Recent developments in a geographic region ARPN followers have come to know as one of the sites of looming battles and territorial disputes in the resource war theater – the Arctic – are drawing the attention of domestic military commanders.
Speaking at a recent event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in July of this year, where he referenced recent geopolitical movements by Russia and China, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft said:
“As I look at what is playing out in the Artic, it looks eerily familiar to what we are seeing in the East and South China Sea. (…) Russia has claimed most of the Arctic Ocean all the way up to the North Pole and as a signatory of the Law of the Sea Convention has filed this claim. (…) The Snow Dragon [China’s research icebreaker]…is on her way up to the Arctic from China. (…) And they routinely stop and do research in our extended continental shelf. They’ve established a pattern.”
Indeed, there has been an uptick in Russian and Chinese activity in (and relating to) the Arctic circle region in recent years, ranging from Russia’s recent invitation for visitors to take a “visual tour” of its new military base in Franz Josef Land to China’s apparent incorporation of the Arctic into its “new Silk Road Strategy,” with increased diplomacy and investment in the region.
One would hope Admiral Zukunft’s comments indicate a growing awareness on the part of the United States, which, up until recently, has been “woefully behind” in the Arctic race, as former Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp recently lamented:
“We’ve got our minds on a lot of other things around the world, and we’re not focused on the Arctic. (…) Russia, on the other hand, is very connected. It’s part of their culture. They appreciatethe riches, the oil and gas reserves that they have along that very long coastline, and they are looking to exploit it for their own prosperity.
For the U.S., our Arctic claims come via Alaska, which – across a range of metals and minerals — can play a key role in resource supply in the 21st Century. As we have previously argued:
“…one can only hope that the recent settlement between the EPA and the Pebble Partnership over the Pebble Deposit in Alaska – albeit years overdue – will be part of a growing realization that it is time to assertively stake the United States’ claim in the Arctic and near-Arctic environs. The other players have made it clear that they will not wait for us.”