Focusing Arctic Policy: Building and Challenging in the North
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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Rising global temperatures are contributing to unprecedented recession of Arctic sea ice. This environment is providing new opportunities for Arctic development and, more importantly, access to Arctic sea lanes that were previously of limited utility. As Arctic waterways open, the U.S. must ensure full access to these global commons in order to bolster its own economic prosperity and support the global economic system. Disputes over appropriate use of Arctic resources and waterways are most likely to erupt between the three major Arctic powers the United States, Canada and Russia. Canada and Russia have made excessive claims in Arctic waters, designating the Northwest and Northeast Passages as sovereign areas. In order to delegitimize these claims and protect its Arctic interests, the U.S. must take coordinated diplomatic, economic, and military action. First, the U.S. should develop an interagency office for Arctic issues to coordinate its Arctic policy and implement actions directed by National Security Policy Directive 66. It should take a measured approach to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, understanding its impacts on U.S. Arctic and global interests. It should strengthen the Arctic regime by participating fully in the Arctic Council while investigating other institutional options for issues beyond the Councils charter. Economically, the U.S. should research deep water port options in Alaska, cooperate on development of Canadian and Russian ports, and investigate joint development of icebreaking vessels. Militarily, it should develop SAR capabilities and bases with Canada and Russia, and improve military to military contact. Finally, if required, the U.S. should execute freedom of navigation missions to guarantee continued access to Arctic international waterways.