"For God’s sake, let's build some icebreakers," Stavridis said on Friday. "How many do we have? Two and a half."
Stavridis warned the US Congress needed to take action as quickly as possible to remedy the lack of Arctic icebreakers and approve funding for more such vessels.
"We have to get on that as [a matter of] national security," he said. Russia operates 28, but United States only has two and a half.
China, which has no Arctic territory or direct interests, operates 14 icebreakers, Stavridis noted, adding that even "tiny Denmark" has seven operational icebreakers in the region.
As the Arctic ice cap shrinks, the Northeast Passage along Russia’s northern coastline is playing a growing role as the shortest shipping lane between Europe and Asia.