Disputes over Arctic shipping between Russia, U.S. and Canada likely by 2030 if not resolved
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Finally, in the longer term, the gradual opening of Arctic waterways to commercial traffic on a seasonal basis by 2030 will increase the need for persistent and pervasive constabulary patrols by all Arctic nations in order to regulate this activity. Not only will more ice-capable patrol vessels be required, but so too will be a robust logistics infrastructure, to include basing, transportation, supply, and communications. This third window for conflict in the Arctic will probably occur in the 2030 to 2045 time frame. The increase in commercial traffic activity will heighten tensions in U.S.-Canadian relations if a political compromise on the status of the Northwest Passage has not been reached, keeping in mind that the ultimate status of Russia’s Northeast Passage would be likewise affected. As Canada is extremely sensitive to matters of Arctic sovereignty and Russia is are unlikely to welcome unrestricted movement through its backyard, it should be expected that the same nationalist sentiment that erupted in the Sino-Japanese row over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands would likewise be manifest in these cases as well, leading to a quick, and potentially intense, confrontation involving the United States, Russia, and Canada.
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.