Home North pole ice Climate change reveals US unpreparedness to defend Arctic Ocean interests, US senator says

Climate change reveals US unpreparedness to defend Arctic Ocean interests, US senator says


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Climate change opens up a new crossroads and potential center of conflict: the Arctic. But a key lawmaker warns that the United States has fallen behind in securing the region, as other powers move in there, adding that he believes the Arctic could soon be the scene of a demonstration of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear force.

“This new ocean is showing up on our maps, and it has all kinds of different implications,” Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucus with Democrats, said in an interview with CNN. “We were slow to understand, frankly.”

Summer sea ice extent in the Arctic has shrunk by about 50% since the 1970s. The Senate Arctic Caucus co-chair says the region’s drastic change is likely irreversible in the short term. As King argues the world must do more to deal with climate change, a new reality is fast approaching and a global scramble is underway as world powers go in search of untapped natural resources, like oil and natural gas, and coveted shipping routes.

“If you think of the Mediterranean Sea, there have been 1,000 years of war to determine the relationships of the countries around it. The question is, can we open up the Arctic and avoid conflict?” he said.

As some scientists predict we could see ice-free summers near the North Pole in coming decades, King said additional shipping lanes could increase trade and lead to huge economic benefit, as some routes reduce shipping times. navigation up to 15 days.

“But Russia has a huge border on the Arctic Ocean, which they’re militarizing right now,” he said. “It’s a matter of national security for everyone in the United States, whether they’re in Texas or Minnesota.”

CNN has previously reported on the steady buildup of Russian military bases on the country’s Arctic coast, which includes the refurbishment of former Soviet facilities. The Kremlin gave CNN a peek at Russia’s northernmost outpost in 2021, promising its intentions for the region were peaceful.

“Ukraine has changed all that,” King said, adding that Putin’s expansionist views may soon spread to the Far North. “I don’t think there is any doubt that he will stop (in Ukraine) if he is successful.”

As Ukraine’s counteroffensive gains momentum and the Russian military suffers setbacks, one of King’s concerns is that Putin may resort to the use of nuclear weapons to reassert his dominance.

“He has several options as far as a tactical nuclear weapon is concerned and one of them is a so-called ‘demonstration’, in the Arctic, King said. we can do, but we’re not going to kill a ton of people.”

While King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there had been no reports indicating an imminent nuclear test by Putin, he said it remained “one of his options”.

While King said he applauded the Biden administration’s new “National Strategy for the Arctic Region,” released this month, he said the United States needed to invest more resources to be competitive.

“I mean Russia has about 40 icebreakers. We have one,” King said, adding that Russia is not alone, with nations that are not geographically close to the North Pole, such as China. and India, also outlining their Arctic ambitions.

At an Arctic conference in Iceland a few years ago, King said he met a 40-person delegation from China, where Chinese officials told him that Beijing was interested in the region as a “Near Arctic Nation”.

“That makes Maine a near Caribbean state. There’s no geographic relationship. It’s ridiculous,” King said. “But they see the strategic value and the potential economic value.”

King calls for a stronger naval presence in the Arctic, more robust military infrastructure and commitment to international treaties, like the United Nations Law of the Sea, among other measures he says can deter war future.

“I think the jury is out on that, but it’s at least possible and I think it would be positive for America and for the whole world,” he said.

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