Battle for the Arctic – America not ready | Polarjournal
Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg has been awarded the contract to build five Project 22220 icebreakers. The “Arktika” (middle) is already stationed in Murmansk, while the “Ural” (front) and the “Sibir” (rear) are still under construction. Still waiting are the “Yakutiya” and the “Chukotka”. (Photo: Anton Haas, St. Petersburg)

U.S. policymakers and planners have long misjudged the Arctic as a strategic region, wrote The National Interest. This is now taking its toll, according to the American journal, because China and even more Russia have greater opportunities for Arctic development. This poses a challenge for America that is almost impossible to overcome.

China has supported Russian gas projects and offered development loans to other Arctic countries. The Chinese have strategic ambitions and are also building their own fleet of icebreakers, a clear sign of their interest in the region. (Photo: Chinare)

It may not be good news for American strategists, but in the Arctic, “Washington lags far behind its rivals.” This was reported by the bi-monthly journal The National Interest. The reason, according to the journal, is that politicians in the U.S. rarely have considered the Northern Polar region as important. It is, however, and other world powers have long recognized this. Climate change is opening up new economic opportunities in the Arctic and putting Arctic riparians on notice, the magazine said.

With global warming, there are new prospects. In addition to upgrading the icebreaker fleet, military presence in the Arctic has also been increased. On the island of Kotelny the Russian army maintains a military base and accommodates 250 soldiers. (Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense)

China, too, would like to share in the economic potential of the North Pole region and has declared itself an “Near Arctic state”. An “Arctic Silk Road” is already in the works, writes The National Interest. Moreover, Beijing’s close cooperation with Russia signals its determination to become a strong player in this “exclusive game.” “This game has already begun, and U.S. policymakers lag far behind their counterparts in other countries in responding to this challenge,” the U.S.-based magazine concludes.

What the countries need in terms of technology for the development of the Northern Polar region primarily are icebreakers. Of these, the US Coast Guard, like China, has only two – Russia has 40 such vessels. Another 13 nuclear icebreakers are to be added by 2035. “Facing a rival like Russia in the Arctic already poses multiple challenges,” writes The National Interest. But the fact that Russia and China could jointly challenge US interests in the Arctic in the future is, according to the journal, like a “technological thriller” and a “nightmare” that the US is completely incapable of countering.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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