New Arctic strategy by Pentagon states threats but has little muscle behind...

New Arctic strategy by Pentagon states threats but has little muscle behind it

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 108th Air Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., flys high over the Arctic Circle while conducting cross-border training over Finland and Sweden during Arctic Challenge Exercise 2019 on May 27. (Staff Sgt. Kenneth Shaner Brown/U.S. Air National Guard )

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s new Arctic strategy declares a balancing act approach to the north that will protect U.S. national security interests without triggering an increase in strategic competition with such foes as China and Russia.

The new report also warns that the Pentagon must be vigilant in not being distracted by rising Chinese and Russian adventurism in the Arctic that could be a ruse “to undermine broader NDS (National Defense Strategy) priorities.

“Dod (Department of Defense) will seek to shape military activity in the Arctic region to avoid conflict, while ensuring that the Joint Force is postured and prepared to deter strategic competitors from threatening our interests,” the Pentagon said in the new study.

The strategy, which updates a 2016 review of the Arctic, was quietly released on Thursday and more broadly disseminated Monday.

The 2016 strategy had as its foundation collaboration among the eight Arctic nations. The 2019 version moves the northern region into an “era of strategic competition.”

The new strategy calls for increased assets and focus on the Arctic but political and fiscal realities point elsewhere. It was only this year, for example, that the Coast Guard received money for a new heavy icebreaker after years of begging.

There are also few U.S. military assets in the region, compared to the overwhelming — and increasing — Russian military facilities in its Arctic regions.

The 18-page strategy raises the specter of China extending its economic Belt and Road Initiative to the region, a valid observation since China — which does not border on the Arctic — has declared itself a near-Arctic power.

Unlike the 2016 document, the new strategy makes scant mention of the threat from climate change and how that danger is exacerbated by human actions.

“Continued DoD research, development, testing and evaluation will support efforts to build the resilience of Arctic infrastructure in the face of environmental hazards,” the document said.

For the moment, the Pentagon is looking to its NATO allies to help secure the Arctic.

“DoD’s cooperation within NATO uniquely contributes to Arctic security and deters strategic competitors from using the Arctic as a corridor for expanded competition enabling their objectives in other regions,” the new strategy document says. “Toward this aim, DoD will cooperate with allies and partners to strengthen regional security and will support enhanced U.S. Government participation and cooperation in Arctic forums.”

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