Multiple steps U.S. can take to enhance security in Arctic that do not involve ratifying UNCLOS
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For example, the Obama Administration’s January 2014 Arctic strategy implementation plan lists six major national security objectives for the Arctic region. Only one of these objectives—“Promote International Law and Freedom of the Seas”—intersects with UNCLOS. The implementation plan details the “next steps” for freedom of the seas in the Arctic.
None of these “next steps” would be measurably advanced by U.S. membership in UNCLOS. For instance, the United States conducts maritime exercises and operations on a global scale and has done so ever since it launched a blue-water navy. Next steps such as information sharing, relationship building, and strategic communications are not contingent on UNCLOS membership and may be accomplished through any number of bilateral and multilateral means, including the Arctic Council. The next steps listed in the implementation plan are important and should be pursued by the responsible executive departments, but none of them require U.S. membership in UNCLOS.
By relying on the Convention and the doctrine of the high seas, the United States may bypass the UNCLOS regime altogether and begin exploration and exploitation of the Arctic area immediately.