A Shifting Focus of U.S. Arctic Policy: China and Security, Front and Center

A multipronged and nuanced Arctic strategy will best prepare the U.S. to confront the diverse challenges in this arena where multiple great powers are already converging.

Part of the Chinese Foreign Policy Project

This article was originally published by The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security Studies.

In June, the Trump administration released its first presidential memo on the Arctic, marking a significant step in crafting a strategy for the region of growing interest. The memo called on executive departments to devise a plan to launch three heavy icebreakers by 2029 and establish two domestic and two international support bases. While previous U.S. strategic documents and statements had hinted at shifting policy, the presidential memo brings into direct view two key aspects of the U.S.’s current Arctic policy.

First, the Trump administration’s Arctic policy has been overwhelmingly military in focus, and attention has centered on catching up with Arctic competitors. Congress and now the White House have agreed on the need for six new “polar security cutters” (PSC) to address the U.S.’s icebreaker deficiency, especially vis-à-vis Russia. Russia operates about 40 icebreakers, nine of which are nuclear-powered, and is soon to add almost a dozen more. The U.S. has also upped military exercises across the Arctic to expand operational capabilities. The U.S. Navy conducted its first exercise in the Barents Sea since the 1990s, and U.S. troops alongside NATO allies have continued to participate in large-scale exercises like Arctic Edge and the Norwegian-led Cold Response.

Read the full article in The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Security Studies.

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