Confidential

American Arctic Policy: 12 Month Outlook

Navy SEAL’s from the Naval Special Warfare Community demonstrate winter warfare capabilities (U.S. Navy Photo by Visual Information Specialist Chris Desmond)

Summary

Climate change is causing grief in the Arctic Circle. The rapid melting of sea ice is forever altering the once inaccessible parts of the northernmost point on Earth. Not only does this human-caused phenomenon change terrain, but it will likely shift power dynamics in the region. This shift would be derived mainly from global powers interested in its resources and shipping lanes. The US is one of the most powerful nations on the Arctic Council, and has interest in future defense and environmentalism in the region. American Arctic Policy will also draw close attention to the preservation of indigenous cultures threatened by an uncertain future.

Key Judgement 1

It is highly likely the United States will play a significant role on the Arctic Council in future Arctic defense.

  • As it stands, defending the Arctic is a task carried out by the states within the Arctic Council. Of those states, the US possesses the strongest Navy, which will likely be the biggest asset when defending the region. 

  • It is highly likely the biggest threat to Arctic defense will be from China. China is not an official member of the Arctic Council yet claims to be a “near-Arctic state”. Beijing strongly criticizes current Arctic Council policy, challenging the notion that they are the sole benefactors of the Arctic. 

  • Besides Russia, the US is the closest Arctic state to China, and the first line of defense to prevent Chinese aggression or expansion. Although there is still time before the Trans-polar shipping routes are free of ice, the US will likely increase patrols in the Arctic as China forms their own regional strategy. 
American Arctic Policy

Key Judgement 2

It is likely the American Arctic policy will focus on preserving the Arctic environment and take bolder steps towards fighting climate change to slow the polar sea-ice melt. 

  • It is highly likely the establishment of shipping and fishing routes in the Arctic will bring a significant increase in ships and other carbon emitting vessels through the region, as well as the environmental byproducts from trades that will exploit Arctic recourses for economic gain. 

  • Because of an increased volume of traffic and industry, there is a likely potential for unique environmental issues, as well as an increase in practices that will further contribute to human-driven climate change. Environmental disasters in the Arctic would require new technology and methods to conduct a cleanup. Additionally, the ability for expedient support is difficult because of acute terrain, weather, and sea conditions.  

  • The US will likely use their position in the Arctic Council to push an agenda promoting environmental and scientific research. There will be more reform to the US’s role in the fight against climate change, in contrast to the Trump administration.
Navy SEAL’s from the Naval Special Warfare Community demonstrate winter warfare capabilities (U.S. Navy Photo by Visual Information Specialist Chris Desmond)

Key Judgement 3

It is likely the United States will seek to protect the indigenous communities within the Arctic Circle.

  • The United States has its own indigenous populations living within the Arctic Circle. 18 percent of the state of Alaska is indigenous, and three out of the seven dominant tribes live within the Arctic. 

  • Indigenous populations in the Arctic are vulnerable to whatever long-term choices the Arctic Council implements regarding future resource exploitation and shipping routes. The effects of climate change will directly affect their ability to survive in their ancient home. 

  • It is likely the American Arctic policy will continue to promote indigenous representation at the Arctic Council and champion issues that involve their future. They will also seek to bring awareness to mental health and social issues that they have limited social support for. 

Intelligence cutoff date: 13th of December, 2021

Author

Michael Ellmer

Michael served as an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps with tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the Corps, he completed his undergraduate studies at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in communications. He is currently a graduate candidate at Brunel University, where he is pursing a master’s degree in Strategic Intelligence Analysis.

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