US lawmakers want its military to challenge Russia and China on the high seas by finding one or more locations for a port that would help feed Washington’s growing appetite for Arctic oil and other natural riches.
The National Defense Authorization Act 2020 (NDAA) suggests that the Coast Guard and other branches of the US military should identify and designate a new strategic port in the Arctic. It openly states that the move is meant to counter Russia’s presence in the polar region.
Naturally, the bill – which will be voted on next week – stokes fears of Russia’s military expansion at the world’s northernmost region. Moscow, it points out, has around 40 icebreakers (whereas the US has just one) and “has made significant investments” in the creation of a new Arctic Command. It is also building or renovating 19 deep-water ports and 14 airfields in the region.
READ MORE: Hands off the Arctic: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warns China & Russia away from the north
Another section of the bill warns that Russia has teamed up with China in exploring gas reserves in the Arctic, and here is where the proposal gets to the point.
The economic significance of the Arctic continues to grow as countries around the globe begin to understand the potential for maritime transportation through, and economic and trade development in, the region.
The lawmakers then scrupulously listed the sizeable quantity of Arctic natural reserves. The polar circle is home to 13 percent of the 18 world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered gas. Last but not least, the “abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources” is worth competing for.
The US has long had its sights set on the Arctic, where it hopes to benefit from climate change, which is gradually turning ice-bound territory into passable waterways. As Mike Pompeo said this year: “Arctic seaways could become the 21st century Suez and Panama canals.”
Earlier this month, the US Navy urged the expansion of Arctic operations, mostly by sending additional destroyers to the region. Russia, which has more than 11,000km (7,000 miles) of coastline in the Arctic, has not sat idle in terms of exploring the high seas.
In the past few years, the Russian military has built a most modern base, dubbed the ‘Northern Clover,’and renovated an array of abandoned airfields in the area.