A Battle for the Arctic Is Already Underway. And the U.S. Is Already Behind. politico.com

Kenneth R. Rosen, independent journalist

[…] “Everything we do is to keep good order at sea,” Rear Admiral Rune Andersen, the head of the Norwegian Navy and Coast Guard told me, weeks later. He said he’s seen an increase of both international commercial and specifically Russian naval maritime activity in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea over the last five years. Andersen says the Norwegian fleet has devoted new resources to underwater monitoring, aerial shipping lane surveillance and intelligence sharing with other Arctic nations like Sweden. “We’ve been improving to make sure we’ve control over the North Atlantic. What happens now in the North is important. It has a direct effect on security elsewhere.”

Since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has largely been free of visible geopolitical conflict. In 1996, the eight countries with Arctic territory formed the Arctic Council, where they agreed to environmental protection standards and pooled technology and money for joint natural resources extraction in the region. Svalbard, Europe’s northernmost inhabited settlement, just 700 miles south of the North Pole, perfectly represents this spirit of cooperation. […]

But today, this Arctic desert is rapidly becoming the center of a new conflict. The vast sea ice that covers the Arctic Ocean is melting rapidly due to climate change, losing 13 percent per decade — a rate that experts say could make the Arctic ice-free in the summer as soon as 2035. Already, the thaw has created new shipping lanes, opened existing seasonal lanes for more of the year and provided more opportunities for natural resource extraction. Nations are now vying for military and commercial control over this newly accessible territory — competition that has only gotten more intense since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. […]

Several U.S. government officials involved in Arctic planning told me in private they also fear a nuclear escalation in the Arctic, which would threaten to engulf Europe and its allies in a larger conflict. […]

“The Barents Sea is, I believe, one of the world’s most dangerous hotspots,” Tormod Heier, a researcher at the Norwegian Defence University College, told me. The nuclear submarines and Russia’s Second Fleet, based nearby, “are the most crucial instrument for Putin in terms of having some kind of parity with the United States in the international arena.” Läs artikel