Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific are not the only potential theaters of military operations. The Arctic is an area of geopolitical rivalry. The situation there is undeservedly kept out of media spotlight. Meanwhile, 2018 has brought new record lows in the extent of sea ice in the region.
Russia has presented a 1.2 million square kilometers Arctic claim to the UN. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a Coastal state may claim rights to the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles by presenting scientific proof that it is a natural prolongation of its continental margin. The Russian Coastal exclusive economic zone can be extended, giving the state exclusive rights to exploit natural resources in the seabed and the ocean. Actually, Russia sits on $8.5 trillion oil reserves.
The US, Canada, Denmark and Norway have their own claims. The Arctic is believed to hold more than $22 trillion worth of resources hidden beneath the ice, including 90 billion barrels of oil and 47 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. It’s only natural for states to have disputes as long as they are addressed on the basis of international law through negotiations. But the gradual escalation of tensions in the Arctic is a fact.
According to the Danish government’s 2018-2023 defense guidelines, there will be an impressive 20 percent increase in defense spending in the next six years. The Arctic is mentioned as an area of increased activity and military presence. In summer, Norway recommitted itself to NATO defense spending target of at least 2% of GDP with its new long-term plan for 2021-2024 having this commitment as a key premise. Oslo is to invest in "strategic capabilities", such as the new F-35 stealth fighter, submarines and P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. Canada is to deploy an Arctic naval flotilla. Last year, Ottawa unveiled a plan to boost its defense spending by 70 percent (or more than $30-billion) over the next decade – much of it going to new warships and fighter jets. The Lomonosov Ridge is the main object of territorial dispute between Russia and Canada. It stretches 1,800 km from the New Siberian Islands cross the Arctic Ocean to the Canadian Ellesmere Island. Canada conducts military exercises in the area.