Former Military Officials to Obama: We Could Lose the Arctic to Russia

By Michael Bastasch Published on July 11, 2016

A group of former military officials and ambassadors have signed onto a statement warning the U.S. is “at risk of being eclipsed by other Arctic states for access and influence.”

The defense experts chastised North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members for not mentioning escalating Russian Arctic ambitions at a recent meeting in Warsaw, Poland on Russian aggression.

“While the U.S. has used its position (as Chair of the Arctic Council) to elevate Arctic issues, it has not built the presence required to maintain regional security and stability, an effort that will need years of consistent effort,” reads a statement signed by 15 former officials who are led by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones that was obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Jones and his colleagues are worried that the U.S. is falling behind Russia in terms of its Arctic presence. Recently, the Kremlin unleashed its newest nuclear-powered icebreaker. Russia now has six such icebreakers trolling the North Pole, while the U.S. has none, down from two previously. In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security said the U.S. needed six or more icebreakers to meet its Arctic needs.

Jones’ statement comes after the Obama administration further restricted drilling in Alaska’s Arctic waters. Meanwhile, Russia has been refurbishing old Soviet-era military bases in the region and drilling for oil and natural gas, despite low energy prices.

“Due to a convergence of foreign interests and the Arctic’s changing physical geography, the U.S. is at risk of being eclipsed by other Arctic states for access and influence,” wrote Jones and the others.

The warning comes as nothing new. Experts have been warning President Barack Obama about loss of influence in the Arctic for several years. In 2015, Department of Energy (DOE) advisers urged Obama to support developing Alaska’s offshore oil and gas reserves, or face losing out to the Kremlin and China.

“Internationally, other countries such as Russia are moving forward with increased Arctic economic development during this time of change,” the DOE’s National Petroleum Council reported in 2015.

“Russia is drilling new exploration wells in the Kara and Pechora Seas and is expanding its naval and transportation fleet,” council advisers wrote. “While China does not have Arctic territory, it is investing millions of dollars in Arctic research, infrastructure, and natural resource development.”

“To remain globally competitive and to be positioned to provide global leadership and influence in the Arctic, the United States should facilitate exploration in the offshore Alaskan Arctic now,” the council reported.

The Arctic is estimated to hold 15 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of its gas reserves.

Now, with Russian ambitions once again on NATO’s radar, Jones and other experts are urging the alliance to take Arctic policy more seriously.

“Recent events in Europe reinforces the need for the U.S. and our allies to remain committed to a robust and cooperative framework in the Arctic, as resurgent powers will seek to take advantage of trans-Atlantic divisions to further their interests,” Jones and the others wrote.

 

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Copyright 2016 Daily Caller News Foundation

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