NATO chief outlines Arctic expansion — Analysis
Stoltenberg cites “strategic challenge” from Russia and China to justify militarizing the polar region
NATO will increase its military presence in the Arctic on account of Russia and China posing a “strategic challenge” to the bloc there, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg argued, in an op-ed ahead of his visit to the Canadian north.
Arctic is “the gateway to the North Atlantic, hosting vital trade, transport and communication links between North America and Europe. Ensuring freedom of navigation and unfettered access is essential to keep our economies strong and our people safe,” Stoltenberg wrote in the article, published on Wednesday in Canada’s Globe and Mail.
The “rapidly warming climate,”The summer will see much of the Arctic become ice-free, opening up new opportunities. “opportunities for shipping routes, natural resources and economic development”That can be tapped by “authoritarian regimes”Stoltenberg also argued for China and Russia.
Russia increases its Northern Fleet and China has plans for a “Polar Silk Road” to Europe via the Arctic, building the world’s biggest icebreaker and declaring itself a “near-Arctic state,”A former Norwegian politician wrote.
Stoltenberg offers a counter-measure: “defensive alliance”We will invest “new air and maritime capabilities,”Conduct more drills like Cold Response and Trident Juncture, and increase its presence in High North. Cold Response exercises in Norway in March and April involved 27 nations and was the biggest NATO Arctic exercise since 1980s.
Stoltenberg said that he was going to visit the Cold Lake Airbase in Canada and the Cambridge Bay Early-Warning Radar Site in Nunavut as part his Arctic Tour with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Stoltenberg raised concerns about the possible threat from China and Russia to the Arctic Council. Seven of the eight Arctic Council members, however, will become NATO members once Finland, Sweden, and Finland formally join NATO. The conflict in Ukraine prompted them all to suspend their participation in the consultation body. Russia, the only non-NATO member of the council, accounts for 53% of the Arctic coastline and more than half of the region’s permanent population.
Russia warned that the Arctic is being militarized. It claimed that Sweden and Finland joining NATO could lead to the area becoming a war zone. “theater of military operations.”