US Sub in the Arctic

Great power competition in the Arctic

A New Frontier

July 2021, Number 11.03

“Historically, the Arctic has been considered “high north, low tension.” While the immediate prospect of conflict remains low, a number of indicators point to how the Arctic may be heating up, literally and figuratively. In a literal sense, climate change is causing the Arctic to heat up at a rate twice as fast as the global average. The resulting loss of sea ice allows increasingly open access to navigation and natural resources.

Russia seeks to exploit these resources — oil and natural gas, in particular — forecasting a growth in the Arctic share of its gross domestic product from 7.2% to 9.6% over the next 15 years, according the Russian ambassador to Iceland, Anton Vasiliev. Militarily, Russia has been reinforcing its 24,000-kilometer Arctic coastline since 2007. China, declaring itself a “near-Arctic state,” primarily exhibits economic aspirations and seeks to internationalize the Arctic to ensure access for the development of its “Ice Silk Road.”

In response to increased access and growing competition, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released a new Arctic Strategy in 2019 to reinforce its commitment to the High North. This renewed interest and evolving security environment in the Arctic is creating a new frontier for great power competition...”

Excerpt from Ryan B. Ley, “A New Frontier,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 11, No. 3, 2021: 7-9.

Lt. Col. Ryan B. Ley, U.S. Air Force, is a senior U.S. fellow at the Marshall Center. He has served in operations worldwide as an F-16 instructor and evaluator pilot and F-15E weapons systems officer, accumulating over 2,500 combined hours and 433 combat hours. He has served in multiple nonflying roles at the squadron, group and wing levels. He served as a total force initiative squadron commander at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, where he led Air Combat Command’s largest active association squadron.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.