U.S. Northern Command, the Coast Guard, and other relevant entities must collaborate on defensive lines of effort that address the strategic risks at stake in the increasingly important region to the north.
Since 2009, the United States has released numerous strategic documents outlining the U.S. interests and national objectives in the Arctic. Although these documents recognize increasing interests of the United States in the region, they do not adequately address all the strategic risks at stake in the Arctic and do not provide clear guidance to the Department of Defense for defensive lines of effort. The strategic approach of the United States to the Arctic is one that accepts the current stable and conflict-free Arctic region and assumes that these conditions will remain the same in the future. This outlook ignores important trends that may create challenges for the United States far sooner than national policy makers expect. Without adequate defensive posturing, competition over Arctic resources could present the first direct existential threat to U.S. sovereignty. The four issues at stake that will likely require a combatant commander to use military capabilities to protect U.S. national interests in the Arctic include mineral and resource protection, freedom of navigation, sea lines of communication, and militarization of the Arctic.