The Arctic’s Emerging Geopolitics: Recommendations for the U.S. and its NATO Allies

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by Bert Chapman (Purdue University)


The Arctic region possesses significant oil and natural gas resources and is becoming an increasingly important arena of geopolitical contention.  Canada, China, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States are acutely interested in gaining and maintaining access to its waters and natural resources.  Warming temperatures are increasing the ability of these and other countries to access this region during the year.  This article examines recent policy documents and actions, which are inherently political, taken by these and other countries and offers recommendations for the U.S. and its allies to ensure that access to this region is not threatened by China or Russia.


Domestic and international attention remains fixated on security challenges confronting the U.S. involving China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.  While these are important areas of vital strategic concern to the U.S., another area of growing geopolitical concern to U.S. foreign and national security policymakers and the general public is the Arctic Ocean region.  U.S. law defines the Arctic as encompassing “all United States and foreign territory north of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian chain”.1

International legal definitions of the Arctic region vary focusing on concepts such as tree growth, the Arctic Circle, and the spatial territory north of 66 degrees 30 minutes latitude.  The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Article 76, furthers this confusion by noting the following salient definitional features:  the continental nautical shelf coverage of 200 nautical miles, the emergence of new trade routes due to warming temperatures and melting ice drastically shortening potential sea routes from Asia to Europe as the following map demonstrates, the presence of significant natural resources such as oil and gas attracting the interest of countries as varied as Norway, the United States, Russia, Canada, and Denmark, numerous environmental concerns, and concerns of indigenous residents of these regions who are now being confronted with the geopolitical aspirations of multiple countries.2

FIGURE 1: Arctic Region Map (Source: Central Intelligence Agency)3

FIGURE 2: Potential Shipping Lanes Through the Arctic Ocean (Source:  Army University Press)4 (See p. 116.)

One factor prompting the increasing international importance of the Arctic Ocean is its rich availability of energy resources which are becoming increasingly accessible due to warming temperatures and advances in natural resources extraction technology.  A 2008 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimate maintained that the Arctic contained 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids with 84% of these occurring in offshore areas.  This analysis estimated that over 70% of offshore oil resources occur in the Arctic Alaska, Amerasian Basin, East Greenland Rift Basins, East Barents Basins, and West-Greenland Canada.  More than 70% of undiscovered natural gas is estimated to occur in the West Siberian Basin, the East Barents Basin, and Arctic Alaska.5

The following year another USGS assessment of petroleum and natural gas resources for the Barents Sea off the coasts of Norway and Russia estimated it possessed over 76 billion barrels of oil equivalent including approximately 11 billion barrels of crude oil, 380 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 2 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.6

Numerous countries are involved in Arctic political issues including countries bordering on the Arctic Sea such as Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States.  Other countries involved in Arctic policymaking include China, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  Several governmental and nongovernmental international organizations are involved in international Arctic policymaking including the Arctic Council and national governments of many countries have diplomatic, military, and scientific organizations pursuing national Arctic policy objectives and strategic interests.  

There are some international agreements concerning the Arctic including the 1920 Svalbard Treaty which came into effect in 1925, and the 2008 Illulisat Declaration involving the U.S., Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark promising to protect the marine environment, maritime safety, divide emergency responsibilities if new shipping routes are opened, blocking a comprehensive international legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean, and promising to settle overlapping mapping claims and territorial disputes.7   The multilateral Svalbard Treaty of 1920 covering the Svalbard Islands giving Norway sovereignty over this territory but allowing other signatory parties non-discriminatory access to its natural resources,8 and a 2010 Norwegian-Russian Treaty aspiring to divide the Barents Sea and part of the Arctic Ocean into clear economic zones reaching Europe’s northern continental shelf potentially opening the way for oil and natural gas exploration in this region.9


Despite the prevalence of idealistic rhetoric about keeping the Arctic a conflict-free region, ongoing international economic, environmental, military, and political trends are moving the Arctic Region towards increased international political contentiousness, if not potential conflict, due to overlapping boundary claims and innate national territorial assertiveness as partially demonstrated by the following map.

FIGURE 3:  Maritime Jurisdiction and Boundaries in the Arctic (Source:  Durham University International Boundary Research Unit)10

Such divergent perspectives are reflected in recent national military and foreign policy documents produced by adjacent countries and partially reflected in their policymaking actions. These documents and developments will now be covered.


China: Maritime Power and the Arctic Ocean

Although not geographically contiguous to the Arctic Ocean, Chinese’s increasing economic influence and military power make the Arctic an area of interest to Beijing though its geopolitical interests in the Arctic are not as significant as its lofty aspirations toward the East and South China Seas.   While China signed the Svalbard Treaty in 1925 recognizing Norwegian sovereignty over these islands, contemporary Chinese policymakers refer to China as a “near-Arctic state”, describe Arctic natural resources as being the “common heritage of mankind,” and joined the Arctic Council in 2013 as an observer state.   While some Chinese Arctic analysts urge China to take a more passive or coastal role toward the Arctic, others believe Beijing should become more Source:  assertive or blue water in its Arctic posture.11

This latter group sees the Arctic as an alternative to the Malacca Strait which they contend the U.S. and its allies could use to choke off access to Persian Gulf oil, that the Arctic is at a crossroads between the European Union, Eurasia, and the U.S. with Washington’s ballistic missile defense capability at Fort Greely, AK potentially being directed at China; that Arctic access would enable China to break free from Western pressure and emerge on the world stage; and that the Arctic could be used to expand China’s energy and transportation infrastructures by connecting to the One Belt One Road Project.  Additional advocacy of China taking a more military oriented Arctic role is provided by People’s Liberation Army Naval War College staffer Yang Zhirong who argues that melting ice reduces the distance between regional great powers while increasing the Arctic’s strategic importance, urges China to add a military component to its Arctic strategy like Russia and the U.S., dedicating naval staff to Arctic affairs, improving regional communication, and making ports of call visits to Arctic ports.12

China’s 2015 National Military Strategy does not mention the Arctic as an area of explicit strategic interest.  However, it references safeguarding Chinese security interests in new domains and safeguarding Chinese interests overseas so it would not be surprising if future Chinese military strategy documents include the Arctic and provide detailed guidance on how it would use military force to defend its Arctic strategic interests.  An October 17, 2015 speech by Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming described China as a near-Arctic state.13

China published its Arctic Policy paper on January 26, 2018.  Highlights of this document included stressing that while states outside the Arctic region did not have territorial sovereignty, they have rights concerning scientific research, navigation, overflight, fishing, laying submarine cables and pipelines, and rights to natural resource exploration and extraction consistent with UNCLOS and general international law.  This document noted that China built a research station in the Spitsbergen Archipelago in 2004, that it would continue its efforts to protect the Arctic, that it aspires to build a Polar Silk Road by developing Arctic shipping routes, and that it will participate actively in Arctic governance.

China and Russia established a Sino-Arctic Research Center in April 2019.  Beijing and Moscow plan to use this center to conduct a joint Arctic expedition to research optimal Northern Sea Routes and the impact of climate change with China incurring 75% of expedition expenses. In May 2019, China hosted the Arctic Circle China Forum in Shanghai while highlighting its partnership with countries along the Polar Silk Road.  Beijing also maintains research stations in Iceland and Norway and operates two ice-breaking vessels.  2019 also saw China launch the Xue Long 2 as its second icebreaking vessel which can break ice 1.5 meters thick and is the first polar research vessel capable of breaking ice moving forwards or backwards.  The U.S. Defense Department also believes Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) may be in the embryonic stages of developing Beijing’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker though the potential completion date of this vessel is uncertain.14

At the same time, China’s assertive behavior in the East and South China Seas should produce skepticism that it will maintain such passivity toward Arctic affairs and that it will observe Svalbard Treaty commitments if it feels it will not confront significant opposition from the U.S. and other western powers interested in Arctic strategic stability.15

Finland:  The Arctic and National Insecurity

Finland does not border directly on the Arctic but is an Arctic country that is acutely aware of how Arctic impacts its security and how Russian behavior also impacts Helsinki’s national interests.  The Finnish Government’s 2013 Arctic Strategy called for peaceful cooperation in the Arctic with its neighbors and stressed the importance of preserving the Arctic’s unique physical environment.  This document also stressed the extensive experience Finnish military personnel have working in the Arctic environment and their interoperability with other international partners due to cold climate training and exercises.  It noted that Arctic Ocean coastal states had upgraded their maritime surveillance, military capabilities, and frequency of military exercises while also taking the delusional stance that military conflict in the Arctic is improbable.16

A more realistic assessment of Arctic and Baltic security conditions began appearing in Finland’s 2017 defense white paper.  This document noted increasing military activity and tensions in the Baltic Sea with early-warning period for crises becoming shorter and the threshold for using force has been lowered with Russian strategic weapons being based in the Kola Peninsula a major contributing factor in this increased tension.  This caused Finnish policymakers to develop plans to increase Helsinki’s land, maritime, cyber, and air defense capabilities along with their cooperation with Sweden and the U.S.  Specific policy responses to this more threatening security environment include increasing the wartime strength of Finnish military personnel from 230,000-280,000, spending $1.485 billion on naval vessel enhancements, and increasing annual defense spending by $68 million from 2018-2020 and $185.641 million annually beginning in 2021.17

Sweden:  Doubting the Efficacy of Collective Security

Sweden, like Finland, is not geographically located on the Arctic Ocean, but is considered an Arctic country possessing significant interests in regional strategic matters.  Sweden’s 2011 Arctic strategy document maintained that security policy tensions were low and that the Arctic Council should be the central multilateral forum for addressing Arctic issues.  It acknowledged Russia placing considerable importance on the Arctic for security policy and economic reasons, stressed historic Swedish activities in the Arctic including ongoing scientific research on Svalbard, and acknowledging that climate change may make security matters more salient in Arctic policy discussions.18

Increasing Russian assertiveness in Crimea, Ukraine, the Baltic, and Arctic would soon produce changes in Swedish Arctic policy pronouncements.  A June 1, 2015 statement of Swedish defense policy noted national security policymaking must now focus on regional issues and planning for wartime scenarios emphasizing protecting air and sea lanes to Sweden and the Baltic region.  

Stockholm’s defense budget was expected to increase by $887 million between 2016-2020 and this expenditure would eventually increase cumulatively by $28 billion.  Deliverables from this increased spending would be applied to main battle tanks and infantry combat vehicles, naval corvettes, air defense and anti-submarine capabilities, and increases in the number of Grippen jet fighters from 60 to 70 with the final delivery occurring in the mid-2020s.  In September 2017 Sweden announced that its 2018 defense spending would increase by $338 million.19


Norway: Responding to Russian Assertiveness

Norway has become increasingly assertive in defending its interests in the Arctic in recent years.  Oslo has become more concerned about Russian assertiveness and has taken defense steps to attempt to counter Moscow’s behavior while also seeking to cooperate with Moscow on Svalbard Island and environmental matters.  In December 2006, Norway’s Foreign Ministry issued its High North Strategy.  This document began saying “the Government states that it considers the High North to be Norway’s most important strategic priority in the years ahead … we stake out the course for our High North policy, seeking to improve coordination and to maximize the effect of our efforts.”20

This document went on to stress the importance of close cooperation between Norway’s Armed Forces, Coast Guard, legal prosecution authorities, and law enforcement on resource management, conflict prevention, and maintaining predictability and stability.  It vowed to increase cooperation with Russia and continue Oslo’s efforts to ensure nuclear safety and emergency preparedness in the High North along with possibly supporting efforts to initiate trade along the Northern East-West Freight Corridor to provide a transport solution from Central Asia to North America through the port of Narvik.21

FIGURE 4:  Scandinavia from the Arctic (Source:  Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs)22 (See p. 12.)

While the 2010 Barents Sea delimitation agreement between Norway and Russia seemed to herald greater bilateral comity, Russia’s 2014 actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have prompted a gradual change in Norwegian attitudes toward Moscow. An April 21, 2017 foreign and security policy white paper from the Norwegian Government to the Storting (Parliament) noted that these Russian actions had changed the European security landscape and that Russia was strengthening its northern military capabilities and presence which had significant implications for Norway.  These changes require Norway to strengthen its northern defense capabilities and allow an expanded allied presence and more frequent military exercises in the North.23

This document went on to note that with the U.S. contributing over 70% of NATO’s defense spending, that Norway and other NATO allies cannot assume the U.S. will maintain its current level of European military interest and engagement, that the U.S, EU, Russia, and China are increasingly promoting their Arctic interests, which impinge on Norway’s interests in the region.  Russia’s geographic location makes it a key Arctic player and that Moscow’s goals include securing access to energy resources, using the Northeast Passage as a transport corridor, and maintaining Russian control and influence in the Arctic. Russian nuclear deterrence and retaliation capabilities, based in the Kola Peninsula, have been significantly upgraded since 2008, and should a security crisis develop Russia could move its forces to reduce Norway’s freedom of action and movement on its own territory, limit Allied access to the North Sea and North Atlantic, and make it difficult for NATO to supply and reinforce Norway’s defense and that of adjacent allies.24

Norway’s response to this has involved suspending military cooperation with Russia, but maintaining communication with Russia to reduce the possibility of misunderstandings and dangerous incidents by being transparent in its military activities, maintaining long-standing cooperation with allied forces in military exercises on Norwegian territory, purchasing up to 52 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for $8.895 billion with the first ones arriving in November 2017, extending military conscription to women in 2015, increasing defense spending by 2.6% between 2015-2016, reiterating NATO’s importance in its June 2016 long-term defense plan, and establishing a new Ranger Company to be focused on the northern border with Russia.25

Iceland: Military Weakness and Collective Responsibility

Although an Arctic country and a member of NATO, Iceland does not have the economic or military clout or population to be a significant player in Arctic strategic policymaking.  An October 18, 2015 address by Iceland’s Prime Minister to the Arctic Circle Assembly delineated Reykjavik’s Arctic policy stressing climate change, how the eight Arctic states “share a common responsibility and mutual interest in the protection and sustainability of the Arctic,” that international competition and military conflict over the Arctic should be avoided, and that promoting education about the Arctic and its indigenous populations should be a high international priority.26

Denmark: The Hans Island Dispute

Danish interests in Arctic geopolitics primarily derive from its possession of Greenland, being an integral member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and being a Nordic nation with trading and scientific interests in this region.  Copenhagen has traditionally sought to minimize the prospect of conflict in the Arctic and to maintain amicable relations with Russia.  Greenland is home of the Thule Airbase which plays an important role in U.S. ballistic missile defense and Denmark and Canada have disputed over who owns uninhabited Hans Island in the 22 mile wide Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada due to a dispute over the 12 mile territorial limit of either shore which both countries are allowed to claim under international law.27

FIGURE 5: Hans Island and Thule Air Base (Source: Canadian Military Journal)28 (See p. 25.)

Concern over increasing Russian assertiveness in the Baltic Region and the Arctic is causing Denmark to take a more assertive defense posture.  The Danes are proposing to increase defense spending by 20% or $798 million between 2018-2023.  These increases will go toward augmenting ground-based air defense, enhancing Royal Danish Navy frigate capabilities with short and long-range missiles to counter hostile aircraft and missiles, equipping naval frigates with sonar and anti-torpedo systems and marine helicopters with dipping sonars to engage in anti-submarine warfare, increase the number of conscripts by approximately 500 per year, expanding the Danish Defence Intelligence Service’s analytic capability, and purchasing 27 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for $3.325 billion to enhance potential military operations in the Arctic and Baltic through 2026.29

Canada: Free Riding and Arctic Security

Canadian policy toward the Arctic has been marked by an often sanctimonious rhetorical desire to declare its northern waters as being sovereign national territory and seeking to restrict international access to those waters without backing up this rhetoric with credible military force.  Ottawa’s geographic proximity to the U.S. and its close interrelationship with U.S. military defense policymaking structures such as NORAD make it easier for it to engage in such rhetorical grandstanding.30

FIGURE 6:  Northwest Passage (Source:  Central Intelligence Agency)31

This repeated failure by Canadian Governments representing Conservative and Liberal Parties to militarily buttress their Arctic claims has been demonstrated in inconstant defense spending to provide air, maritime, and ground forces to reinforce Canadian claims in this region despite repeated rhetoric to the contrary.  A 2013 Canadian Army document claimed Ottawa would increase Arctic capabilities by preparing, training, and equipping forces for a broad range of missions.   The Canadian Government’s 2017 Defense White Paper maintains Canada will increase its long-term presence in the Arctic and work cooperatively with Arctic partners, acquire next-generation satellites to enhance its regional surveillance, and provide the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) with five or six ice-capable ships to enforce its sovereignty claims.  A 2017 RCN strategic planning document stresses Canadian maritime forces must become better equipped for Arctic operations, emphasizes that Canada has the world’s lengthiest coastline, asserts that climate change will make the High North a commercially viable sea route between Europe and Asia for the first time with the Northwest Passage and Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) benefitting, and that successful military use of the Arctic requires a forward deployed strategy.  Increasing Ottawa’s submarine, combatant ships, maritime helicopters and patrol aircraft, and support ships are long-term goals for increasing Canada’s Arctic defense capabilities out to 2050.  Canada has also conducted annual military exercises Operation Nanook in the Arctic since 2007 with these consisting of a maximum of several hundred personnel.32

United Kingdom: Historic Maritime Power Expressing Interest

The United Kingdom has been one of the world’s premier maritime powers and as a NATO member plays a critically important role in the alliance’s military policymaking.  A British parliamentary committee began conducting an investigation on Arctic security in late December 2016 and issued a report on August 15, 2018 detailing steps it believes Whitehall should take to advance British interests in that region.  These included recognizing the need for a comprehensive strategy for meeting Russian power projection from the High North into the Atlantic, the need to appoint an Arctic Ambassador to coordinate Whitehall Arctic policy and enhance UK representation in Arctic affairs, being wary of Russian Arctic intentions given Moscow’s revisionist attitude to international rules, the need for increasing London’s anti-submarine warfare capability, and the need for the Ministry of Defence to explain its policies on aircraft carriers operating in the Arctic and High North.  The governmental response to this committee report on October 17, 2018 broadly affirmed committee recommendations.  It remains to be seen what financial resources and naval investments it will recommend to fulfill national interests which are likely to be closely tied to NATO Arctic policymaking objectives.33

A positive action in this regard is September 2020 Royal Navy leadership of a multinational task force including Denmark, Norway, and the United States into the Barents Sea to demonstrate international freedom of navigation above the Arctic Circle for the first time in over twenty years.  British ships participating in this exercise included the frigate HMS Sutherland and RFA Tidespring. The Royal Air Force was represented by Typhoon fighters and a Voyager refueling aircraft.  HMS Sutherland lead these ships and aircraft through exercises testing their ability to conduct submarine and anti-submarine warfare, sea replenishment, and exercises to improve NATO interoperability in this challenging environment.34


Russian Arctic Claims and Potential Conflict

The primary source of increasing Arctic international geopolitical and strategic contentiousness is Russia.   In 2001 Russia submitted a formal claim to the United Nations Commission on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for an area of 460,000 square miles running from the undersea Lomonosov Ridge and Mendeleev Ridge to the North Pole roughly equaling the combined territory of Germany, France, and Italy.  This claim was rejected by the UN, but Moscow resubmitted a 463,000 square miles claim to the UN over the Arctic Shelf in August 2015.35

In 2007, the Russian flag was planted on the seabed under the North Pole achieving considerable international notoriety and controversy.  This event occurred as Russia began increasing its Arctic military activities with 2007 seeing the greatest number of Russian military flights in the Arctic since the Cold War’s conclusion.  A 2001 Russian maritime doctrine document covering policy until 2020 focused on the importance of free Russian Navy passage to the Atlantic Ocean along with Moscow also emphasizing the importance of developing the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to serve Russian and international interests under strict Russian control.36

The NSR or Northeast Passage, as the following two maps demonstrate, would drastically shorten sailing distances between Asia and Western Europe with a voyage from Rotterdam to Yokohama taking 8,452 miles by the NSR as opposed to 12,894 miles by the Suez Canal; a voyage from Rotterdam to Shanghai taking 9,297 miles by the NSR and 12,107 miles by the Suez Canal, and a Rotterdam to Vancouver voyage taking 8,038 miles by the NSR and 10,262 miles by the Panama Canal.37

FIGURE 7:  Northern Sea Route (NSR) or Northeast Passage (Source:  Arctic Portal)38

Russia’s 2008 Arctic strategy document contained rhetoric about protecting the Arctic environment and using the NSR for transportation purposes while also including the following declaration about national security aspirations:

In the sphere of national security, the protection and defense of the national boundary of the Russian Federation, which lies in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, and the provision of a favorable operating environment in the Arctic zone for the Russian Federation, including the preservation of a basic fighting capability of general purpose units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, as well as other troops and military formations in that region….39

Russia’s 2014 military doctrine explicitly declared that NATO was a primary military danger to Russia and Moscow’s December 2015 National Security Strategy stressed the Arctic’s increasing importance in Russian national security emphasizing its commitment to enhancing military infrastructures in the Arctic and other regions.40

Despite the Arctic’s foreboding climate, recent years have seen Moscow make significant financial and infrastructure investments to bolster its presence, impact, and power projection capabilities.  A 2015 Danish Defence College analysis said that 67% of Russia’s submarine based nuclear weapons operated from Northern Fleet bases in the Kola Peninsula such as Severomorsk and that Vladivostok-based Pacific Fleet nuclear submarines regularly operate in the Arctic.  In February 2011, First Deputy Minister of Defense Vladimir Popovkin announced Russia would spend $730 billion on new military equipment purchases including prioritizing developing and maintaining Russia’s nuclear triad.  The Northern Fleet possessed 13 large surface ships at the time of this assessment, the Russian Army in the Arctic is primarily represented by the 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade, a Northern Command is set to be operational in 2017, and efforts are underway to upgrade Moscow’s airpower, air defense, and missile forces to meet Arctic operational requirements following Russian withdrawal from this region during the immediate post-Cold War aftermath including airfields at Temp, Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, Anadyr, and other locales.41  In March 2015, Russia’s military conducted an unannounced Arctic exercise involving over 45,000 troops, 15 submarines, and 41 warships.  These exercises came in the aftermath of repeated Russian incursions into the airspace of Finland, Sweden, the Baltic Republics, Canada, and the U.S. requiring interception by these countries Air Forces.42

FIGURE 8: Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic (Source:  National Geospatial Intelligence Agency)43 (See p. 11.)

On March 5, 2020 Russia released a new Arctic maritime strategic planning document defining the Arctic as:

….the Northern Polar region of the Earth, including the Northern edge of Eurasia and North America (except the Central and Southern parts of the Labrador Peninsula), Greenland (except the Southern part), the seas and islands of the Arctic Ocean (except the Eastern and Southern parts of the Norwegian Sea), as well as adjacent areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.44

This document went on to stress that primary Russian Arctic national interests include ensuring Russian Federation sovereignty and territorial integrity; preserving Arctic territory for peace, stability, and mutually beneficial partnerships; developing the NSR as a competitive national transportation passage in the world market; implementing projects for building an NSR infrastructure including hydro-meteorological, hydrographic, and navigation support for water passage and icebreaker fleet modernization; building an NSR infrastructure including hydro-meteorological, hydrographic, and navigation support for water passage and icebreaker fleet modernization; establishing general purpose military forces capable of providing military security under various political and military circumstances; and building an agile Federal Security Service (FSB) Coast Guard network.45

This document also enumerated what it saw as Moscow’s primary Arctic national security threats as being Arctic zone population decline; insufficient development of communication, information, social, and transportation infrastructure in Arctic zone land territories; slow development of ground vehicles and aviation equipment for operating in Arctic conditions and developing domestic technologies necessary for Arctic development; foreign governments and international government organizations obstructing Russian economic and other activities in the Arctic; and foreign governments conducting military buildups in  the Arctic increasing the potential for regional conflict and discrediting Russian Arctic activities.46

This document contended that primary objectives for enhancing Moscow’s Arctic military security must include implementing measures preventing military force against Russia and protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity including increasing general purpose forces combat capabilities and maintaining   combat capability and readiness to successfully counteract aggression against Russia and its allies; improving integrated air, surface, and underwater control activities in the Arctic zone; improving border management quality by developing information technologies allowing sea situational and costal area monitoring, conducting situational analysis, and coordinating response measures;  technologically upgrading border control organizations, constructing modern aviation capable ice-class vessels; and aircraft fleet modernization increasing national air space intelligence and control; and completing a database updating baseline measurements of territorial sea width and Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).47

United States:  Ambiguous Responses to The Russian Challenge

There have been essentially three post-Cold War responses to the challenge the Arctic Ocean presents to U.S policymakers:  various policy statements prior to the Obama Administration, the writing and presentation of a plethora of formal reports on the Arctic during the Obama Administration recognizing strategic shortcomings while highlighting opportunities for cooperation with Russia, and the beginning of a reaction to previous administration’s oscillations by the Trump Administration.

The United States has had a long-standing strategic interest and presence in the Arctic but has not consistently sustained its military activity in that region.  An early demonstration of one U.S. policymaker recognizing the Arctic’s strategic importance was Billy Mitchell telling the House Military Affairs Committee on February 13, 1935 “Alaska is the most central place in the world for aircraft, and that is true either of Europe, Asia, or North America.  I believe in the future he who holds Alaska will hold the world, and I think it is the most important strategic place in the world.”48  On September 28, 1945 President Truman issued Proclamation 2667 declaring the U.S. believed that nations should be able to exercise jurisdiction over subsoil and sea-based natural resources on the continental shelf contiguous to the United States and that the U.S. should negotiate such boundaries with adjoining countries while retaining freedom of navigation.49

The past decade has seen renewed U.S. emphasis on the Arctic’s geopolitical importance.  An outgoing George W. Bush Administration directive on January 9, 2009 announced that the U.S. was an Arctic nation with varied and compelling regional interests, and that the U.S. sought to use the Arctic to meet relevant national and homeland security needs, while strengthening institutional cooperation with Arctic nations.  Fundamental U.S. Arctic national security interests included missile defense and early warning; deploying sea and air systems for strategic airlift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.  It stressed that fundamental homeland security interests in this region involved preventing terrorist attacks and mitigating criminal or hostile acts potentially increasing U.S. vulnerability to Arctic region terrorism.  This directive also stressed that the U.S. is a maritime nation and would defend legal claims of national sovereignty in the Arctic region; emphasize freedom of the seas is a top national priority in the Northwest Passage and NSR; the U.S. will develop capabilities and capacities to protect national air, land, and sea borders in the Arctic region; increase Arctic maritime domain awareness to protect maritime commerce, critical infrastructure, and key resources; preserve the global mobility of U.S. military and civilian vessels and aircraft in the Arctic; and project a sovereign U.S. maritime presence in the Arctic to support essential national interests while encouraging peaceful dispute resolution.50

Unfortunately, this Directive contained a hodgepodge of mutually conflicting goals, without prioritizing their importance or recommending appropriate funding levels for the incoming Obama Administration.

A 2012 U.S. Naval War College report noted the Arctic’s increasing importance, while expressing concern that the Coast Guard had only one operational polar capable icebreaker USCG Healy, that the Navy had no ice-strengthened ships available for employment in first year ice or the marginal ice zone, that areas classified as having less than 10% ice present dangers to non-ice strengthened Navy vessels, and that resupplying Navy ships capable of operating safety in these waters is problematic.  This assessment went on to explain the U.S. Arctic has very little infrastructure on the Arctic littoral to support medium or large-scale operations.   Few deep-water ports, airfields, fuel and provision sources, and maintenance and medical treatment facilities are available for ships, aircraft, or personnel.  Kodiak, AK, the northernmost facility for large-scale ships and major resupply is 940 miles from Point Barrow, AK. Eielson Air Force Base is 400 miles from Alaska’s northern coast, and there are not enough fuel storage places in the U.S. and Canadian Arctic to sustain large ships.51

The Obama Administration’s 2013 Arctic Strategy noted the region’s environmental importance, stressed DOD’s desire for the Arctic to be a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded, the homeland is protected, and where nations work together cooperatively.  It maintained DOD would seek low-cost small-footprint approaches to achieving these objectives by participating in  cooperative civilian and military exercises with other countries; stressing the importance of collaborating with other federal departments and the State of Alaska; recognizing that predictions  concerning future access to and activity in the Arctic may be inaccurate; fiscal limitations could reduce spending on Arctic capabilities and training; political rhetoric and reporting on boundary disputes and resource competition could exacerbate regional tensions; and being “too aggressive” in addressing future security risks could increase mistrust and miscommunication between interested stakeholders.52

FIGURE 9: Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas (Source:  National Academies Press)53

The 2013 Coast Guard Arctic Strategy Report noted that 35% of Alaska’s jobs are tied to energy production and that onshore oil production is decreasing, that Coast Guard Arctic maritime awareness is restricted due to limited surveillance, monitoring, and information system capabilities, the growth of offshore oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, increasing hard mineral extraction in the Russian and U.S. Arctic, shipping traffic in the Bering Strait increasing 118% between 2008-2012, and limited cell phone network coverage in the Arctic due to coverage, capacity, and reliability restrictions. This report noted an Arctic marine highway could cut ocean transit between Europe and Asia by 5,000 nautical miles, increasing ship traffic on the NSR from 4 vessels in 2010 to 46 in 2012, and stressed the Coast Guard was committed to protecting U.S. marine sovereignty and sovereign rights by ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, the security of U.S. waters and border integrity, and collaborating with domestic and international and private sector partners to achieve these objectives.54

A 2014 Arctic Roadmap, reflective of lower naval aspirations and capabilities during this administration,prepared by the Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations dubiously stressed that in the near future there would be low demand for additional naval Arctic involvement, that current naval capabilities could meet near-term operational needs, and that disputes between Arctic nations could be resolved peacefully.  The document acknowledged ongoing U.S. regional security interests including threat early warning systems; freedom of navigation and overflight; combined security obligations with Canada; and deploying sea and air forces for deterrence and maritime presence and maritime security operations.55

This roadmap also noted the 51 mile wide and 98-160 feet deep Bering Strait’s importance as chokepoint for surface and subsurface vessels entering the Arctic, claimed this would be an opportunity for increasing U.S.-Russian ties, emphasized that Navy submarines had multiple decades of experience performing under sea ice missions and exercises, acknowledging that Navy surface and air forces have limited Arctic operational experience, and stressed that naval operations in Arctic operations require special training, extreme cold-weather modifications for systems, equipment, and complex logistics support.  It also acknowledged that warming temperatures in subsequent decades would require the Navy to make strategic Arctic investments to hedge against uncertainty and safeguard national interests.  Key current and forthcoming naval responsibilities in the Arctic were listed as maritime security, sea control, power projection, freedom of navigation, search and rescue, and disaster response/support of civil authorities.56

A June 2016 DOD analysis to Congress on resourcing U.S. Arctic strategy said the U.S. was spending $461 million on research projects relating to 2013 Arctic Strategy implementation including improving surveillance of northern approaches to North America; enhancing communications with military units operating in the Arctic; developing next-generation polar region radar systems; and supporting sea ice forecasting and prediction.  U.S. military infrastructure construction initiatives for FY 2017 to implement this strategy total $362 million including $296 million for supporting JSF aircraft at Eielson AFB, $47 million for an unmanned air system hangar at Alaska’s Fort Wainwright, and $20 million for projects modifying an existing hangar and building an aircraft rinse rack at Keflavik, Iceland to support short-term P-8A aircraft deployments supporting U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) or U.S. European Command.  Military capability commitments for FY 2017 were targeted at $5.2 billion including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Fort Greeley, and Fort Wainwright representing all U.S. armed service branches including ballistic missile defense interceptors, the Army’s Northern Warfare training system headquarters, and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Fairbanks.57

A September 2016 National Intelligence Council report asserted that climate change was affecting the Arctic twice as fast as other global regions which could increase contention over Russia’s claims to 463,323 square kilometers of Arctic shelf which it submitted to the UN in August 2015 and could increase tensions with Canada and Denmark; warming waters have encouraged a western cruise line to plan a month-long summer cruise carrying more than 1,000 passengers with maritime authorities warning that navigational security and limited search and rescue capabilities make the voyage high risk; that significant Arctic and sub-Arctic permafrost thawing could rupture the China-Russia crude oil pipeline and threaten the integrity of other pipelines; and that continued Arctic sea ice reduction will increase that region’s importance for military access and operations with its physical environment remaining challenging and unpredictable for the U.S. and other militaries.58

In December 2016, the outgoing Obama Administration released an updated Arctic Strategy report.  This document continued the rhetorical incantation about DOD desiring to avoid Arctic conflict while improving the U.S.’ ability to operate safely and sustain forces in a harsh and remote environment likely to experience increasing accessibility in the future.  It noted that U.S. NORTHCOM is responsible for advocating for required Arctic military capabilities, and recognized that there are differences between the U.S., Canada, and Russia on navigation in Arctic waters.  This document committed DOD to enhancing its Arctic capabilities in areas such as Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Information, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) and to strengthen domestic and international collaboration to improve its Arctic domain awareness.  The report also made the following observations about the complexities of U.S. Arctic requirements, capabilities, and resource gaps:

Arctic operations are inherently difficult and dangerous, particularly in the North American Arctic.  Forces operating in the remote and austere Arctic region require specialized training and equipment to withstand the extreme cold weather conditions.  Long distances and correspondingly lengthy times from established bases increase response times and will stress U.S. capability to sustain forces in remote polar areas.  When operating in the Arctic, DoD forces are challenged to maneuver, employ, and sustain capabilities effectively due to limitations in extreme cold weather protective clothing; aging surface mobility platforms; ice, permafrost, and extreme weather conditions; limited navigation aids; and inadequately mapped terrain and poorly charted waters. Command and control of forces are challenged by limited satellite and terrestrial communications above 65 degrees north.  In addition, very little of the Arctic Ocean is charted to modern standards.  DoD will continue working with international and interagency partners to address these issues collaboratively.59

The Trump Administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy report stressed the importance of keeping the Arctic, outer space, and the digital realm accessible to the U.S. and international institutions.60  Arctic threat assessment also marked early administration perspectives on this region’s importance during this administration’s opening months.  Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 6, 2017, NORTHCOM Commander General Lori Robinson noted that threats to the U.S. and Canada are “increasingly global, transregional, all-domain, and multi-functional in nature.”  She noted ongoing Russian and Chinese efforts to enhance their military offensive capabilities, stressed that NORTHCOM and (North American Air Defense Command) NORAD  must be able to conduct search and rescue, patrolling, and maintaining aerospace warning and control along Alaskan and Canadian coastlines, that January 2017 saw the opening of a 40-person barracks in Barrow, AK to support Alaska Army National Guard exercises in training, and that NORAD collaboration with DOD and Canada’s Department of National Defence facilitated the release of a Mobile User Objective System for facilitating enhanced communications within NORAD.61

In January 2018, Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunt announced that a new fleet of heavy icebreaker ships would be designed to carry weapons such as cruise missiles in an effort to counteract the Russian Coast guard fleet of at least 40 icebreakers, including four operational nuclear-powered icebreakers.  This is in contrast to the current U.S. Coast Guard fleet of three icebreakers with Zukunft saying the first U.S. nuclear icebreakers could be ready in five years for less than $1 billion.62

The 2018 proposal by the Coast Guard Commandant anticipated the increases in defense spending being proposed by the Trump Administration.  The Trump Administration’s proposed FY 2019 congressional defense budget request published on February 12, 2018 called for DOD’s budget to increase to $686 billion representing an $80 billion or 13% increase over FY 2017 levels citing the reemergence of Chinese and Russian great power competition and the need to build an increasingly lethal, resilient, and agile force to maintain sea control and address global multiple spectrum threats.  Similar assertions also characterized the unclassified summary of DOD’s 2018 National Defense Strategy.63

Subsequent Trump Administration national security policy documents have seen significant literature on the Arctic’s geopolitical importance.  The Coast Guard’s June 2019 Arctic Strategic Outlook emphasized the American Arctic’s economic value by stressing that it encompasses 1,000,000 square miles of territorial waters and EEZ, has an economic impact of $3 billion on Alaska’s seafood industry, contains 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves and an estimated 30% of undiscovered global natural gas reserves, and that its rare earth minerals including lead, nickel, and zinc are worth $1 trillion.   This document also noted that since the 2013 Arctic Strategy that there have been six Chinese Arctic expeditions, that 1,700 people were on the Crystal Serenity cruise ship in 2016 which became the first large capacity ship to transit the Northwest Passage, that Russia has built fourteen icebreakers and six Arctic bases since 2013, and that 10 million tons of goods including coal, gas, grain, and oil transited the NSR in 2017 with 40% of these goods originating from or going to Chinese ports.64

Operational objectives the Coast Guard will strive to fulfill in subsequent years include enhancing its capability to operate effectively in a dynamic Arctic by filling gaps in Arctic operational capability and capacity, establishing persistent awareness and Arctic domain understanding, closing critical communications gaps; strengthening the rules-based order by strengthening partnerships, leading international forums, and countering challenges to the maritime domain international rules-based order; and innovating and adapting to promote resilience and prosperity by supporting regional resilience and crisis response leadership, addressing emerging demands in maritime law enforcement, and advancing and modernizing the Arctic marine transportation system.

These objectives will be accomplished by investing in ice-breaking ships such as the Polar Security Cutter, aviation assets, unmanned and/or autonomous systems and personnel capable of operating in an austere and remote physical environment.  Such missions must be executed with upgradable and interoperable assets capable of fulfilling evolving missions ranging from search and rescue to defense operations and marine scientific research support.65

June 2019 saw the issuance of DOD’s Arctic Strategy which stresses three key U.S. Arctic national security interests as being the Arctic serving as the U.S. homeland; the Arctic being a shared region; and the Arctic being a potential corridor for strategic competition.  Aspects of these three interest categories include defending the U.S. through early warning and missile defense, protecting U.S. critical infrastructure; and achieving domain awareness to protect regional U.S. security interests; defending the U.S. through early warning and missile defense, protecting U.S. critical infrastructure; and achieving domain awareness to protect regional U.S. security interests; national sovereignty is a U.S. interest and Washington must work with regional countries to promote shared cooperation; and the Arctic expands the Indo-Pacific and Europe which are two key regions  of great power competition  identified  in the 2018 National Defense Strategy along with the U.S. homeland.  Consequently U.S. interests include maintaining flexibility for great power projection, including freedom of navigation and overflight, and limiting China’s and Russia’s ability to leverage the Arctic as a competitive corridor to advance their strategic objectives through malignant or coercive behavior66

Specific measures to enhance U.S. capabilities in the Arctic include modernizing missile and cruise missile defense systems to maintain a layered approach to domain awareness with multi-domain sensors encompassing terrestrial radars and space-based capabilities, enhancing maritime surveillance of the Greenland Iceland United Kingdom gap and North Atlantic with the United Kingdom and Norway using P-8 Poseidon aircraft patrols; and addressing communication challenge existing above 65˚ north latitude stemming from atmospheric interference caused by solar and magnetic phenomena degrading high frequency radio signals; increasing in-situ observations and enhancing environmental modeling to meet mission demands and ensure personnel and equipment safety due to continually evolving sea ice, ocean currents, wind, water, and air temperatures, sea spray, and icing conditions.  Additional measures include recognizing that the importance of regular Arctic exercises and deployments; recognizing that Arctic regions and strategic competitors activities extend the traditional geographic and functional expanses of military unified commands; the importance of cold weather training with partners and allies and maintaining Arctic infrastructure to support U.S. power projection and maneuver.  Specific armed service Arctic mission roles and responsibilities are also enumerated in this document.67

The Air Force published its Arctic Strategy in July 2020.   This treatise noted that the Arctic’s capacity as a U.S. strategic buffer is eroding and it has become a threat route to the homeland due to advances by great power competitors.  It features critical launch points for global power projection and increasingly accessible natural resources.  Although DOD currently forecasts Arctic conflict as low, the confluence of regional activities by great power competitors, helped by increased physical access due to receding land and sea ice, allows for potentially intensified regional competition and opportunities for cooperation with allies and partners.68

The Air Force provides nearly 80% of DOD Arctic region resourcing with installations in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.  The regional geographic scope above the Arctic Circle is nearly 2.5 times larger than the continental U.S. and the North American Arctic hosts a harsher environment than the European Arctic and significantly less road and maritime assets.  It is an increasingly important area for U.S. and allied air forces as this map demonstrates:

FIGURE 10:  U.S. Air Force and Other National Arctic Military Assets (Source: U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency)69 (If this map cannot be accessed from the link provided, copy the URL from the footnote and enter it into a browser window; then see p. 5.)

Key Air Force Arctic emphases include missile defense and working with Canada to improve the North Warning System, improving command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, enhancing terrestrial weather forecasting and prediction, augmenting power projection, enhancing agile operations and logistics, infrastructure development in a challenging environment, and interoperability with allies.  The nascent U.S. Space Force is also emphasized in this plan since it must overcome Arctic-unique orbital mechanics and electro-magnetic obstacles along with threats from national competitors.  Consequently, Space Force will work closely with allies and the private sector to address common space and Arctic goals, develop new technologies and modernize existing Arctic assets to ensure access to and operational freedom in space, and devise capabilities to mitigate and predict unique Arctic environmental disturbances.70


Why is the Arctic of fundamental geopolitical importance?  In 1904 and 1919 Halford John Mackinder wrote a seminal article and follow-on book theorizing the importance of the Eurasian “heartland” for world history.  He asserted that the power occupying the heartland was relatively insulated from amphibious assault due to the Arctic ice cap.  From this territorial bastion, Imperial Russia (and later the Soviet Union and Russian Federation) unilaterally or in concert with other powers, could use interior communication and transport lines to project force outward to countries occupying Eurasian littoral lands.  From this fundamental geographic insight various cold war containment doctrines emerged.  In the early 21st century, a fundamental change in world geographic conditions may be occurring:  the northern polar ice cap is receding and for the first time in modern Eurasian history, the power occupying what had been the Eurasian heartland is vulnerable to maritime force and may seek, given its potential access to Arctic resources, to become a full-blown maritime power.  Mackinder believed each century witnessed a fundamental shift in geopolitical and geostrategic configurations, usually resulting from introducing new technologies and forming new alliances.  The consequences of Arctic climate change drives the Russian Federation’s intent to go to sea potentially seeking a new Turnerian northern frontier.71

A 2015 thesis from Air University’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies “Trouble in NIFLHEIM:  Elements of a NATO Arctic Strategy” uses Mackinder’s Heartland and Spykman’s Rimland theories and other geopolitical interpretations as a means for describing four potential NATO-Russia conflict areas in the Arctic. These potential conflict areas include territorial disputes between Denmark and Russia overextending an (EEZ) over the North Pole; Norway and Russia having a long history of disputes over resource extraction rights in Svalbard.  This area is regulated by the ambiguous Svalbard Treaty and conflict is possible due to Svalbard’s short distance from Russia including the heavily militarized Kola Peninsula and Russia’s northern fleet; The Northern Sea Route with Russia and the U.S. disagreeing over the status of this waterway if it becomes a lucrative maritime route of sea line of communication.  Russia could seek to challenge U.S. claim to freedom of the seas by closing straits which act as maritime chokepoints potentially risking confrontation with U.S. forces in the Arctic consequently being geographically favorable to Russia to its relative proximity to the Russian mainland; delimiting the  Bering and Chukchi Seas between the Russia and the U.S. which could produce military confrontation between these powers with Alaska’s geographical proximity making this a tripwire for immediate U.S. response to Russian aggression.72

These documents delineating national intentions and capabilities and ongoing geopolitical trends, including the increasing assertiveness of China and Russia, make it imperative that the U.S. and its NATO and non-NATO allies take the following steps to protect their national interests:

  • Recognize that the days of idealistically viewing the Arctic as a utopian zone of international sanctuary are over and sustained  steps must  be taken to ensure the U.S. and  its allies triumph if Arctic conflict erupts.
  • NATO Countries bolstering their military presence in the Arctic by increasing the number of naval and Coast Guard vessels which are appropriately armed and capable of withstanding the rigors of Arctic weather.  U.S. NORTHCOM must boldly assert Arctic defense as a priority and for this to be included in forthcoming command budget appropriations.

•    These countries must augment their air and naval resources patrolling these areas, increase their land forces permanently stationed here, and upgrade their personnel and infrastructure to facilitate operating in the Arctic to demonstrate the strength and endurance of their commitment against potential Chinese and Russian encroachments.  Particular emphasis must be placed on deterring and defeating emerging Chinese and Russian advances in hypersonic and swarming weapons technologies.

•    SBIR satellites must be constantly overhead in the Arctic to warn against ballistic   

       missile attack and Russian troop movements beyond Russian territorial waters.

  • The U.S. must provide additional resources to the National Geospatial  Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office to increase mapping and charting of Arctic Ocean and the quality and timeliness of satellite surveillance.
  • The U.S. must provide additional resources to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office to increase mapping and charting of the Arctic Ocean and the quality and timeliness of satellite surveillance.
  • Explicitly include the Arctic in NATO Article  5 defense treaty coverage and in  NATO strategic planning and doctrine and include an Arctic section in NATO command structure and operations division.
  • Finland and Sweden must jettison their morally relativistic Cold War neutrality and join NATO if they are serious about protecting their national sovereignty.  If Helsinki and Stockholm fail do to this NATO may elect to not defend their claims to the Arctic.
  • NATO countries must regularly patrol the NSR  by air, sea, and space to deter Russia  from attempting to seize control of these waters.
  • The State Department must appoint a special envoy or create an independent bureau whose mission  is explicitly promoting the Arctic as an area of freedom of navigation and air and space  flight and warn against the consequences  of allowing powers like China and Russia to control access to its waters and natural resources.

Such policies are consistent with the Trump Administration’s America First emphasis and harmonize with historic and contemporary U.S. and allied policies favoring international freedom of navigation and enhancing the economic prosperity and national security of the U.S. and its allies.  Whether this emerging U.S. and NATO interest in the Arctic’s strategic value continues into a Biden Administration is highly debatable.


115 USC 4111

2Elena Conde P Pérez and Maria Scopelliti, Arctic Region, (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2013); DOI:10.1093/OBO/9780199796953-0090.

3Central Intelligence Agency. Arctic Region Map

4Michael Forsythe, “Why Alaska and the Arctic are Critical to the National Security of the United States,” Military Review, 98 (1)(January-February 2018):  116;

5Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal:  Estimates of Undiscovered Oil and Gas under the Arctic Circle, (Reston, VA:  USGS, 2008):  1-4;
6Assessment of Undiscovered Resources of the Barents Sea Shelf, (Reston, VA:  USGS, 2009):  1-3;

7Illulisat Declaration,

8Valur Ingimundarson, “The Geopolitics of the ‘Future Return’:  Britain’s Century-Long Challenges to Norway’s Control over the Spitsbergen Archipelago,” The International History Review, 40 (4)(2018): 893-915; DOI:10.1080/07075332.2017.1345773

9Norway. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Treaty Between the Kingdom of Norway and the Russian Federation Concerning Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. (Oslo:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2010).; and Indra  Overland and Andrey Krivorotov, “Norwegian-Russian Political Relations and Barents Oil and Gas Developments,” in  International Arctic Petroleum Cooperation:  Barents Sea Scenarios, Anatoli Bermastov et. al. eds., (London:  Routledge,  2015):   97-110.

10Durham University, International Centre for Borders Research, Maritime Jurisdiction and Boundaries in the Arctic Region, 2020,

11Elizabeth Wishnick, China’s Interests and Goals in the Arctic:  Implications for the United States, (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, 2016):  24-32;

12Ibid., 29-32.

13People’s Republic of China, Ministry of National Defense, China’s Military Strategy:  Missions and Strategic Tasks of China’s Armed Forces, (Beijing:  Ministry of National Defense, 2015):; and “China in the Arctic:  Practices and Policies,” (Beijing:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs People’s Republic of China,” October 15, 2017):  1-3;

14U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020, (Washington, DC:  Department of Defense, 2020):  132-133;

15China’s Arctic Policy, (Beijing:   The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 2018):; Kyle D. Christensen, China in the Arctic:  Implications of China’s  Arrival in an Ice-Free Arctic, (Ottawa:  Defence R&D Canada, 2011):; and David Curtis Wright, A Dragon Eyes the Top of the World:  Arctic Policy Debate and Discussion in China, (Newport, RI:   China  Maritime Studies Institute, 2011);

16Finland, Prime Minister’s Office, Finland’s Strategy for the Arctic Region 2013, (Helsinki:  Prime Minister’s Office, 2013);

17Finland, Prime Minister’s Office, Government’s Defence Report, (Helsinki:  Prime Minister’s Office, 2017):  5, 8, 21-23, 26, 31.

 18Sweden, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden’s Strategy in the Arctic Region, (Stockholm:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2011:  4, 9-14;

19Sweden, Sweden’s Defence Policy 2016 to 2020, (Stockholm:  Ministry of Defence, 2015):  1-10;; and Ibid., Budget 2018: Increased Military Capabilities and Enhanced Total Defence, (Stockholm:  Ministry of Defence, 2017):  1-2;

20Norway, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Norwegian Government’s High North Strategy,  (Oslo:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2006):  7;

21Ibid., 7-10.

22Ibid.,  12;

23Norway, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meld. St. 36 (2016–2017), Setting the Course for Norwegian Foreign and Security Policy, (Oslo:  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2017):  6-7;

24Ibid., 11, 14.

25Ibid., 29-30; Norway Ministry of Defence, New Combat Aircraft for the Norwegian Armed Forces, (Oslo:  Ministry of Defence, 2017);; Ibid., Future Acquisitions for the Norwegian Armed Forces 2012-2020, (Oslo:  Ministry of Defense, 2012):; and Military Balance, (London:  IISS, 2017): 76, 142.

 26Iceland, Prime Minister’s Office, “Address by the Prime Minister at the Arctic Circle Assembly 2015,” (Reykjavik: Prime Minister’s Office, October 18, 2015):  1-5;

27Mikkel Runge Olesen, Arctic Rivalries:  Friendly Competition or Dangerous Conflict?, (Copenhagen:  Danish Institute for International Studies, 2017):  5;; and Dan Levin, “Canada and Denmark Fight Over Island With Whisky and Schnapps,” New York Times, (November 7, 2016):  1-2;

28Adam MacDonald, “The Militarization of the Arctic:  Emerging Reality, Exaggeration, and Distraction,” Canadian Military Journal, 15 (3)(2015):  25;

29Denmark, Ministry of Defence, A Strong Defence of Denmark:  Proposal for a New Defence Agreement 2018-2023, (Copenhagen:  Ministry of Defence, 2017):; and Ibid., New Fighter Aircraft:  Government Recommendation, (Copenhagen:  Ministry of Defence, 2016):  1;

30Rob Huebert, “Why a Defence Review is Necessary and Why it Will Be Easy to Get it Wrong in the Arctic,” Canadian Naval Review, 12 (1)(2016):  22-26; Ryan Dean, P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Adam Lajeunesse, Canadian Arctic Defence Policy:  A Synthesis of Key Documents 1970-2013, (Calgary and Waterloo:  Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and Centre on Foreign Policy and Federalism, 2014).; P. Whitney Lackenbauer and Ryan Dean, Canada’s Northern Strategy under Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Key Speeches and Documents on Sovereignty, Security, and Governance, 2006-15, (Calgary and Waterloo:  Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and Centre on Foreign Policy and Federalism, 2016);; and Bert Chapman, “The Politics of Canadian Defense White Papers:   Lofty Rhetoric and Limited Results,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations, 11 (1)(2019):  7-40;

31Central Intelligence Agency, The Arctic Region, 1970,,0.379,0.643,0.409,0

32Northern Approaches:  The Army Arctic Concept 2021, (Kingston, ON:  Canadian Army Land Warfare Centre, 2013):  23;; Department of National Defence, Strong Secure Engaged:  Canada’s Defense Policy, (Ottawa:  Department of National Defence, 2017):  14, 15, 35;; and Royal Canadian Navy, Canada in a New Maritime World:  LEADMARK 2050, (Ottawa:  Royal Canadian Navy, 2017);  V, 1, 10, 39-42; Balance, (London:  International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2017):  553; and Department of National Defence, Operation Nanook, (Ottawa:  DND, 2020):

33Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Defence Sub-Committee, On Thin Ice:  UK Defence in the Arctic, (London:  House of Commons Defence Sub-Committee, 2018):  52-54;;  Ibid., On Thin Ice: Defence in the Arctic: Government Response to the Committee’s Twelfth Report; (London:  House of Commons Defence Subcommittee, 2018):  3-13;; and Duncan Depledge,”Emerging UK Arctic Policy,” International Affairs, 89 (6)(2013):  1445-1457.

34Great Britain, Ministry of Defence, “UK Leads Multi-National Task Group of Warships Above the Arctic Circle in Demonstration of Freedom of Navigation,”, (September 10,  2020).

35Ariel Cohen, Russia in the Arctic:  Challenges to U.S. Energy and Geopolitics in the High North in Russia in the Arctic, in Russia in the Arctic, Stephen J. Blank, ed., (Carlisle, PA:  U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, 2011): 14-15;; and “Russia Resubmits Claim for Energy-Rich Arctic Shelf,”  Reuters, (August 4, 2015):  1-2;

36Jakub M. Godzmierski, Elana Wilson Rowe, and Helge Blakkisrud, The Arctic:  What Does Russia See? What Does Russia Want?, (Helsinki:  Ministry of Defence, 2012): 7-8;

37“A Shortcut Across the Top of the World,” New York Times, (September 11, 2009);

38Northern Sea Route, (Akureyi, Iceland:  ArcticPortal, 2020):

39Russian Federation Security Council, Russia’s New Arctic Strategy: The Foundations of Russian Federation Policy in the Arctic until 2020 and Beyond,  (Aspen, CO:  Aspen Institute, 2009):  98-99;

40President of the Military Federation, Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, (Moscow:  President of the Russian Federation, 2014):  2;; and Ibid., Russian National Security Strategy, (Moscow:  President of the Russian Federation, 2015):  4, 15;

41Jørgen Straun, Russia’s Strategy in the Arctic, (Copenhagen:  Royal Danish Defence College, 2015):

 42Heather A. Conley and Caroline Roloff, The New Ice Curtain:  Russia’s Strategic Reach to the Arctic, (Washington, DC:  Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2015):  IX, 12-14;

43Russia’s Military Posture in the Arctic, (Washington, DC:  National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, 2020):

44Foundations of the Russian Federation State Policy in the Arctic for the Period Up to 2035. Anna Davis and Ryan Vest, trans. (Newport, RI:  U.S. Naval War College, Russian Maritime Studies Institute, (March 5, 2020):  3;

45Ibid., 3-4.

46Ibid., 4-5.

47Ibid,  11.

48U.S. Congress, House Committee on Military Affairs, Air Defense Bases, (Washington, DC:  GPO, 1935):  121;

49Proclamation 2667—Policy of the United States With Respect to the Natural Resources of the Subsoil and Sea Bed of the Continental Shelf,”

50National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD – 66 Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD – 25, (Washington, DC:  The White House, January 9, 2009):  1-3;

51 Anthony J. Koss III, Sustaining Military Operations in the Arctic:  The U.S. Cannot Do It Alone, (Newport, RI:  Naval War College Joint Military Operations Department, 2012):  9-12;

52U.S. Department of Defense, Arctic Strategy, (Washington, DC:  DOD, 2013):  1-13;

53National Research Council of the National Academies,  Responding to Oil Spills  in the U.S. Arctic Marine Environment, (Washington, DC:  National Academies Press, 2014):  26;

54U.S. Coast Guard, Arctic Strategy, (Washington, DC:  U.S. Coast Guard, 2013):  9-10, 13, 20, 29-31;

55U.S. Navy, Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap 2014-2030, (Washington, DC:  Chief of Naval Operations, 2014):  4, 6;

56Ibid., 6-8, 17.

57U.S. Department of Defense, Report to Congress on Resourcing the Arctic Strategy, (Washington, DC:  DOD, 2016):  4-23;

58U.S. National Intelligence Council, Implications for US National Security of  Anticipated Climate Change, (Washington, DC:  National Intelligence Council, 2016):  8, 10;

59U.S. Department of Defense, Report to Congress on Strategy to Protect United States National Security Interests in the Arctic Region, (Washington, DC:  DOD, 2016):  3-13,

60National Security Strategy of the United States, (Washington, DC:  The White House, 2017):  40;

61U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018 and the Future Years Defense Program:  PT. 1: (Washington, DC:   GPO, 2020); 201-202;

62“The State of the United States Coast Guard Two Thousand and Eighteen Admiral Paul F. Zukunft Commandant,” (Washington, DC:  U.S. Coast Guard, 2018):  3;; and Carlo Muñoz, “How the Coast Guard is Prepping Cruise Missiles on Icebreakers As Another Cold War Heats Up,” Washington Times, (January 17, 2018):  1-2;

63U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Fiscal Year 2019:  Efficient, Effective, Accountable:  An American Budget, (Washington, DC:  OMB, 2018):  33-38;; and U.S. Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America:  Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, (Washington, DC:  DOD, 2018);

64U.S. Coast Guard, Arctic Strategic Outlook, (Washington, DC:  U.S. Coast Guard, 2019):  3;

65Ibid., 6-7, 26.; and Ronald O’Rourke, Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar  Icebreaker) Program:  Background and Issues for Congress, (Washington, DC:  Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, 2020):

66U.S. Department of Defense, Report to Congress:  Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, (Washington, DC:  DOD, 2019):  5-7;

67Ibid., 8-12, 15-18.

68U.S. Air Force, The Department of the Air Force Arctic Strategy, (Washington, DC:   U.S. Air Force, 2020):  2;

69Ibid., 5;

70Ibid., 6-11; and “North Warning System:  Backgrounder,” (Ottawa:   Canadian Forces, 2012):  1;

71Leonard Hochberg and Geoffrey Sloan, “Mackinder’s Geopolitical Perspective Revisited,” Orbis, 61 (4)(2017):  575-592; Halford Mackinder, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” The Geographical Journal, 23 (4)(April 1904):  421-444; Ibid. Democratic Ideals and Reality:  A Study in Reconstruction, (New York:  Henry Holt and Company, 1919); and Frederick Jackson Turner. The Significance of the Frontier in American History,(Indianapolis:  Bobbs-Merrill, 1893). 

72Mikkel Nymann Behrens, “Trouble in NIFLHEIM?:  Elements of a NATO Arctic Strategy,” M.A. Thesis, (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL:  School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, 2015):  61-72;