The Arctic and U.S. National Security

free essayThe Arctic refers to the northernmost part of the earth’s surface that lies to the north of the northern temperate area (Zellen 12). This area can be bordered by the Arctic Circle, but such confine is complicated by the fact that its latitudes vary due to the planet’s angle of inclination. There are several countries, whose northern areas are situated in the Arctic. They include Russia, Norway, Denmark, the United States, and Canada. The territory also comprises exclusive economic zones (EEZ; 200 nautical miles from the country’s land border) of these states, as well as the international waters (the Arctic Sea). However, these countries still make claims to what has previous been considered the international waters. Some of these claims extend even to the North Pole (Zellen 16).

For today, the international law recognizes the North Pole and the Arctic Ocean parts of the international waters (Peimani 23). The international waters, or the high seas and their floors, are considered a heritage of all humans. In order to address various issues that arise between countries that are bordering the Arctic and the indigenous populations, a diplomatic forum has been carried out by the governments of the Arctic countries. This event was referred to as the Arctic Council (AC). There exists a group of observer states; they help in solving the matters of this region. These states are not the Arctic countries themselves (Peimani 19).

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Despite its position as the global financial and military power, the US has very limited claims on the Arctic (Streever 76). It has the least percentage of its area situated in the Arctic as compared to other counter-countries ; its EEZ in the region is also the smallest one. Additionally, it has very limited island territories here: this figure contrasts sharply with other Arctic countries such as Russia, Canada, and Denmark, which have many island territories here. Russia has a sizable number of island territories in the Arctic and the largest seafront in the Arctic Sea. As a result, the country has the largest EEZ in this region. Russia has arisen to become a military power of the same caliber with the US despite its having a much weaker economy (Salvatore 55). Additionally, the country dictates its image as a global superpower that should be consulted by the US in the case of any major global decisions. The same tendency has been seen in the Syrian crisis. The Arctic has become a complex issue with many countries contesting its territories that were previously seen as a part of the high seas. This region is rich in resources, especially in the oil and gas. Moreover, a significant amount of these resources is situated in the Russian EEZ.

Laws established by the UN in 1982 allowed nations to claim some parts of the ocean that were considered a territory of their continental shelves (Streever 58). As a result, the Russian government has carried out extensive research to get evidence that could make large swaths of the Arctic and the North Pole as a part of the Russian territory. Due to the proximity of Russia to the Arctic, its population has utilized resources in this area for many years. Additionally, the government (especially during the Cold War) used the Arctic for various private reasons (Johannessen 22).

Due to the global warming, large areas of the Arctic have been opened due to the melting of some parts of the icecap. Areas, which previously have been under the permafrost, are now accessible especially in the summer. This fact makes allows to carry out many activities such as constructing trade routes, exploration, mining, and fishing. The security in the high seas, environmental conservation and control of pollution calls for the participation of the US as the major player in the UN, a global superpower, as well as a country that border the Arctic (Strand, Malgorzata, Sneve, & Andrey 33). Additionally, the US has its national interest in the region, which it strives to enforce. Due to the Cold War and the consequent popular idea that the Soviet Union used to store many of its military arsenals in the Arctic, the US could also be interested in the region for the purposes of its national security (Katusa 41). Still, the Arctic provides a midpoint and a route, via which Russia could face the US and its allies in a potential military confrontation. The American government, scholars, and researchers have had their interest in the Arctic for many years expressed. This interest is explained by resources, military significance, and environmental issues of the territory. It is true despite the fact that the warming that is causing an intensive melting of the icecap happens elsewhere in the world. However, warming and thawing of the Arctic Sea have opened it for many activities that need proper regulation. For instance, the pollution due oil exploration, mining, and spills among other issues will need all Arctic countries to regulate each other. On the other hand, this sea might open another route that might interest the U.S. policymakers as it may help the country to deploy its military force effectively and quickly if need be.

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Justification

The U.S. influence around the world continues to grow in the military, diplomacy, and trade with each year. On the other hand, some of its competitors continue to develop and become worthy opponents in one of the areas mentioned above. Even though the American influence continues to be felt globally, the country has either failed to do or done very little in the management of the Arctic. The U.S. presence in the world oceans in terms of the research and development, defense and security, as well as the environmental conservation is huge. However, for some reason, it is not the case with the Arctic. In the current era when the general environmental conditions have changed, the US needs to increase its engagement in this area.

As for today, very limited research and information concerning how the US can become a leader in the exploration of the Arctic exists. This deficiency is caused by the fact that the country has focused on other areas of the world. There is a need to carry out extensive research concerning how the US can take a leadership role in the exploration of the Arctic. This study needs to take into consideration numerous global issues, including the climatic change and the U.S. national security.

Russia has a more definitive policy for the Arctic. This phenomenon could be explained by the country’s proximity, its EEZ in the Arctic and the fact that the area supports the livelihood of many Russians. Formerly, the location of these territories made it have a very restricted access to other populations apart from the soviets, as well as other Arctic country. Consequently, Russia has had a longer experience in working in the area as compared to other counter-countries. The Arctic has been exploited by Russians in the research, development, and military among other purposes. Some military sources state that the Soviets stored some military assets in the Arctic, including nuclear submarines for the possibly second strike against the US. In the current age of the Russian military modernization, the country has allocated several military assets in the region. It has also conducted much exploration for discovering oil and gas deposits in its EEZ; today, it is on the verge of exploiting these resources.

Since 1982, Russia has also laid claims to large parts of the Arctic that extend to the North Pole. For many years, a team of Russian scientists has been collecting scientific evidence with the view to supporting the country’s claim to these territories. According to the reasons outlined in this paragraph, it is clear that if the US decides to take a leadership role in the exploration of the Arctic, it must either compete or cooperate with Russia, which has taken this duty as for today. The only area where Americans can easily become the first is the conservation of the Arctic Ocean; however, a significant part of it is likely to become Russia’s territory in the near future.

Therefore, there is a need to compare the policies of the two countries for the Arctic. This analysis is important for developing an effective action plan for the US to gain the leadership role in the exploration and other activities in this region.

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Aim

This paper aims at looking into how the US can take the lead in the exploration of the Arctic. It also focuses on such issues as climatic changes and transformations this process has caused in the region. Moreover, it analyzes how the US can be involved in the Arctic for its national security. The paper also studies the American policy for the Arctic and compares it with Russia’s one. It is important to note that the U.S. position in the Arctic has been passive for the recent years. The country has focused only on its EEZ and has not laid any other territorial claims in the region. Additionally, its involvement in the Arctic Sea has been limited; as for today, it does not reflect the nation’s status of the world’s superpower and the major player in the UN. Conversely, other countries and the U.S. potential rival have succeeded in establishing their operations in the Arctic. Additionally, any actions of exploration, claiming territories, and economic exploitation of this region need to be regulated in order to ensure that all stakeholders act in a responsible way. The US decision to take the lead in the exploration of the Arctic can have many benefits to the country; moreover, it can also be crucial for the country’s national security. The paper analyzes all these issues, as well.

Research Question

  • What is the effect of the climatic change on the Arctic?
  • How can the US take a leadership role in the exploration of the Arctic?
  • What is the significance of the Arctic to the U.S. national security?
  • How can the U.S. and Russian Arctic policies be compared?

LITERATURE REVIEW

The Arctic is a crucial region because of a set of factors, including unique geopolitics and unexploited resources, among many other issues. It is also situated in the midpoint between North America and Eurasia; this location increases its significance to both continents. It is a complex ecosystem, in which much of the earth’s water is stored in the ice form. There are areas in the Arctic that previously, used to be permanently frozen; others are still frozen even today. All the above factors make the region a very attractive subject for writers, researchers, and scholars. Ecologists and oceanographers have been researching the area for many years. Nevertheless, not all questions are answered; thus, people are encouraged to continue the exploration as the territory is considerably impacted by effects of the global warming. On the other hand, governments have been trying to study this region because of their populations that have inhabited some habitable parts of the Arctic for a long time. The region has also been developed for possible military applications. Due to all these factors, much information about the Arctic exist; it ranges from the effects of the climatic change in the region, the past and future trade, and military use to the exploration work. Some authors have written and published materials concerning the U.S. policy while others have expounded their studies to Russia. This section of the paper reviews what other writers, scholars, and policymakers have written as far as the subject of this research is concerned.

The Effects of the Climatic Change on the Arctic

Earth’s temperatures have been increasing slowly for many years. However, over the last two centuries, human activities have accelerated the global warming as they have led to the accumulation of heat in the earth’s atmosphere (Strand, Malgorzata, Sneve, & Andrey 151). Scientists have associated this warming with the accumulation of carbon and other greenhouse gasses in the  upper layers of the planet. As a result, significantly much of the sun heat energy cannot leave the earth’s atmosphere; this phenomenon has caused the warming. It is estimated that the earth warmed by an average of 1 degree Celsius in the last two centuries.

The pattern of this warming is non-uniform as some places have reported greater rates than the others have. For instance, the Arctic has warmed at twice the rate of the rest of the planet.

Because of this warming, the polar icecap is melting at a rapid pace. As a result, places that were previously under permafrost are thawing, and vegetation becomes to grow in such areas. In environmental terms, these areas used to be covered by shiny surfaces that were capable of reflecting a large amount of the solar energy into the outer space. However, today, they are replaced by the green vegetation, which consumes much of the sun energy for photosynthesis. and hence makes the earth retain much energy. In its turn, this process will increase the warming rates. Additionally, the Arctic is a huge storage of the earth’s water, which is kept in a relatively purer state as compared to the salty tropics. Warming will lead to the rise in the sea level; consequently, waste areas of the coast can be submerged in the nearest future (Sörlin 81).

Many changes have occurred in the Arctic for the last few decades. The amount of ice is decreasing, and large surfaces of the water in the Arctic Ocean are now uncovered. The areas of tundra are becoming increasingly capable of supporting the forest vegetation. Some places in the Arctic are now more hospitable for such activities as research and exploration of the energy sources. Today, sea vessels can travel over certain areas where the use of icebreakers was necessary in the past. As a result, currently, the Arctic became generally more accessible to scientists, merchants, and navies. The exploration work has gained momentum; nations are looking for oil and gas while others looked for evidence required for claiming the territories, which they believe to belong to their continental shelf. Under the United Nation Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries are allowed to claim a part of the seabed in the high sea if they can scientifically prove that such places are a part of their extended continental shelves. The country has a decade upon the endorsement of the UNCLOS. If such claims are verified, the state in question gains special ownership of the resources on and below the claimed seabed (Sörlin 38). Out of the five countries that share the Arctic, four have formally placed seabed claims in the Arctic, which are considered their EEZ. In particular, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia have all filed their claims under the UNCLOS provisions and have engaged in many sea expeditions that aimed at collecting scientific evidence for supporting their claims. The US has not ratified UNCLOS yet; thus, it has not filed any seabed claims in the Arctic high seas (Sörlin 74).

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As seen above, the climatic change has made the Arctic be more accessible and offer better economic benefits. These issues have encouraged the exploration activity in the search for resources, as well as for scientific proof, as countries are trying to place seabed claims to this region.

How the US Can Take Leadership Role in the Exploration of the Arctic

For many years, the US has had a laid back stance concerning the Arctic. The main reasons for this standpoint are not yet known (Emmerson 100). However, researchers note that a combination of factors that make the US have a little national interest is the fact that it has very many tropical ports in the Atlantic, as well as the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, the country is not interested in the frozen ports of the Arctic. This rationale is supported by the fact that it uses much of its resources in the development and defense of its Atlantic and Pacific Ocean fronts and employs very little of the same in Alaska. Additionally, the country has very little claims in the Arctic as its continental shelf does not extend here. The U.S. position contrasts sharply with such countries as Russia and Norway that have a significant length of their seafronts facing the Arctic and have no or a few tropical ports. Additionally, all the Arctic countries with the exception of the US have several inhabited islands in the region and may also have their continental shelf extending to these territories. Despite the fact that the US may see very limited gains in terms of investment returns in the Arctic, there is a need for the nation to engage much of its resources here for various reasons (Rasmussen & Natalia 81).

With the current climatic change, it is important to collect baseline information that can be used for predicting and tracking any future changes and take appropriate actions. The US has taken a leadership role in collecting the oceanographic data of all the world oceans, as well as the marine ecosystem. This information is used for the responsible exploitation of marine resources and their conservation. However, these measures have not been implemented in the complex marine ecosystem of the Arctic. The US can gain the lead in exploratory surveys in the region in order to acquire the baseline information, which would be important for the future conservation of the Arctic ecosystem (Rasmussen & Natalia 82).

Most exploration campaigns that are taking place in the Arctic are majorly economic in nature as countries are looking for ways to exploit the hidden resources. For instance, Russia has carried out an extensive offshore study in areas that are believed to be rich in oil. It is also the case with other countries in this region, some of which, including the US, Canada, and Denmark, continue to develop their oil and gas reserves. Despite the coordination of the Arctic countries in various treaties, there is a need for all players to monitor each other mutually in order to ensure that the environmental pollution is under control. The US can take a leadership position with the view to guarantying that all stakeholders exploit resources in this area responsibly without causing adverse effects such as dumping of contaminants and spilling crude oil among other issues (Johannessen 22).

The countries in the Arctic are developed and stable; for this reason, the  sea poses a very insignificant threat to researchers and ocean explorers. It is unlike some other places in the world; for instance, the Gulf of Aden was affected by the rampant sea piracy recently. In the past, countries of the Arctic region have demonstrated high equilibrium. Even at the heights of the Cold War, the USSR, the US, and other six interested states with interests in the region met with the aim to develop an effective way for the protection of the Arctic (Katusa 47). This initial meeting is believed to have created a foundation for the Arctic Council.  In 2015-2016, the US holds the rotating chairmanship of the council; the United States Department of State has prioritized the improvement of living conditions of indigenous communities of the Arctic for the time it will head the council (Rasmussen & Natalia 60). Therefore, it can cooperate with these communities, some of which have much information about their environment, in various exploratory surveys and expeditions. These people have ventured deep into the Arctic and are in a better position to understand various systems of the region. The US can make its exploration more effective if such communities and their knowledge are properly employed. In return, the government can offer these people jobs, which would improve their living standards.

How It Works

Significance of the Arctic to U.S. National Security

The US has significant populations in Alaska, which is one of the states of the country. Alaska is situated in the Arctic, and some of its areas are covered by permafrost (Nuttall & Callaghan 59). In the case of any potential military confrontation, the US would need to defend Alaska just as any other of its states. This goal becomes a problem due to the fact that these territories are surrounded by waters, which are frozen for a significant time of the year. This situation is in sharp contrast to all other states of the country that have a warm climate. As a result, the US has not prioritized the construction of icebreakers and only has a few. The large ones have already been written off, and the medium ones are to be pensioned off in few years. In the case of any disasters in Alaska, and especially in the winter, the country may find itself unable to deliver help to the populations in need.

With opening new trade routes in the Arctic, there is a higher risk of accidents or even mechanical failure of sea vessels in the region. These situations can happen to vessels of any country, either an Arctic state or not. This issue dictates a need for launching rescue missions, in which the help of icebreakers might be needed. Owing to the fact that the US lacks a fleet of capable icebreakers, such rescue campaigns might be impossible and might have devastating outcomes for both the sailors and trade (Murray & Anita 51).

In the winter, it can be impossible for the US vessels to resupply Alaska, as well as respond to any emergencies in those ports or in the Arctic Sea. Although the Cold War is over and the possibility of a new military confrontation between the US and Russia is minimal, these two world’s powers have always engaged in many conflicts over national interests. A good recent example is the Syrian crisis, in which the two states supported opposing sides and had a different way forward. Russia, which is the potential military rival of the US, has numerous assets in the Arctic and can navigate in this area at any time of the year. The country has over three dozens of operational icebreakers that are taking part in various missions in the region. It also has many other civilian and military vessels; thus, it is able to engage in any activity without being hampered by any weather condition. For this reason, the country can efficiently advance its national interests in the region with little problems. In the case of a potential military conflict in the Arctic, Russia is more likely to prevail over its rival, the US.

The Arctic route, just like any other international waters, can be used by any nation or terror groups that are interested in attacking the US either in Alaska or in other destinations (Deluca 73). For this reason, the US needs to pay special attention to the region and the Arctic, in general; the country should use its military resources as it has done in the rest of its territories. As seen in the above paragraphs, the Arctic has enormous significance to the U.S. national security (Nuttall & Callaghan 59).

Comparison of the U.S. and Russian Arctic Policies

The policies adopted by the US and Russia for the Arctic are very different (Blank 133). While the US has failed to develop a well-coordinated and clear national policy for the region, Russia has a comprehensive and holistic policy for it. Despite having a new and functional infrastructure in the rest of the world, the U.S. networks in the Arctic and Alaska are either absent or clearly outdated. Despite its formal commitment to improving the lives of the indigenous population in the Arctic, this commitment has not been supported by any concrete action. The U.S. new development policy, which has presupposed the extraction of its offshore oil resources, is conspicuously absent in its Arctic EEZ. Additionally, the nation has failed to invest earnestly it the exploration of the Arctic. This standpoint is in sharp contrast to Russia. New shipping routes that are developed after the melting of the Arctic snows have been poorly regulated by the US authorities, which have allocated very little resources in the region for many years. In the future, this situation might cause trade and security challenges for the country. The lack of investment and commitment of resources in the Arctic may also put the US in a position when it might be unable to protect or enforce its sovereignty and those of its allies (Streever 58).

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On the other hand, Russia has a clear policy which determines its goals in the Arctic. Additionally, it has been seen to follow its aims rather aggressively. It has clear goals that are implemented in the action plan. Russia’s foremost targets in the Arctic include the utilization of the region’s  natural resources, protection of biological networks, development of national interests, as well as advancement of the balance and collaboration in the region. For a long time, the country has been present in the region and has been modernizing the military assets of by its coast guards. In addition to the exploitation of fish resources and shipping abilities, the country is now expanding the economic potential of the region including petroleum and mineral deposits. The Northern Sea Route that Russia has exploited for years already is likely to become busier with the melting of the Arctic ice that takes place in the summer. As a result, it is planned for the development of port facilities with the view to increasing its capacity. The country’s Security Council has been developing modalities of increasing the nation’s Arctic transport infrastructure (Murray & Anita 46).

Russia has also taken a leadership role in the research and exploration of the region. The product of such research work includes the development of a large fleet of cost-effective icebreakers. It has also conducted an extensive search for energy resources, as well as scientific evidence for proving a continuation of its continental shelf in the Arctic Sea. Some of its groundbreaking inventions in the Arctic that could be applied in Antarctica include the technology of drifting ice stations with specialists on board for conducting research throughout the year. Moreover, Russians were the first to lower the manned equipment to the bottom of the North Pole. These research expeditions are very important for monitoring the oceanographic, biological, and hydro-physical dynamics of the North Pole and the Arctic Sea (Streever 19).

Synthesis and Conclusion

As seen in the literature review section, global warming has increased the potential uses of the Arctic. Many shipping routes that can be used in the summer have opened up due to thawing of the territories that used to be covered by permafrost. Additionally, today, significantly large areas in the region can be reached without the use of specialized equipment, such as icebreakers. This has been increasing the economic and research exploration activities in the area. Some Arctic countries have been involved in serious exploration work that aims to identify areas that are rich in oil, gas, and other resources. Russia has also claimed much of the Arctic seabed and has carried out extensive scientific research in order to get evidence and prove that the claimed territories are parts of its continental shelf.

The Russian policy for the Arctic involves using the area in the international cooperation. The country has demonstrated a lot of equilibrium in the matters concerning the region. The nation has a large fleet of specialized equipment to be used in conducting an all-year-round exploration of the Arctic. The US can first collaborate with Russia in handling the primary issues such as the regulation of the shipping routes, as well as search and rescue missions, for example. However, for the US to be meaningfully engaged in the search and rescue mission in the Arctic, it has to acquire and launch specialized equipment in order to gain an all-season access to the region. It means that the country has to acquire icebreakers. It also has to develop a consistent policy for the region. Although the U.S. EEZ in the Arctic is smaller than that of other countries, it can engage in the scientific and oceanographic research in the region in order to gather information that may be needed for the sustainable exploitation and management of resources in the future (Ford & William 13). Currently, it is impossible to come up with a comprehensive action plan when it comes to the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic. As a result, each country in the region is left to come up with an own code of practice. Therefore, the US can use its financial ability to conduct research with the aim of developing a comprehensive code of practice as far as the exploration of the Arctic is concerned. It has a responsibility to ensure that the area is exploited in a sustainable way. The literature review has also indicated that Russia has a more comprehensive Arctic policy than the US.

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METHODOLOGY

In this section, data required to answer the research questions and hence achieve the objectives of this research are sought. The research is qualitative in nature; this enabled the researcher to gain as much information about the subject as possible. Many published materials concerning the research and governmental uses exist about the subject. Some of them have been authored by separate scientists while others were prepared by institutions and governmental agencies. For this reason, the researcher adopted the secondary approach to the research, in which published sources of information were utilized.

Secondary sources of information are easy and cheap to obtain in terms of time and resources. Additionally, they allow the researcher to study many authors’ perspectives and ideas about the subject of the research. It is not the case with the primary data. Furthermore, secondary sources are usually analyzed and presented in a way that is clear and understandable to the appropriate audience. Again, it is not the case with the primary data, which sometimes may require special knowledge and skills to derive any sense from them. In such a manner, some types of the research work are better conducted when using secondary sources of data.

The researcher conducted a literature review, in which all materials that contained appropriate information concerning the subject were chosen and analyzed in detail. Afterward, the researcher picked up the data that could help in answering the research questions or contributed to the research discourse, in general. This information was recorded in the result and analysis section and was used as the basis for drawing the conclusion of this research.

RESULT AND ANALYSIS

The US has engaged in many activities in the Arctic for some time. For instance, the country has built Thule Air Base, acquired autonomous undersea naval vehicles, and also conducts some military training exercises in Alaska. Some military installations in Alaska include Fort Wainwright and Air Force Base in Thule, among others. All these installations are aimed at defending Alaska if and when the need be. Additionally, medical evacuation exercises are regularly conducted in the state. There is also an Arctic Survival School in Alaska that teaches civilians and members of the armed forces on how to survive in the Arctic. However, the U.S. activities are restricted to Alaska and its EEZ; by far, they are less intensive than its presence elsewhere in the World Ocean. In terms of national priority, the US has not given much significance to the Arctic Sea as a part of its international waters (Johannessen 12).

In 2013, the US President delivered a speech that outlined the national policy for the Arctic. The priorities of the country included enabling its air vehicles to fly over the Arctic Sea; this practice is in line with the international laws. It is important to note that the US can always do it. However, flying might not be enough for the effective regulation of activities that are taking place in the Arctic. Therefore, the US needs to keep its sea vessels in the Arctic all year round in order to monitor any campaigns in the region and ensure they are in accordance with the international law. The country needs to have platforms to be used for the regulation of commercial and exploratory activities. It is also important in supporting the U.S. citizens and corporations that are willing to carry out studies for discovering resources and energy in the country’s EEZ (Sergunin & Valery 60).

The US committed itself to be a responsible guard of the Arctic through the protection of its ecosystem. Although it is a responsible goal, there is a need for the country to engage in the extensive research in the entire region. Without a proper understanding of how various systems in the Arctic work, the US may not be able to be an effective overseer of activities in the region. The country needs to invest in resources in order to support the research and exploration work that can be utilized as the basis for establishing a responsible code of operation for the Arctic.

The President’s statement also expressed the country’s commitment to the promotion of peace in the Arctic. This goal is to be achieved through a close cooperation of all Arctic countries in the Arctic Council. Although this task is important, it should not be a priority due to the fact that the region is among the most secure international waters; it is surrounded by stable countries that are also highly developed. The pursuit of this goal would result in the use of resources to achieving a goal that is already attained. For many years, all the Arctic countries have put their political difference aside for the sake of the achieving mutual goals. This idea is supported by the fact that intergovernmental organizations such as the Arctic Council were established at the heights of the Cold War. For a long time, the Arctic countries have cooperated to advance peace and cooperation in the region.

Effects of the Climatic Change on the Arctic

The climatic change has resulted in the global warming, which has made the Arctic more accessible to other nations (Jenson-Elliott 21). Trade routes have been opened, and many continue to be constructed today. Economic activities such as the exploration and tourism have also developed; this reality creates a need for the US to increase its situational awareness of Alaska, the Arctic sea, and the Arctic at large. The US should invest in the region in order to make it navigable. For many years, the Arctic has been very vast and harsh for the US to invest its resources and human power. Additionally, the economic importance of the region to the country has been considered lower than that of other areas, in which the US could invest. In order to invest adequately in this region, the government needs to stop comparing the Arctic with other areas of the World Ocean (Nordquist, John & Alexander 63).

How the US Can Take a Leadership Role in the Exploration of the Arctic

The U.S. government can invest in the infrastructure, which includes a fleet of icebreakers and large vessels that are capable of resupplying all ports in Alaska and engaging in rescue missions in different parts of the Arctic. It will be important in encouraging the U.S. academic and economic researchers in addition to explorers to venture in the Arctic without fear. The country also needs to construct stations in the Arctic Sea, in which researchers can work. They should also be equipped with monitoring kits for testing and observing the oceanographic and biological processes in this region. As for today, the lack of these resources has made institutional and academic explorers stay away from the Arctic, as well as exercise caution in the case of any campaigns in this region (Sergunin & Valery 58).

Another area, on which the U.S. government can focus its attention, is the investment of high-frequency radio waves equipment with the aim to boost the communication. Communication signals tend to be degraded due to the strong influence of the earth’s magnetic field near the North Pole. As a result, the communication is very poor, and GPS becomes ineffective (Murray & Anita 109). It means that the navigation and exploration are complicated. To change this situation, the US has to come up with innovative ways to enhance the communication and navigation in the Arctic if it decides to take a leadership role in the exploration of the region.

Still, Alaska’s shipping routes and other systems of navigation are old, outdated, and neglected. New shipping routes are likely to emerge on the thawing areas of the Arctic. They require the US to take some time and allocate resources to map out these lanes. Otherwise, transportation in Alaska will be less competitive as compared to other countries, and explorers will prefer to work in such countries as Russia that has invested much in the development of the region (Sergunin & Valery 63).

Significance of the Arctic to the U.S. National Security

The Arctic is very significant to the U.S. national security. Some military sources indicate that in the WWII, Japanese forces landed in Alaska at some point (Wetterhahn 56). If it were in the today’s era of long-range missiles, such forces would use the region as a launchpad to reach the rest of the US. In other instance, some military sources also indicate that the Arctic provides a potential route, via which other military powers could reach the US in the case of a potential military conflict. This threat is supported by the fact that the nation has a limited ability to track and identify surface vessels in the Arctic Sea independently and relies on the help of partners. Despite the fact that all Arctic countries have cooperated well in the region, there is a need for the US to deploy its systems and resources in the case the status quo is not maintained. Additionally, it is now more likely than ever to have non-Arctic member vessels in the region, which can either be military, civilian or even owned or hijacked by terrorists. This reality makes it important for the nation to track and identify any vessel anywhere in the Arctic (Wetterhahn 44). In addition to many commitments that the US has made in its policies for the Arctic, there is a need for the country to back them with adequate funding. It needs to expand civilian and defense competencies in the region in order to attain situational attentiveness that is needed on the ground with the view to enabling government and private explorers to venture in the Arctic confidently. Otherwise, the US will not be able to take a leadership role in the exploration of the region.

Comparison of the US and Russian Arctic Policies

The history of Russian activities in the Arctic is long and dates back to the Soviet era. For a long time, the country considered the region important for its geopolitical, economic, and defense agenda. As a result, there are many Russian installments in the Arctic, which include drifting ice stations, as well as the Russian flag at the sea bottom below the North Pole (Standlea 43). Russia is in a better position to police the whole Arctic Sea as it has a large fleet of icebreakers that is operating in the region and can help its surface vessels. Additionally, the country possesses many sub-surface vessels in the region for its military purposes in addition to the active military personnel in the Arctic bases. However, the country does not seem interested in militarizing the region and has been in the forefront in establishing international organizations with all countries in the region. Explorers and researchers both from Russia and other countries are able to work and count on the support and infrastructure offered by the state. Russia has also embarked on a quest to claim large swaths of the Arctic seabed, as well as exploration for petroleum and other resources in the region. As a result, the country has managed to take a leadership role in the exploration of the Arctic. Russia has also carried out a lot of oceanographic and biological research in the Arctic Sea as well as its seabed. Even if some information has not been availed or accepted in the West, it is an important database concerning the Arctic (Standlea 57). These issues caused the fact that very little information about the Arctic exists today. Russia’s drifting ice stations provide valuable information concerning any changes that have taken place in the Arctic since they were established.

On the other hand, the US lacks a clear policy for the Arctic despite having a sizeable territory and being interested in the region. Since 2013, the country has been seen to issue several policy statements concerning the Arctic (Nordquist, John & Alexander 74). However, such provisions have not been supported by the adequate funding; thus, the benefits are to be seen in the future. This situation has happened as the U.S. assets in the Arctic, especially icebreakers, continue to be written off without any plans to build or purchase new ones. The government has not invested in the construction of infrastructure needed by explorers in the Arctic.

In order for the US to catch up and overtake Russia, it must be willing to invest many resources in the local infrastructure with the view to supporting the research and exploration in the region. Additionally, it must also market itself in order to convince researchers and explorers why they should follow its leadership in the Arctic.

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CONCLUSION

As it has been seen in various areas in the paper, the climatic change has caused the global warming. However, it has been observed that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe; thus, much polar ice is thawing. As a result, the Arctic is now more open to the international transport than in any other time in the history. Additionally, all countries are carrying out exploration for the minerals and other resources. There are also a number of countries that have sought for exclusive rights for the Arctic seabed beyond their EEZ.

As seen throughout the paper, the US is very far from taking a leadership role in the Arctic in terms of the exploration for resources in this region. In order to be seen as a leader in the Arctic, the country should invest in the local infrastructure in order to support the academic and exploratory research in the region. Some of such resources may include modern icebreakers, communication equipment, as well as the mapping of trade routes and construction of new shipping lanes in Alaska and around the Arctic.

It has also been seen that the Arctic is very important for the U.S. national security and can determine if the rest of the country is safe from the external aggression or not. For this reason, the US has to invest in the civilian and military equipment that are required to identify and track any sea vessels as they approach its EEZ from the Arctic Sea. It is a crucial task that can inform of the necessity to take any defensive measures if required.

It has also been demonstrated that Russia has a more comprehensive policy for the exploration of the Arctic than the US. Additionally, the country has an action plan as far as the exploitation of resources in the Arctic is concerned. Russia has also invested adequate resources in carrying out an effective research in the Arctic, as well as monitoring the entire region.