The Pentagon announced the era of strategic competition in the Arctic
Arctic the U.S. doctrine formulated by Mike Pompeo in may this year, was inspired by the American media to continue speculation about accessories Arctic America, as was done in September (2019) the article by Diane Francis in The American Interest.
Not a new topic. For the first time about claims of a US military dominance in the Arctic was announced in the presidential Directive No. 66, signed by George W. Bush in January 2009. It said: “the United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region, and they are ready to defend these interests, both independently and in cooperation with other States. Among these interests there are issues such as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic Maritime transport; strategic deterrence; Maritime presence, and Maritime operations security; ensuring freedom of navigation and aviation”.
The Directive stated that the freedom of the seas – the main priority of the United States, and it is directly related to the Northern sea route, which “includes Straits used for international navigation; the regime of transit passage applies to passage through those Straits”.
With the advent of presidential Directive No. 66, that is, 10 years ago, the United States began actively to develop program changes in the balance of power in the Arctic. In 2012, the U.S. national intelligence Council (National Intelligence Council) published a report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds with the forecast of shortages of energy resources by 2030. The Arctic in this report is considered as alternative source of hydrocarbons for the United States. After the publication of the report was revised strategic plans for the Arctic, not only the US but all of NATO. As potential adversaries in the region included Russia and China, which bills itself as “almost Arctic power”.
Long before the birth of Directive No. 66, April 25, 2002, George W. Bush created the Northern command (USNORTHCOM), in the area of responsibility which includes the continental United States, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding ocean for a distance of approximately 500 nautical miles (930 km). With 2014 in the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility included Alaska. The Northern command was reinforced by the special operations command “North” (2012) and team “Alaska” (2014). Part of USNORTHCOM also included the 5th US army and reserve forces of the marine corps.
However, for a full military presence in the Arctic needs a major naval base, capable of providing year-round basing of the fleet. The U.S. has two air bases in Alaska, where deployed the latest fighter F-35A Lighting II, to complement the existing Park here fighters F-22 and F-16. There’s also the construction of new military facilities and is expected to accommodate up to 10 thousand troops. The United States has two foreign military bases in the Arctic. This is the Thule airbase in the North of Greenland and the air base in Stavanger, Norway.
In June 2018, the US Congress put the Pentagon the task to find areas for establishment of several naval bases and ports in the Arctic. However, even if the US has these bases and ports appeared, the U.S. Navy have great difficulty with rare trips to Northern waters.
In October 2018, as part of exercise Trident Juncture American strike carrier group headed by the aircraft carrier “Harry Truman” for the first time in 30 years, crossed the Arctic circle to demonstrate “flexibility and endurance of naval forces of the United States”. In the course held on site and in Norway the exercise simulated the task of the “30/30/30”, that is, the transfer and concentration in the area of the hypothetical military conflict groups from 30 battalion groups of ground troops, 30 warships of the Navy and 30 squadrons of combat aircraft for 30 days. However, this demonstration of naval power in the Northern latitudes failed. If the carrier had not experienced difficulties in Northern waters, other ships have shown themselves not the best way.
After the exercise Trident Juncture the assistant Deputy commander of the U.S. Navy Jeffrey Barker stated that the probability of adding to the American submarines in the Arctic surface warships in the near future, “small”: the limiting factor for the U.S. Navy is logistics.
In June 2019, the Pentagon has presented the US Congress with the new Arctic strategy. It is noted that the strategic situation in the region has become increasingly uncertain due to changes in the physical environment: reduced sea ice and snow cover, melting glaciers and permafrost. The temperature in the Arctic region is growing more than twice faster than the world average.
“The reduction in Arctic sea ice opens new sea route and increase access to natural resources in the summer months. If the trend of warming continues at the current rate, the reduction of the area of Arctic sea ice could lead to a nearly ice-free in summer months the Arctic by 2040-m years”, – the document says. From the point of view of the us military, in the Arctic began in the “era of strategic competition” (era of strategic competition).
The experts on these evaluations skepticism. “…A new strategy… gives a little information about how the United States will seek to increase its presence in the Arctic. Instead, it uses common phrases such as “support for fault-tolerant infrastructure”, “improvement of the position of the Arctic” and “creating awareness in the region” below “the flexibility to project power in the region””, – analysts say the Centre of the far North in the Norwegian Nord University.
The vagueness of the new Arctic strategy of the Pentagon is understandable. A major role in the projection of naval forces operations in the Arctic, as in any area of the world, is given to the Navy. However, having the world’s most powerful Navy, the US is experiencing an acute shortage of heavy icebreakers. Russia has 40 such icebreakers, China – two, the United States also has two, but only one of them, the Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker class, able to work in the Arctic and Antarctic. In December 2018, the head of the U.S. coast guard Admiral Paul Zukunft rejected the request to conduct operations to ensure freedom of navigation in the Arctic, fearing that the 40-year-old Polar Star will break and the Americans will have to ask the Russians to tow it to port for repair.
In April 2019, the Pentagon has announced the signing of a contract to build three heavy icebreakers, ice-class Polar Security Cutters. The first of them is planned to enter service in 2024. The commander of the coast guard Admiral Karl Schultz told members of Congress that until the Navy’s second and third Polar Security Cutters , the US “will not be able to have a serious game from the point of view of presence” in the Arctic.
However, Russia is taking serious measures to ensure its security in the Arctic region. The Northern fleet is in a separate strategic alliances and reinforced with new ships and submarines. Strengthened the garrisons on the island of Boiler and Franz Joseph, new Arctic brigade in Eastern Siberia, improving the system of air and missile defense.
On some Arctic Islands and mainland of the polar part of Russia deployed six military bases: Islands Kotelny (new Siberian Islands), Alexandra Land (part of the archipelago of Franz-Joseph), Medium (Severnaya Zemlya), in the village of Rogachevo (Novaya Zemlya), at Cape Schmidt and Wrangel island (included in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug).
In the Russian Arctic is not built unparalleled military installations of the air defense system “Arctic Shamrock” and “clover Arctic”, each of which is a year-round serving up to 150 soldiers. Ready for combat use ten Arctic military airfields.
In the Pentagon understand the inability to throw Russia a direct challenge in the Arctic for at least two decades and rely on a strategy of indirect actions. In particular, the experts of the British International Institute for strategic studies (IISS) and the Finnish Institute of international relations predict “an outstanding role of non-military law enforcement organizations.”
However, it does not change of the Arctic geography, which will always be on the side of Russia.