Editor's Page

As ice in the Arctic continues to recede, each of the eight founding Arctic Council members—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States—have adopted official Arctic strategies. Lieutenant Commander David C. Sandomir breaks down the primary considerations of both Arctic and non-Arctic nations, and notes that “At the peak of the Cold War, the Arctic was considered one of the most militarized areas of the world. . . .” Despite a post-Cold War “thaw,” many countries have much to gain from access to the Arctic’s shipping lanes and resources, and Russia in particular has “signaled much more direct militarism” in the region. To prevent military conflict, the author recommends standing up a “collective defense and security engagement platform that is joint, multinational, and interagency, which could serve as an all-resource institution for managing security matters in the Arctic.”

If we’re to keep pace with the activities of other Arctic nations, we’ll need more assets capable of deploying there. For all the missions the U.S. Coast Guard’s “fleet” of polar icebreakers completes successfully year in and year out, few people appreciate—at least from the outside looking in—that only two of them are operating, one in each hemisphere, north and south. But retired Coast Guard Captain Lawson Brigham, a veteran icebreaker skipper and respected expert on the topic, sees some light at the end of the U.S. polar-operations tunnel. After pointing out President Barack Obama’s recent engagement on Arctic issues, punctuated by a September visit to Alaska, Captain Brigham details the past year’s achievements of the two U.S. icebreakers and notes that several federal agencies are large enough stakeholders that they should find room in their budgets to help finance a new ship in the future. Only time will tell whether that proposal comes to fruition.

But a viable Arctic capability will require more than ships. How would we respond to maritime or environmental disasters in the region? Naval Institute Board Chair Admiral James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and Professor Paul Berkman, who teaches science diplomacy there, propose that an internationally sponsored crisis-response platform be built in the Chukchi Sea, a crossroads of the traditional Arctic routes that will be ice-free longer throughout any given year if current trends are any indication. With the inevitable increase in traffic will come risks and hazards that will need to be addressed, and the authors contend that their idea may be a good place to start.

Paul Merzlak , Editor-in-Chief

 

 
 

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