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US Arctic strategy calls for more military exercises to counter Russia, China

The White House on Friday released its 10-year strategy for the Arctic, with a focus on keeping Russia and China at bay in the region. 

The National Strategy for the Arctic Regionlast released in 2013, includes four pillars meant to keep the region “peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative” in the face of climate change and increasing aggression from Moscow and Beijing.  

The plan “addresses the climate crisis with greater urgency and directs new investments in sustainable development to improve livelihoods for Arctic residents, while conserving the environment,” as well as acknowledging increasing competition “exacerbated by Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” according to a summary of the document. 

Among the goals is an upped U.S. military presence, which includes increased military exercises with allies and partners, modernizing the North American Aerospace Defense Command and extra Coast Guard icebreakers. 

The U.S. released its first Arctic strategy nearly 10 years ago as climate change was beginning to bring new commercial activity and potential for conflict. The melting ice has opened new shipping routes in a region where nations already compete for access to oil, gas and other resources. 

Since the last strategy, Russia has invested significantly in its military presence in the region, “modernizing its military bases and airfields; deploying new coastal and air defense missile systems and upgraded submarines; and increasing military exercises and training operations,” according to the strategy.

The Kremlin is also developing new economic infrastructure in its Arctic territories and is trying to restrict freedom of navigation through maritime claims along the Northern Sea Route.  

Russia’s attack on Ukraine, meanwhile, “has rendered government-to-government cooperation with Russia in the Arctic virtually impossible,” with Moscow’s continued aggression making most cooperation “unlikely for the foreseeable future.” 

As for China, the nation has been doing its own building in the Arctic with an expanded slate of economic, diplomatic, scientific and military activities.  

Over the last decade, Beijing has doubled its investments for critical mineral extraction and more scientific research, expanded its icebreaker fleet and sent naval vessels into the Arctic for the first time.  

To counter any potential conflict, the U.S. is looking to increase exercises with allies and partners including Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden; make new, long-term investments such as procuring additional icebreakers, and work with Canada on updating NORAD air defenses. 

The U.S. already has more than 22,000 active-duty troops in Alaska, with a base in the Denmark-ruled Greenland. 

But the U.S. has increasingly looked to the Arctic as an area where military activity will likely grow, with the Pentagon last month establishing an Arctic Strategy and Global Resilience Office.  

Source: The Hill

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