By Simonas Bingelis
Although we often associate the Arctic with uninhabitable conditions and impassable ice, changing weather patterns are opening a new geopolitical frontier and increasing tensions between regional powers. Most countries with Arctic borders work together to ensure maritime safety and regulations are upheld, as well as environmental considerations. Nevertheless, Russia and China are becoming increasingly assertive with their strategic ambitions for the role that they will play in the region.
Climate change is causing great changes in the Arctic. According to The Council of International Affairs “…fish, rare earth metals, oil, and gas are driving a race for influence in the Arctic that could spur future conflicts.” The fight for these resources is also influenced by the opening of new navigational routes where there was once ice, and the need for a military presence to protect regional interests. With no governing body, these geopolitical issues are only becoming more heated.
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The U.S., alongside NATO and the North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), are working together to uphold freedom of navigation and security in the region.2 Among the most important interests for the U.S. are access to new energy sources and a national security presence through multilateral international cooperation.
Both U.S. political parties see a strong allied presence in the Arctic as a key strategic direction. It is clear that increased access to the Arctic will make the global-political dynamics of the world more complex. We should prepare for U.S. foreign policy in the Arctic to increasingly become relevant domestically as we debate the best ways in which to position ourselves in the region.
Simonas Bingelis is an MBA graduate from Villanova University where he concentrated on international business, strategic management and consulting. He holds bachelors degrees in political science and economics, also from Villanova University, where he played Division I football and minored in Spanish and Russian. He has worked as an intern with both the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Enterprise Lithuania.
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Sittlow, Brian L. “What’s at Stake with Rising Competition in the Arctic?” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 1 May 2020, https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/whats-stake-rising-competition-arctic.