[…] Russia and China are now viewed as strategic competitors by the United States. There are increased levels of Russian military activity in the Arctic, new Arctic Ocean sea routes such as the Northern Sea Route above Russia are opening with accompanying strategic issues, and the vast Arctic energy and raw material resources remain to be exploited. […]
Still, cooperation proceeded on issues related to Arctic sustainable development, health and wellbeing, and biodiversity. A new interstate agreement was signed on scientific cooperation (2015), a polar code for Arctic shipping was reached through the International Maritime Organization (2017) and a Central Arctic Oceans Fisheries Agreement was signed in 2018 to preclude commercial fishing in this region until science provided guidance. […]
Despite these successes, the most serious signal of declining Arctic Council cooperation and consensus was the failure (largely attributed to U.S. objections about the inclusion of language on climate change) of the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting to reach an agreement last year in Rovaniemi, Finland on a Ministerial Declaration, a first since the Council inception in 1996.
The Arctic is the highest priority strategic national interest of Russia. Arctic oil and gas resources are essential to Russia’s economic future as is the defense of its territory along its four-thousand-kilometer Arctic coastline. Key military assets protect its second-strike nuclear capability based on the Kola Peninsula. Russia has refurbished Soviet-era air and naval installations and built new ones, augmented troop presence and conducted extensive maneuvers, installed modern radar and electronic warfare capabilities and developed a new overarching Arctic military command. Moscow argues these are defensive measures to deter possible Western threats to Russian sovereignty and protect the Northern Sea Route and its Arctic resources. […]
The United States has responded with its own military maneuvers, plans to add six icebreakers to its very limited fleet and at last year’s Arctic Council Ministerial, Secretary of State Pompeo introduced hard security issues as he sharply criticized the Russian military buildup and charged Russia and China with aggressive intentions in the Arctic. Läs artikel