The Growth in Arctic’s Role in Geostrategic Competition
The Arctic’s role in geostrategic competition is growing, in large part because reductions in permanent sea ice have exposed coastal borders and facilitated increased human and economic activity, said the U.S. Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategic Outlook.
The warming of the Arctic has led to longer and larger windows of reduced ice conditions. From 2006 to 2018, satellite imagery observed the 12 lowest Arctic ice extents on record.1 This has led to greater access through Arctic shipping routes.
While the near-term future of these routes is uncertain, a polar route has the potential to reduce transit times of traditional shipping routes by up to two weeks.
Russia’s establishment of a Northern Sea Route Administration, along with the use of high ice-class Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tankers built specifically to export natural gas from its Yamal LNG facility, have contributed significantly to the increase in commercial shipping traffic in the Arctic.
In addition, opportunities for potential resource extraction and expanding Arctic tourism offer new prospects for some of the Nation’s most isolated communities and broader benefits to America.
However, changing terrain and subsistence food patterns, as well as the impacts of increasingly frequent and intense winter storms, continue to challenge the communities and increase risk in the maritime domain.