The Opening of the Arctic: Establishing a New Security Perimeter for the United States
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
Pagination or Media Count:
Over the next twenty years, the impact of climate change will open up the Arctic. The trade routes through the Northwest Passage in North America and the Northern Sea Route near Russia will be viable year around. In addition, the retreat of the ice makes the Arctic a significant new source of energy for the U.S. and the global economy. Given the likely strategic competitions that emerge from this environment, there is a natural strategic position spanning from Darwin northward to Alaska, across the Arctic to Norway, south to the Arabian Gulf, west into the Caribbean, and south to the Strait of Magellan that secures trade routes, protects rich deposits of natural resources, and maintains partnerships and alliances while also balancing the influence of other regional actors.To take advantage of this strategic position, the Department of Defense must re-tool the global posture of the force to project power quickly and sustain it along a new strategic perimeter. The capabilities needed to prevail in this environment include sea power, long-range aviation, and a network of forward operating locations to support a sustained presence. U.S. sea power is not structured to project a sustained influence throughout the new perimeter, particularly in the Arctic. To fulfill this fundamental requirement, the U.S. will have to rely on long-range aviation. In order to sustain a power projection capability, a series of forward operating locations from the Marshall Islands to the Aleutians, across the North Pole to the Arabian Gulf, to the Caribbean, and south to the Falklands provides the foundation from which to project power. In the next 20 years, the technology is available to independently provide power, fuel, and water to this structure thereby ensuring U.S. ability to project and sustain power across this vast strategic perimeter.