Biden Administration Releases National Arctic Strategy to Counter China, Russia

Biden Administration Releases National Arctic Strategy to Counter China, Russia
The fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) and the Royal Navy Duke-class frigate HMS Kent (F78) conduct a replenishment-at-sea in the Barents Sea while training in the Arctic Circle on May 5, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Lauren Spaziano/Released)
Andrew Thornebrooke

The Biden administration unveiled its national strategy for the Arctic on Oct. 7, underscoring a growing competition with China and Russia in the region.

It’s the first national strategy for the region to be published since 2013, although several departments across the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Army, have published their own strategies more recently.

The Arctic is home to more than 50,000 Americans, and the new strategy subsequently frames strategic competition in the region as an issue of protecting the U.S. homeland and maintaining regional stability with international partners.

“Because we share the region with seven other nations, the Arctic is crucial to America’s foreign policy and national security,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an associated statement.

“We have no higher priority than defending our country and our people, and security in the Arctic is key to that.”

The Arctic has increasingly been the focus of strategic attention in recent years because of its vast reserves of natural resources. Oil, natural gas, rare earth metals, diamonds, and pristine fishing grounds are all found in abundance in the region. Additionally, the melting of the polar ice caps has resulted in trade routes remaining open for weeks or even months longer during the year before freezing and closing again.

As such, the formerly uncontested region will play an important role in global geopolitics in the coming years.

Bruce Jones, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that China and the United States are entering a protracted period of naval competition for which the Arctic would be a focal point.

“It’s become one of the hottest zones of competition there is,” Jones previously said in an interview with NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times. “The biggest issue is that climate change is rapidly changing the ability to sail across the Arctic Sea year-round.”

“There are huge commercial stakes. There are huge energy stakes. There are huge fishing stakes. And, of course, there are strategic stakes.”

The new National Strategy for the Arctic Region (pdf) focuses on four key priorities to that end: security, climate change, economic development, and international cooperation.

“The Arctic’s growing strategic importance has intensified competition to shape its future as countries pursue new economic interests and prepare for increased activity,” the document states.

“China ... seeks to increase its influence in the Arctic through an expanded slate of economic, diplomatic, scientific, and military activities. It has also emphasized its intention to play a larger role in shaping regional governance.”

The strategy also outlines the steps that China’s ruling Communist Party has taken to insert itself into the Arctic, despite having no actual claims to the region.

Among these, the strategy notes that China has doubled its investment into Arctic projects in recent years, and is focusing on mineral extraction and scientific engagements which it can use to conduct dual-use research to benefit its military.

To counter the threat, the new strategy will include appointing an ambassador-at-large for the Arctic to help coordinate beneficial policies for the region with Arctic nations such as Finland and Sweden, both of which applied for NATO membership this year.

“We’ll continue to collaborate closely with Arctic allies and partners to uphold international law, rules, and standards in the region,” Blinken said.

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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