4. https://www.state.gov/establishing-an-ambassador-at-large-for-the-arctic-region/

5. https://sencanada.ca/en/sencaplus/opinion/defence-upgrades-in-canada-s-arctic-should-have-collateral-social-and-economic-benefits-senator-dean/

6. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2022/06/minister-anand-announces-continental-defence-modernization-to-protect-canadians.html

7. https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/arctic-aspects-denmark-new-foreign-security-policy-strategy/

8. https://www.highnorthnews.com/en/new-finnish-government-report-finds-more-complicated-arctic-security-environment

9. https://www.thearcticinstitute.org/

10. https://www.arcticcircle.org/about

11. https://www.arctictoday.com/updated-nordic-defense-plans-prioritize-the-north/

7 views0 comments
bottom of page