The Arctic should be a greater priority for US foreign policy, according to a new report by the US think tank, Council on Foreign Relations.
The report, entitled "Arctic Imperatives: Reinforcing U.S. Strategy on America's Fourth Coast," urges that the US take advantage of the Arctic's warming climate, to stake a claim to the resources which are being opened up by melting Arctic sea ice.
The US is lagging behind other Arctic nations that have "updated their strategic and commercial calculations to take advantage of the changing conditions stemming from the opening of the region," the report wrote.
It compared Russia's investment in Arctic infrastructure with that of the US. For example, Russia has about 40 icebreakers, including half-a-dozen of the most powerful nuclear icebreakers. China is building a third icebreaker, but the US only has two operational ice-breaking ships.
"The US is often grappling with the fact that they are losing the race with Russia. They only have two working ice-breakers, they could probably use one or two more, but the situations are so different," Exner-Pirot said.
"Russia, of course, has a Northern Sea Route, you're exporting through the Northern Sea Route and you're bringing materials in so that you can export oil, mining, that kind of thing."
"In the Alaskan Arctic, there isn't a lot happening, so people say, 'we need more ice-breakers, we need more ports,' there isn't really a great economic case for it."
Russia and Canada's greater development of their Arctic resources are reflective of their identity as Arctic nations, whereas the US has traditionally seen the Arctic in foreign policy terms, Exner-Pirot said.
"When they obsess about the law of the sea or ice-breakers, again it's because they primarily see the Arctic through a lens of 'it's an ocean.' Whereas the Russian Arctic is a fifth of the country's GDP, there's a couple more million people in the Arctic than anyone else has. Even Alaska only has about 750,000 people and only about 50,000 of those are in what it considers its Arctic."
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