U.S. Policy for the Arctic and the Nation’s Ability to Sustain Global Leadership
[ Page 16 ]
There are several reasons for the limited U.S. attention to the Arctic region. First, the situation in the Asia Pacific and some of the world’s hot spots are regarded as a more imminent security concerns. Second, the current U.S. deficit makes increased spending in regions that do not pose an immediate threat unlikely. Third, the United States will avoid provoking Russia - and Canada. Finally, the prospects of being self sufficient of oil within 2017, due to the increased ability to exploit huge reserves of unconventional shale gas, make the Arctic of less economic interest for the United States.57 At the same time as the United States limits its efforts in the Arctic, it has stated that it “will continue to lead global efforts with capable allies and partners to assure access to and use of the global commons, both by strengthening international norms and by maintaining relevant and interoperable capabilities”.58 The Commons serve as a key enabler of the U.S. military and its ability to project power globally, which is vital to the U.S interest of sustaining global leadership.
[ Page 6-7 ]
Currently, there is no major tension between the Arctic states. They all want peaceful solutions to their border disputes and see the advantages of freedom of navigation through the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. However, at the time when the coastal nations are able to increase their oil production in the Arctic, conflict can more easily occur. A shortage of energy and other resources will make the nations more determined to solve their border issues, which may increase the tension between them. Even if Russia cooperates with the other coastal Arctic nations today, there is a growing uncertainty about the stability and aspirations of this regime. Several scholars express concerns about a new “cold war” in the region. Rob Hubert, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary warn about the beginning of an arms race, and claims that the Arctic states talk about cooperation, but are preparing for conflict.27 NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Admiral Stavridis, has also argued, “For now, the disputes in the north has been dealt with peacefully, but climate change could alter the equilibrium over the coming years in the race of temptation for exploration of more readily accessible natural resources.”28
[ Page 15 ]
In addition to the weaknesses of the military preparedness, the United States seems to be the only Arctic coastal state that does not currently have any large-scale economic development plan for the region, despite the fact that there is a potential of vast energy resources in addition to fishing and minerals. David Rubenstein, co-founder of a $107 billion global asset management company, describes the entire Arctic region as "the last emerging market” as he states; "Right now, Russia is ahead of the United States. Right now, we're not in the game. Russia is in the game, along with the Scandinavian countries. Canada is moving to get into the game. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Alaska are mainly just talking.”53 U.S. Coast Guard Captain, Melissa Bert, supports Rubenstein’s view as she says that the United States needs an Arctic governance and acquisition strategy.54 “The U.S government is unprepared to harness the potential that the Arctic offers. The United States lacks the capacity to deal with potential regional conflicts and seaborne disasters, and it has been on the sidelines when it comes to developing new governance mechanisms for the Arctic”, she states.