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National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces
strategies with government and military representatives of Norway, Canada, and the United States, and with the NATO Supreme Allied Commander. Each expressed concerns about sovereignty, access, and border protection; however, each suggested a strong preference for an Arctic strategy based on cooperation.
More recently, in April 2010, after 40 years of negotiations, Russia and Norway announced an agreement to end a long-standing undersea border dispute in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean. The agreement outlines the extent of each nation’s Arctic territory.21 While avoidance of military conflict cannot be assured, this committee’s findings on potential conflict in the Arctic further support the 2005 national intelligence assessments that major military conflict in the Arctic region is not likely over the next 20 years.
As the Arctic region becomes more navigable, there is strong potential for a dramatic effect on global trade routes well beyond the Arctic. Although estimates on when the Arctic will become “ice-free” for purposes of safe commercial navigation range from 2013 to 2075,22 two German commercial vessels did transit the Northern Sea route in the summer of 2009 with Russian icebreaker support.23 China currently operates an icebreaking research vessel and is building a second, providing further evidence of increasing interests in the Arctic.24 Very recently, Russia announced that it intends to send an oil tanker accompanied by an ice-breaker from the White Sea to Japan via the Arctic route in the summer of 2010. The effort is believed by many to be an attempt by the Russian state-owned shipping company to demonstrate mastery of Arctic navigation.25
U.S. maritime forces must be prepared to play a part in this continuum of relationships in the Arctic—competition, cooperation, and conflict—by helping build maritime partnerships in the region and developing the requisite operational capabilities, as noted in previous chapters. In particular, combined operations, training, and planning between U.S. and Canadian maritime forces are going to be critical to protecting and promoting U.S. regional interests. In this and in other partnerships, the Navy and Coast Guard will be able to draw on established bilateral relationships and multilateral partnerships, such as the NATO alliance and the Arctic Council, but there will also be a need for new arrangements and agreements for Arctic maritime operations. It may be difficult, if not impos-
See “Russia and Norway Reach Accord on Barents Sea,” New York Times, April 27, 2010.
As discussed in Chapter 2, throughout this report the term “ice-free” is used to mean that multiyear ice has nearly (or completely) disappeared; however, to date, in what is termed “ice-free” conditions, sufficient ice is present to remain a hazard to ordinary ships and routine marine operations. This committee suggests that 2030 is the approximate timing for ice-free summer months in the Arctic Ocean.
See Andrew E. Kramer and Andrew C. Revkin, “Arctic Shortcut Beckons Shippers as Ice Thaws,” New York Times, September 10, 2009.
Linda Jacobson. 2010. “China Prepares for an Ice Free Arctic,” SIPRI Insights on Peace andSecurity, March 1.