Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress




Changes in the Arctic:
Background and Issues for Congress

Updated August 4, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
R41153




Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

Summary
The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has
heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of
Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The seven other Arctic
states are Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (by virtue of Greenland), and
Russia.
The Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984 (Title I of P.L. 98-373 of July 31, 1984)
“provide[s] for a comprehensive national policy dealing with national research needs and
objectives in the Arctic.” The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the lead federal agency for
implementing Arctic research policy. The Arctic Council, created in 1996, is the leading
international forum for addressing issues relating to the Arctic. The United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) sets forth a comprehensive regime of law and order in the
world’s oceans, including the Arctic Ocean. The United States is not a party to UNCLOS.
Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy
attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within
decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to
mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the
region, and national security.
The geopolitical environment for the Arctic has been substantial y affected by the renewal of
great power competition. Although there continues to be significant international cooperation on
Arctic issues, the Arctic is increasingly viewed as an arena for geopolitical competition among
the United States, Russia, and China.
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Coast Guard are devoting increased attention to the
Arctic in their planning and operations. Whether DOD and the Coast Guard are devoting
sufficient resources to the Arctic and taking sufficient actions for defending U.S. interests in the
region has emerged as a topic of congressional oversight. The Coast Guard has two operational
polar icebreakers and has received funding for the procurement of two of at least three planned
new polar icebreakers.
The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on
two trans-Arctic sea routes—the Northern Sea Route close to Russia, and the Northwest Passage
close to Alaska and through the Canadian archipelago—though the rate of increase in the use of
these routes might not be as great as sometimes anticipated in press accounts. International
guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters have been recently updated.
Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures wil likely al ow more exploration
for oil, gas, and minerals. Warming that causes permafrost to melt could pose chal enges to
onshore exploration activities. Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism (cruise ships) in the
Arctic increase the risk of pollution in the region. Cleaning up oil spil s in ice-covered waters wil
be more difficult than in other areas, primarily because effective strategies for cleaning up oil
spil s in ice-covered waters have yet to be developed.
Large commercial fisheries exist in the Arctic. The United States is working with other countries
regarding the management of Arctic fish stocks. Changes in the Arctic could affect threatened and
endangered species, and could result in migration of fish stocks to new waters. Under the
Endangered Species Act, the polar bear was listed as threatened on May 15, 2008. Arctic climate
change is also expected to affect the economies, health, and cultures of Arctic indigenous peoples.
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Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
Background.................................................................................................................... 1

Definitions of Arctic .................................................................................................. 1
Arctic Circle Definition ......................................................................................... 1
Definition in Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984..................................... 2
Other Definitions ................................................................................................. 2

Population of Arctic ................................................................................................... 3
Eight Arctic States, Including Five Arctic Coastal States.................................................. 5
U.S. Identity as an Arctic Nation .................................................................................. 5
U.S. Arctic Research .................................................................................................. 6
Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984, As Amended.................................... 6
FY2021 NSF Budget Request for Arctic Research ..................................................... 6

Major U.S. Policy Documents Relating to Arctic ............................................................ 7
Overview ............................................................................................................ 7
Specific Documents .............................................................................................. 7

U.S. Coordinator for Arctic Region .............................................................................. 9
Arctic Council........................................................................................................... 9

Arctic and U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ........................................... 10
House and Senate Arctic Member Organizations .......................................................... 11
Issues for Congress ....................................................................................................... 12
Climate Change and Loss of Arctic Sea Ice.................................................................. 12
Geopolitical Environment ......................................................................................... 15
Renewed Great Power Competition....................................................................... 15
Arctic Governance.............................................................................................. 18
Relative Priority of Arctic in U.S. Policymaking ..................................................... 20
U.S., Canadian, and Nordic Relations with Russia in the Arctic ................................. 21
NATO and European Union in the Arctic ............................................................... 25
China in the Arctic.............................................................................................. 28
Extended Continental Shelf Submissions, Territorial Disputes, Sovereignty Issues ....... 37
U.S. Military Forces and Operations ........................................................................... 37
Overview .......................................................................................................... 37
Navy and Coast Guard ........................................................................................ 46
Polar Icebreaking..................................................................................................... 48
Polar Icebreaker Operations and Current Polar Icebreaker Fleet................................. 48
Polar Security Cutter (PSC) Program..................................................................... 50
Search and Rescue (SAR) ......................................................................................... 50
Overview .......................................................................................................... 50
May 2011 Arctic Council Agreement on Arctic SAR................................................ 53
Commercial Sea Transportation ................................................................................. 55
Background ....................................................................................................... 55
Destination Traffic, Not Trans-Arctic Traffic .......................................................... 56
Unpredictable Ice Conditions Hinder Trans-Arctic Shipping ..................................... 56

Basic Navigation Infrastructure Is Lacking ............................................................. 57
Regulation of Arctic Shipping .............................................................................. 58
New Arctic Polar Code........................................................................................ 59
Oil, Gas, and Mineral Exploration .............................................................................. 59
Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration ......................................................................... 60
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Extent of the Continental Margin .......................................................................... 63
Onshore Mineral Development ............................................................................. 65
Oil Pollution and Pollution Response.......................................................................... 65
Oil Pollution Implications of Arctic Change ........................................................... 65
Response and Cleanup Chal enges in the Arctic ...................................................... 67
Fisheries ................................................................................................................ 71
Protected Species..................................................................................................... 73
Indigenous People Living in Arctic............................................................................. 74
Background ....................................................................................................... 75
Effects of Climate Change ................................................................................... 77
CRS Reports on Specific Arctic-Related Issues.................................................................. 79

Figures
Figure 1. Arctic Area of Alaska as Defined by ARPA ............................................................ 3
Figure 2. Entire Arctic Area as Defined by ARPA................................................................. 4
Figure 3. Arctic Sea Ice Extent in September 2008, Compared with Prospective Shipping
Routes and Oil and Gas Resources ................................................................................ 13
Figure 4. Arctic SAR Areas in Arctic SAR Agreement ........................................................ 54

Tables
Table 1. Ship Casualties in Arctic Circle Waters, 2005-2019 ................................................ 51

Appendixes
Appendix A. Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984 (Title I of P.L. 98-373) ............. 80
Appendix B. P.L. 101-609 of 1990, Amending ARPA ......................................................... 87
Appendix C. FY2021 NSF Budget Request for Arctic Research ........................................... 89
Appendix D. Major U.S. Policy Documents Relating to Arctic ............................................. 93
Appendix E. Arctic Council .......................................................................................... 105
Appendix F. Arctic and U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ............................. 108
Appendix G. DOD and Coast Guard Testimony and Strategy Documents .............................112
Appendix H. Extended Continental Shelf Submissions, Territorial Disputes, and
Sovereignty Issues .................................................................................................... 133

Contacts
Author Information ..................................................................................................... 138

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Introduction
The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has
heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. Issues such as geopolitical
competition in the region between the United States, Russia, and China; increased military
operations in the region by the United States, Russia, and other Arctic countries; growth in
commercial shipping through the Arctic; and oil, gas, and mineral exploration in the Arctic could
cause the region in coming years to become an arena of international cooperation, tension, and/or
competition.
The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial political,
economic, energy, environmental, and other interests in the region. Decisions that Congress
makes on Arctic-related issues could significantly affect these interests.
This report provides an overview of Arctic-related issues for Congress, and refers readers to more
in-depth CRS reports on specific Arctic-related issues. Congressional readers with questions
about an issue discussed in this report should contact the author or authors of the section of the
report discussing that issue. The authors are identified by footnote at the start of each section.
This report does not track legislation on specific Arctic-related issues. For tracking of legislative
activity, see the CRS reports relating to specific Arctic-related issues that are listed at the end of
this report, just prior to Appendix A.
Background1
Definitions of Arctic
There are multiple definitions of the Arctic that result in differing descriptions of the land and sea
areas encompassed by the term. Policy discussions of the Arctic can employ varying definitions
of the region, and readers should bear in mind that the definition used in one discussion may
differ from that used in another. This CRS report does not rely on any one definition.
Arctic Circle Definition
The most common and basic definition of the Arctic defines the region as the land and sea area
north of the Arctic Circle (a circle of latitude at about 66o 34’ North). For surface locations within
this zone, the sun is general y above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (at
the summer solstice) and below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (at the
winter solstice). The Arctic Circle definition includes the northernmost third or so of Alaska, as
wel as the Chukchi Sea, which separates that part of Alaska from Russia, and U.S. territorial and
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) waters north of Alaska. It does not include the lower two-thirds
or so of Alaska or the Bering Sea, which separates that lower part of the state from Russia. The
area within the Arctic Circle is about 8.14 mil ion square miles,2 which is about 4.1% (or between

1 Except for the subsection on the Arctic and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, this section was prepared by
Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and T rade Division.
2 Source: Figure provided to CRS by Geography and Map Division of Library of Congress, May 12, 2020, in
consultation with the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
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1/24th and 1/25th) of the Earth’s surface, and more than twice the land area of the United States,
which is about 3.5 mil ion square miles.
Definition in Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984
Section 112 of the Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984 (Title I of P.L. 98-373 of July
31, 1984)3 defines the Arctic as follows:
As used in this title, the term “Arctic” means all United States and foreign territory north
of the Arctic Circle and all United States territory north and west of the boundary formed
by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers [in Alaska]; all contiguous seas,
including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering, and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian
chain.
This definition, which is codified at 15 U.S.C. 4111,4 includes certain parts of Alaska below the
Arctic Circle, including the Aleutian Islands and portions of central and western mainland Alaska,
such as the Seward Peninsula and the Yukon Delta. The U.S. Coast Guard states that “The U.S.
Arctic encompasses some 2,521 miles of shoreline, an international strait adjacent to the Russian
Federation, and 647 miles of land border with Canada above the Arctic Circle. The U.S.
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Arctic contains approximately 889,000 square miles of
ocean.”5 Figure 1 below shows the Arctic area of Alaska as defined by ARPA; Figure 2 shows
the entire Arctic area as defined by ARPA.
Other Definitions
Other definitions of the Arctic are based on factors such as average temperature, the northern tree
line, the extent of permafrost on land, the extent of sea ice on the ocean, or jurisdictional or
administrative boundaries. The 10o C isotherm definition of the Arctic, for example, defines the
region as the land and sea area in the northern hemisphere where the average temperature for the
warmest month (July) is below 10o Celsius, or 50o Fahrenheit. This definition results in an
irregularly shaped Arctic region that excludes some land and sea areas north of the Arctic Circle
but includes some land and sea areas south of the Arctic Circle. This definition currently excludes
al of Finland and Sweden, as wel as some of Alaska above the Arctic Circle, while including
virtual y al of the Bering Sea and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.
As another example, the definition of the Arctic adopted by the Arctic Monitoring and
Assessment Programme (AMAP)—a working group of the Arctic Council—“essential y includes
the terrestrial and marine areas north of the Arctic Circle (66°32’ N), and north of 62° N in Asia
and 60° N in North America, modified to include the marine areas north of the Aleutian chain,
Hudson Bay, and parts of the North Atlantic, including the Labrador Sea.”6 A definition based on
a climate-related factor could circumscribe differing areas over time as a result of c limate change.

3 T itle II of P.L. 98-373 is the National Critical Materials Act of 1984.
4 As codified, the definition reads, “As used in this chapter.... ”
5 Coast Guard, Arctic Strategic Outlook, April 2019, p. 11.
6 For examples of maps of the Arctic reflecting various definitions of the Arctic, see the collection of maps posted at
“Arctic Definitions,” Arctic Portal, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://arcticportal.org/maps/download/arctic-definitions.
See also “Definitions of the Arctic,” UN Environment Programme, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://www.grida.no/
resources/7010; “ Arctic Definition Map,” Arctic Portal Library, accessed April 8, 2021, at
http://library.arcticportal.org/1492/; “ Definitions of the Arctic Region,” Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland,
accessed April 8, 2021, at https://www.arcticcentre.org/EN/arcticregion/Maps/definitions#ac-wg; and the map of the
geographic areas described in Annex 1 of the May 2017 Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific
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Some observers use the term “high north” as a way of referring to the Arctic. Some observers
make a distinction between the “high Arctic”—meaning, in general, the colder portions of the
Arctic that are closer to the North Pole—and other areas of the Arctic that are general y less cold
and further away from the North Pole, which are sometimes described as the low Arctic or the
subarctic.
Figure 1. Arctic Area of Alaska as Defined by ARPA

Source: U.S. Arctic Research Commission
(https://www.arctic.gov/uploads/assets/ARPA_Alaska_only_150dpi.jpg, accessed April 8, 2021).
Population of Arctic
According to one estimate, about 4 mil ion people, or about 0.05% of the world’s population, live
in the Arctic, of which roughly half (roughly 2 mil ion) live in Russia’s part of the Arctic,7 and

Cooperation, accessed April 8, 2021, at both “Arctic Region,” State Department, https://www.state.gov/key-topics-
office-of-ocean-and-polar-affairs/arctic/, and “ Maps,” U.S. Arctic Research Commission,
https://www.arctic.gov/uploads/assets/arctic-sci-agree-150dpi-color.jpg.
7 Sources: “Arctic Peoples,” Arctic Council, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://arctic-council.org/en/explore/topics/
arctic-peoples/; National Snow & Ice Data Center, “ Arctic People,” accessed April 8, 2021, at https://nsidc.org/
cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/arctic-people.html; United Kingdom, House of Commons, Defence Committee, On
T hin Ice: UK Defence in the Arctic, T welfth Report of Session 2017 –19, August 15, 2018 (Ordered by the House of
Commons to be printed 19 July 2018), p. 6; “Arctic Indigenous Peoples,” Arctic Centre, accessed April 8, 2021, at
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roughly 500,000 belong to Indigenous peoples.8 Another source states: “Approximately two and a
half mil ion of Russia’s inhabitants live in Arctic territory, accounting for nearly half of the
population living in the Arctic worldwide.”9 Another source, using a broader definition of the
Arctic, concluded that just over 10 mil ion people live in the Arctic, including 7 mil ion in
Russia’s Arctic.10
Figure 2. Entire Arctic Area as Defined by ARPA

Source: U.S. Arctic Research Commission (https://www.arctic.gov/uploads/assets/ARPA_Polar_150dpi.jpg,
accessed April 8, 2021).

https://www.arcticcentre.org/EN/arcticregion/Arctic-Indigenous-Peoples.
8 Source: “Permanent Participants,” Arctic Council, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://arctic-
council.org/en/about/permanent -participants/
9 “T he Russian Federation,” Arctic Council, accessed May 13, 2021, at https://arctic-
council.org/en/about/states/russian-federation/.
10 T imothy Heleniak, “The Future of Arctic Populations,” Polar Geography, January 3, 2020. Another source states
that “ using more broad definition, according to the University of the Arctic Atlas, there are approximately 13.1 million
people living in the area of the circumpolar North ” (“ Arctic Indigenous Peoples,” Arctic Centre, accessed April 8,
2021, at https://www.arcticcentre.org/EN/arcticregion/Arctic-Indigenous-Peoples).
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Eight Arctic States, Including Five Arctic Coastal States
Eight countries have territory north of the Arctic Circle: the United States (Alaska), Canada,
Russia, Norway, Denmark (by virtue of Greenland, a member country of the Kingdom of
Denmark), Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. These eight countries are often referred to as the Arctic
countries or Arctic States, and they are the member states of the Arctic Council, which is
discussed further below.
A subset of the eight Arctic countries are the five countries that are considered Arctic coastal
states because they have mainland coasts that front onto waters north of the Arctic Circle: the
United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (by virtue of Greenland).11
U.S. Identity as an Arctic Nation
As mentioned earlier, the United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has
substantial political, economic, energy, environmental, and other interests in the region. Even so,
Alaska is geographical y separated and somewhat distant from the other 49 states, and relatively
few Americans—fewer than 68,000 as of July 1, 2017—live in the Arctic part of Alaska as shown
in Figure 2.12 A March 6, 2020, research paper on the Arctic in U.S. national identity, based on
data collected in online surveys conducted in October-December 2019, stated the following:
We found that Americans continue to mildly disagree with the assertion that the United
States is an Arctic nation with broad and fundamental interests in the region. On a scale
from 1 to 7, with higher numbers indicating stronger agreement, Americans’ average rating
was 3.40, down slightly from 3.51 in 2017. A plurality of respondents (29%) answered
with a score of one, indicating the strongest disagreement. As in previous years, men and
older Americans showed greater inclination to agree with the combined assertion of Arctic
identity and interests than women or younger respondents. Asking separately about Arctic
identity and interests this year revealed stronger disagreement with an Arctic identity, but
a slight inclination to agree with the existence of American interests in the region….
We also asked for associations with Alaska and found that while Americans dominantly
associate Alaska with cold, snow, and ice, they also associate a greater diversity of other
concepts with the state than with the Arctic. In particular, Americans more readily associate
animals and wilderness with Alaska than with the Arctic.13

11 T he northern coast of mainland Iceland is just south of the Arctic Circle. T he Arctic Circle passes through Grimsey
Island, a small offshore island of Iceland that is about 25 miles north of the northern coast of mainland Iceland. See “Is
Iceland in the Arctic Circle?” Iceland Unlimited, January 2017, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://icelandunlimited.is/
blog/is-iceland-in-the-arctic-circle/.
12 Source for figure of fewer than 68,000: CRS analysis of data presented in T able 3.1, entitled Alaska Population by
Region, Borough, and Census Area, 2017 to 2045, in Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development,
Research and Analysis Section, Alaska Population Projections: 2017 to 2045 , June 2018, p. 26. T he table shows that of
Alaska’s estimated population as of July 1, 2017 of 737,080, a total of 589,680, of about 80%, resided in the
Anchorage/Matanuska-Susitna region (401,649), the Fairbanks North Star Borough (97,738), the Kenai Peninsula
Borough (58,024), and Juneau (32,269).
13 Zachary D. Hamilla, The Arctic in U.S. National Identity (2019), Arctic Studio, March 6, 2020, p. 1. See also Rodger
Baker, “Remapping the American Arctic,” Stratfor, July 28, 2020.
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U.S. Arctic Research
Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984, As Amended
The Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) of 1984 (Title I of P.L. 98-373 of July 31, 1984)14
“provide[s] for a comprehensive national policy dealing with national research needs and
objectives in the Arctic.”15 The act, among other things
 made a series of findings concerning the importance of the Arctic and Arctic
research;
 established the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) to promote Arctic
research and recommend Arctic research policy;
 designated the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the lead federal agency for
implementing Arctic research policy;
 established the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) to
develop a national Arctic research policy and a five-year plan to implement that
policy, and designated the NSF representative on the IARPC as its chairperson;16
and
 defined the term “Arctic” for purposes of the act.
The Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 was amended by P.L. 101-609 of November 16,
1990. For the texts of the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 and P.L. 101-609, see
Appendix A and Appendix B, respectively.
FY2021 NSF Budget Request for Arctic Research
Office of Polar Programs (OPP)
NSF—the lead federal agency for implementing Arctic research policy—carries out Arctic
research activities through its Office of Polar Programs (OPP), which operates as part of NSF’s
Directorate for Geosciences (GEO). NSF requested a total of $419.8 mil ion for OPP for FY2021,
which represented a decrease of 14.1% from the $488.7 mil ion actual for FY2019. (Actuals for
FY2020 were not available when NSF’s FY2021 budget book was prepared.)
Navigating the New Arctic (NNA)
NSF states in the overview of its FY2021 budget request that “in 2021, NSF wil continue to
invest in its Big Ideas and the Convergence Accelerator, which support bold inquiries into the
frontiers of science and engineering. These efforts endeavor to break down the silos of
conventional scientific research funded by NSF to embrace the cross-disciplinary and dynamic
nature of the science of the future. The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities for the U.S. to
define and push the frontiers of global science and engineering leadership and to invest in

14 T itle II of P.L. 98-373 is the National Critical Materials Act of 1984.
15 T hese words are taken from the official title of P.L. 98-373. (Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 is the short title
of T itle I of P.L. 98-373.) T he remainder of P.L. 98-373’s official title relates to Title II of the act, the short title of
which is the National Critical Materials Act of 1984.
16 T he IARPC currently includes more than a dozen federal agencies, departments, and offices. Additional information
on the IARPC is available at http://www.nsf.gov/od/opp/arctic/iarpc/start.jsp.
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fundamental research. This research wil advance the Nation’s economic competitiveness,
security, and prestige on the global stage. For more information, see the NSF-Wide Investments
chapter.”17 Among the six research Big Ideas, NSF states in its overview that number four is
Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) ($30.0 million): Establishing an observing network of
mobile and fixed platforms and tools, including cyber tools, across the Arctic to document
and understand the Arctic’s rapid biological, physical, chemical, and social changes, in
partnership with other agencies, countries, and native populations.18
NSF’s requested $40.8 mil ion for NNA for FY2021, including $30.0 mil ion (noted above) for
stewardship activities and $10.8 mil ion for foundational activities.19
For additional information on proposed FY2021 funding and efforts for OPP and NNA, see
Appendix C.
Major U.S. Policy Documents Relating to Arctic
Overview
The executive branch in recent years has issued a number of policy documents concerning the
Arctic, including those mentioned briefly below. For excerpts from most of the documents
mentioned below, see Appendix D.
Specific Documents
January 2009 Arctic Policy Directive (NSPD 66/HSPD 25)
On January 12, 2009 (i.e., eight days before its final day in office), the George W. Bush
Administration released a presidential directive establishing a new U.S. policy for the Arctic
region. The directive, dated January 9, 2009, was issued as National Security Presidential
Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25 (NSPD 66/HSPD 25). The directive
was the result of an interagency review, and it superseded for the Arctic (but not the Antarctic) a
1994 presidential directive on Arctic and Antarctic policy. The directive, among other things
 states that the United States is an Arctic nation, with varied and compel ing
interests in the region;
 sets forth a six-element overal U.S. policy for the region;
 describes U.S. national security and homeland security interests in the Arctic; and
 discusses a number of issues as they relate to the Arctic, including international
governance; the extended continental shelf and boundary issues; promotion of
international scientific cooperation; maritime transportation; economic issues,
including energy; and environmental protection and conservation of natural
resources.

17 National Science Foundation, FY 2021 Budget Request to Congress, February 10, 2020, p. Overview-9.
18 National Science Foundation, FY 2021 Budget Request to Congress, February 10, 2020, p. Overview-9. Emphasis as
in original.
19 National Science Foundation, FY 2021 Budget Request to Congress, February 10, 2020, p. NSF-Wide Investments-
11.
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May 2013 National Strategy for Arctic Region
On May 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released a document entitled National Strategy for
the Arctic Region
.20 The document appears to supplement rather than supersede the January 2009
Arctic policy directive (NSPD 66/HSPD 25) discussed above.21 The document states that the
strategy is built on three lines of effort:
 advancing U.S. security interests,
 pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship, and
 strengthening international cooperation.
Actions taken under the strategy, the document states, wil be informed by four guiding
principles:
 safeguarding peace and stability,
 making decisions using the best available information,
 pursuing innovative arrangements, and
 consulting and coordinating with Alaska natives.
January 2014 Implementation Plan for National Strategy for Arctic Region
On January 30, 2014, the Obama Administration released an implementation plan for the May
2013 national strategy for the Arctic region.22 The plan outlines about 36 specific initiatives.
January 2015 Executive Order for Enhancing Coordination of Arctic Efforts
On January 21, 2015, then-President Obama issued Executive Order 13689, entitled “Enhancing
Coordination of National Efforts in the Arctic.” The order established an Arctic Executive
Steering Committee is to provide guidance to executive departments and agencies and enhance
coordination of Federal Arctic policies across agencies and offices, and, where applicable, with
State, local, and Alaska Native tribal governments and similar Alaska Native organizations,
academic and research institutions, and the private and nonprofit sectors.”
December 2017 National Security Strategy Document
A National Security Strategy document released by the Trump Administration in December 2017
mentions the term Arctic once, stating that that “A range of international institutions establishes
the rules for how states, businesses, and individuals interact with each other, across land and sea,

20 National Strategy for the Arctic Region, May 2013, 11 pp.
21 National Strategy for the Arctic Region states on page 6 that the “lines of effort” it describes are to be undertaken
“[t]o meet the challenges and opportunities in the Arctic region, and in furtherance of established Arctic Region
Policy,” at which point there is a footnote referencing the January 2009 Arctic policy directive.
22 Implementation Plan for The National Strategy for the Arctic Region , January 2014, 32 pp. T he news release
announcing the implementation plan is posted at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/01/30/white-house-releases-
implementation-plan-national-strategy-arctic-region. T he document itself is posted at
https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/implementation_plan_for _the_national_strategy_for_the_
arctic_region_-_fi....pdf.
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the Arctic, outer space, and the digital realm. It is vital to U.S. prosperity and security that these
institutions uphold the rules that help keep these common domains open and free.”23
March 2021 Interim National Security Strategic Guidance Document
An Interim National Security Strategic Guidance document released by the Biden Administration
in March 202124 does not include the term Arctic.
U.S. Coordinator for Arctic Region
On July 16, 2014, then-Secretary of State John Kerry announced the appointment of retired Coast
Guard Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., who served as Commandant of the Coast Guard from May
2010 to May 2014, as the first U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic.25 Papp served as the
U.S. Special Representative until January 20, 2017, the final day of the Obama Administration
and the first day of the Trump Administration. The position remained unfil ed from that date
through July 29, 2020, when it was effectively replaced by the newly created position of the U.S.
coordinator for the Arctic region. On July 29, 2020, the Trump Administration announced that
career diplomat James (Jim) DeHart would be the first U.S. coordinator for the Arctic region;
DeHart began his work in the position that day.26
H.R. 3361, the United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs Act of 2021, and H.R. 3433,
the Arctic Diplomacy Act of 2021, would each establish a position of United States Ambassador
at Large for Arctic Affairs.27
Arctic Council
The Arctic Council, created in 1996, is the leading international forum for addressing issues
relating to the Arctic. Its founding document is the Ottawa Declaration of September 19, 1996, a
joint declaration (not a treaty) signed by representatives of the eight Arctic states. The State
Department describes the council as “the preeminent intergovernmental forum for addressing
issues related to the Arctic Region. …The Arctic Council is not a treaty-based international
organization but rather an international forum that operates on the basis of consensus, echoing the
peaceful and cooperative nature of the Arctic Region.”28

23 National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017, p. 40.
24 White House, Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, March 2021, released on March 3, 2021, 23 pp.
25 See “Retired Admiral Robert Papp to Serve as U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic,” Press Statement, John
Kerry, Secretary of State, Washington, DC, July 16, 2014.
26 See Department of State, “ Appointment of U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region,” Media Note, Office of the
Spokesperson, July 29, 2020. See also Matthew Lee, “ US Names New Arctic Envoy in Push to Expand Reach in
Region,” Associated Press, July 29, 2020; T imothy Gardner, “ U.S. Appoints Coordinator for Arctic Policy As Mineral
Race Heats Up,” Reuters, July 29, 2020; Courtney McBride, “ New Cold War: U.S. Names Arctic Policy Czar to Keep
T abs on China, Russia,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2020; Melody Schreiber, “ T he T rump Administration Appoints a
New State Department Arctic Coordinator,” Arctic Today, July 29, 2020; Levon Sevunts (Radio Canada International),
“Appointment of U.S. Arctic Co-ordinator May Signal More Muscular American Policy,” CBC, July 31, 2020.
27 For a press report discussing legislative proposals for establishing a U.S. Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs, see
Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ T op Lawmakers Want to Establish a US Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Affairs,” High North
News
, May 28, 2021.
28 “Arctic Region,” State Department, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://www.state.gov/key-topics-office-of-ocean-and-
polar-affairs/arctic/.
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The Arctic Council’s membership consists of the eight Arctic states. Al decisions of the Arctic
Council and its subsidiary bodies are by consensus of the eight Arctic states. In addition to the
eight member states, six organizations representing Arctic indigenous peoples have status as
Permanent Participants. Thirteen non-Arctic states, 13 intergovernmental and interparliamentary
organizations, and 12 nongovernmental organizations have been approved as observers, making
for a total of 38 observer states and organizations.29
The council has a two-year chairmanship that rotates among the eight member states. The United
States held the chairmanship from April 24, 2015, to May 11, 2017, and wil next hold it in 2031-
2033. In May 2021, the chairmanship was transferred from Iceland to Russia.
Thematic areas of work addressed by the council include environment and climate, biodiversity,
oceans, Arctic peoples, and agreements on Arctic scientific cooperation, cooperation on marine
oil pollution preparedness and response in the Arctic, and cooperation on aeronautical and
maritime search and rescue in the Arctic. The Ottawa Declaration states explicitly that “The
Arctic Council should not deal with matters related to military security.”
The eight Arctic states have signed three legal y binding agreements negotiated under the
auspices of the Arctic Council: a May 2011 agreement on cooperation on aeronautical and
maritime search and rescue (SAR) in the Arctic, a May 2013 agreement on cooperation on marine
oil pollution preparedness and response in the Arctic, and a May 2017 agreement on enhancing
international Arctic scientific cooperation.30
For additional background information on the Arctic Council, see Appendix E.
Arctic and U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)31
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) “lays down a comprehensive
regime of law and order in the world’s oceans and seas[,] establishing rules governing al uses of
the oceans and their resources.”32 UNCLOS was adopted in 1982, and modified in 1994 by an
agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the treaty, which relates to the seabed and
ocean floor and subsoil thereof that are beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. UNCLOS
entered into force in November 1994. As of April 8, 2021 168 parties (167 states and the
European Union) were party to the treaty.33
The United States is not a party to UNCLOS.34 The 1982 treaty and the 1994 agreement were
transmitted to the Senate on October 6, 1994, during the 103rd Congress, becoming Treaty

29 For list of the 38 observers and when they were approved for observer status, see “Who We Are” in Arctic Council,
“Arctic Council,” accessed April 8, 2021, at https://arctic-council.org/en/.
30 For brief summaries of these three agreements and links to the texts of these agreements, see “Arctic Region,” State
Department, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://www.state.gov/key-topics-office-of-ocean-and-polar-affairs/arctic/.
31 Parts of this section were prepared by Marjorie Ann Browne, who was a Specialist in International Relations, Foreign
Affairs, Defense, and T rade Division until her retirement from CRS on October 10, 2015.
32 United Nations, “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, Overview and full text,”
updated February 11, 2020, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/
convention_overview_convention.htm.
33 Chronological lists of ratifications of, accessions and successions to the Convention and the related Agreements as of
March 9, 2020, accessed April 8, 2021, at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/reference_files/
chronological_lists_of_ratifications.htm. T he list shows that most recent state to become a party to the treaty is
Azerbaijan, which became a party on June 16, 2016.
34 T he United States is not a signatory to the treaty. On July 29, 1994, the United States became a signatory to the 1994
agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the treaty. T he United States has not ratified either the treaty or
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Document 103-39. The full Senate to date has not voted on the question of whether to give its
advice and consent to ratification of Treaty Document 103-39. Although the United States is not a
party to UNCLOS, the United States accepts and acts in accordance with the nonseabed mining
provisions of the treaty, such as those relating to navigation and overflight, which the United
States views as reflecting customary international law of the sea.35
Part VI of UNCLOS (consisting of Articles 76 through 85), which covers the continental shelf,
and Annex II to the treaty, which established a Commission on the Limits of the Continental
Shelf, are particularly pertinent to the Arctic, because Article 77 states that “The coastal State
exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting
its natural resources,” and that these natural resources include, among other things, “mineral and
other nonliving resources of the seabed and subsoil,” including oil and gas deposits.36
Article 76 states that “the coastal State shal establish the outer edge of the continental margin
wherever the margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles,” and that “Information on the limits of
the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles... shal be submitted by the coastal State to the
Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf set up under Annex II.... The Commission
shal make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of the outer
limits of their continental shelf. The limits of the shelf established by a coastal State on the basis
of these recommendations shal be final and binding.”
For additional background information on UNCLOS, particularly as it relates to the Arctic, see
Appendix F. For information on extended continental shelf submissions to the Commission, see
Appendix H.
House and Senate Arctic Member Organizations
In the House, a congressional Arctic Working Group Caucus is co-chaired by Representative Rick
Larsen and Representative Don Young.37 In the Senate, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator
Angus King announced on March 4 and 5, 2015, the formation of a Senate Arctic Caucus.38

the 1994 agreement.
35 In a March 10, 1983, statement on U.S. oceans policy, President Reagan stated, that “ the United States is prepared to
accept and act in accordance with the [treaty’s] balance of interests relating to traditional uses of the oceans—such as
navigation and overflight. In this respect, the United States will recognize the rights of other states in the waters off
their coasts, as reflected in the Convention, so long as the rights and freedoms of the United States and others under
international law are recognized by such coastal states.” (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, “ Statement
on United States Oceans Policy,” undated, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/
31083c.)
36 Other parts of UNCLOS relevant to the Arctic include those relating to navigation and high -seas freedoms, fisheries,
and exclusive economic zones.
37 Source: United States House of Representatives, Committee on House Administration, Congressional Member
Organizations (CMOs)
, 117th Cong., revised March 2021, p. 5, accessed April 8, 2021, at
https://cha.house.gov/sites/democrats.cha.house.gov/files/2021_117th%20CMOs_3 -22.pdf. See also ‘Congressional
Arctic Working Group,” accessed April 8, 2021, at https://congressionalarcticworkinggroup-larsen.house.gov/.
38 Press release from the office of Senator Angus King, “ King, Murkowski Announce U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus,”
March 4, 2015, accessed April 8, 2021, at http://www.king.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/king-murkowski-
announce-us-senate-arctic-caucus. See also press release from the office of Senator Lisa Murkowski, “ Senators
Murkowski, King Announce U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus,” March 5, 2015, accessed April 8, 2021, at
http://www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=1ce5edcb-540d-4c43-b264-56bdbb570755,
which includes a similar phrase.
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Issues for Congress
Climate Change and Loss of Arctic Sea Ice39
Record low extents of Arctic sea ice in 2012 and 2007 have focused scientific and policy attention
on climate changes in the high north, and on the implications of projected ice-free40 seasons in the
Arctic within decades. The Arctic has been projected by several scientists to be ice-free in most
late summers as soon as the 2030s.41 This opens opportunities for transport through the Northwest
Passage and the Northern Sea Route, extraction of potential oil and gas resources, and expanded
fishing and tourism (Figure 3).
More broadly, physical changes in the Arctic include warming ocean, soil, and air temperatures;
melting permafrost; shifting vegetation and animal abundances; and altered characteristics of
Arctic cyclones. Al these changes are expected to affect traditional livelihoods and cultures in the
region and survival of polar bear and other animal populations, and raise risks of pollution, food
supply, safety, cultural losses, and national security. Moreover, linkages (“teleconnections”)
between warming Arctic conditions and extreme events in the mid-latitude continents are
increasingly evident, identified in such extreme events as the heat waves and fires in Russia in
2010; severe winters in the eastern United States and Europe in 2009/2010 and in Europe in
2011/2012;42 and Indian summer monsoons and droughts. Hence, changing climate in the Arctic
suggests important implications both local y and across the Hemisphere.


39 T his section prepared by Jane Leggett, Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy, Resources, Science, and
Industry Division.
40 In scientific analyses, “ice-free” does not necessarily mean “no ice.” T he definition of “ice-free” or sea ice “extent”
or “area” varies across studies. Sea ice “extent” is one common measure, equal to the sum of the area of grid cells that
have ice concentration of less than a set percentage—frequently 15%. For more information, see the National Snow and
Ice Data Center, http://nsidc.org/seaice/data/terminology.html.
41 Muyin Wang and James E. Overland, “A Sea Ice Free Summer Arctic within 30 Years?,” Geophysical Research
Letters
36, no. L07502 (April 3, 2009): 10.1029/2009GL037820; Marika Holland, Cecilia M. Bitz, and Bruno
T remblay, “Future abrupt reductions in the summer Arctic sea ice,” Geophysical Research Letters 33, no. L23503
(2006); But see also Julien Boé, Alex Hall, and Xin Qu, “ Sources of spread in simulations of Arctic sea ice loss over
the twenty-first century,” Clim atic Change 99, no. 3 (April 1, 2010): 637-645; I. Eisenman and J. S. Wettlaufer,
“Nonlinear threshold behavior during the loss of Arctic sea ice,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106,
no. 1 (January 6, 2009): 28-32; Dirk Notz, “ The Future of Ice Sheets and Sea Ice: Between Reversible Retreat and
Unstoppable Loss,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 49 (December 8, 2009): 20590-20595.
42 Overland et al. state that “a warm Arctic-cold continent pattern represents a paradox of recent global warming: there
is not a uniform pattern of temperature increases” due to a set of newly recognized processes described in Overland, J.
E, K. R Wood, and M. Wang. “Warm Arctic-cold Continents: Climate Impacts of the Newly Open Arctic Sea.” Polar
Research
30 (2011). T he authors raise a critical, unanswered question, “ Is the observed severe mid-latitude weather in
two adjacent years simply due to an extreme in chaotic processes alone, or do they included a partial but important
Arctic forcing and connection due to recent changing conditions?” In other words, are recent patterns random
anomalies, or might we expect more of the same?; among other examples, see also Lim, Young-Kwon, and Siegfried
D. Schubert. “T he Impact of ENSO and the Arctic Oscillation on Winter T emperature Extremes in the Southeast
United States.” Geophysical Research Letters 38, no. 15 (August 11, 2011): L15706.
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Figure 3. Arctic Sea Ice Extent in September 2008, Compared with Prospective
Shipping Routes and Oil and Gas Resources

Source: Graphic by Stephen Rountree at U.S. News and World Report, http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/
world/2008/10/09/global-warming-triggers-an-international-race-for-the-artic/photos/#1.
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Like the rest of the globe, temperatures in the Arctic have varied43 but show a significant warming
trend since the 1970s, and particularly since 1995.44 The annual average temperature for the
Arctic region (from 60o to 90o N) is now about 1.8o F warmer than the “climate normal” (the
average from 1961 to 1990). Temperatures in October-November are now about 9o F above the
seasonal normal. Scientists have concluded that most of the global warming of the last three
decades is very likely caused by human-related emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG, mostly
carbon dioxide); they expect the GHG-induced warming to continue for decades, even if, and
after, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere have been stabilized. The extra heat in the Arctic is
amplified by processes there (the “polar amplification”) and may result in irreversible changes on
human timescales.
The observed warmer temperatures along with rising cyclone size and strength in the Arctic have
reduced sea ice extent, thickness, and ice that persists year-round (“perennial ice”); natural
climate variability has likely contributed to the record low ice extents of 2007 and 2012. The
2007 minimum sea ice extent was influenced by warm Arctic temperatures and warm, moist
winds blowing from the North Pacific into the central Arctic, contributing to melting and pushing
ice toward and into the Atlantic past Greenland. Warm winds did not account for the near-record
sea ice minimum in 2008.45 In early August 2012, an unusual y large storm with low pressure
developed over the Arctic, helping to disperse the already weak ice into warmer waters and
accelerating its melt rate. By August 24, 2012, sea ice extent had shrunk below the previous
observed minimum of late September 2007.46
Modeling of GHG-induced climate change is particularly chal enging for the Arctic, but it
consistently projects warming through the 21st century, with annual average Arctic temperature
increases ranging from +1° to +9.0° C (+2° to +19.0° F), depending on the GHG scenario and
model used. While such warming is projected by most models throughout the Arctic, some
models project slight cooling localized in the North Atlantic Ocean just south of Greenland and
Iceland. Most warming would occur in autumn and winter, “with very little temperature change
projected over the Arctic Ocean” in summer months.47
Due to observed and projected climate change, scientists have concluded that the Arctic wil have
changed from an ice-covered environment to a recurrent ice-free48 ocean (in summers) as soon as
the late 2030s. The character of ice cover is expected to change as wel , with the ice being

43 T here was a regionally warm period in the Arctic from the mid-1920s to around 1940, which scientist s have assessed
to have been driven by natural climate variability. T hey have found that period to be distinctly different from the recent
multi-decadal warming, in part because the early 20th century warming was concentrated in the northern high latitudes.
See, for example, Figure 2, upper left graphic, in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, “ Simulatoin of Early 20 th
Century Warming,” at http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/early-20th-century-global-warming.
44 Steele, Michael, Wendy Ermold, and Jinlun Zhang. “Arctic Ocean Surface Warming T rends over the Past 100
Years.” Geophysical Research Letters 35, no. 2 (January 29, 2008): L02614.
45 J. Overland, J. Walsh, and M. Wang, Arctic Report Card—Atmosphere (NOAA Arctic Research Program, October 6,
2008), ftp://ftp.oar.noaa.gov/arctic/documents/ArcticReportCard_full_report2008.pdf .
46 National Snow and Ice Data Center, “Arctic sea ice extent breaks 2007 record low” (August 27, 2012); Japanese
Aerospace Exploration Agency, “A new record minimum of the Arctic sea ice extent was set on 24 August 2012”;
Arctic ROOS (Norway), “Daily Updated T ime series of Arctic sea ice area and extent derived from SSMI data
provided by NERSC,” at http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/ice-area-and-extent-in-arctic.
47 William L. Chapman and John E. Walsh, “Simulations of Arctic T emperature and Pressure by Global Coupled
Models,” Journal of Climate 20, no. 4 (February 1, 2007): 609-632.
48 See footnote 40. Also, although one Canadian scientist has predicted that recurrent ice-free summers may begin
sometime between 2013 and 2020, this is not consistent with other climate models’ projections.
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thinner, more fragile, and more regional y variable. The variability in recent years of both ice
quantity and location could be expected to continue.
Geopolitical Environment49
Renewed Great Power Competition
Overview
A principal factor affecting the geopolitical environment for the Arctic is the renewal of great
power competition, including chal enges by Russia, China, and other countries to elements of the
U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.50 This development, combined
with the diminishment of Arctic ice and the resulting increase in human activities in the Arctic,
has several potential implications for the geopolitical environment for the Arctic, which are
discussed in the following sections.51
Arctic Tradition of Cooperation and Low Tensions
The renewal of great power competition has raised a basic question as to whether the Arctic in
coming years wil be a region general y characterized by cooperation and low tensions, as it was
during the post-Cold War era, or instead be a region characterized at least in part by competition
and increased tensions, as it was during the Cold War. Although there continues to be significant
international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is increasingly viewed as an arena for
geopolitical competition among the United States, Russia, and China.52 In this regard, the renewal
of great power competition poses a potential chal enge to the tradition of cooperation, low

49 T his section was prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and T rade
Division. It incorporates material prepared by Kristin Archick, Specialist in European Affairs, Foreign Affairs,
Defense, and T rade Division, and Derek E. Mix, Analyst in European Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and T rade
Division.
50 For more on the renewal of great power competition, see CRS Report R43838, Renewed Great Power Competition:
Im plications for Defense—Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
51 For discussions that emphasize climate change as a factor affecting national security in the Arctic, see, for example,
Sharon E. Burke, “ T he Arctic T hreat T hat Must Not be Named,” War on the Rocks,” January 28, 2021; Melody
Schreiber, “ New US Arctic Strat egies Ignore Climate Risks in Focus on Geopolitics, Experts Say,” Arctic Today,
January 20, 2021; Sherri Goodman et al., Clim ate Change and Security in the Arctic, Center for Climate and Security,
Council on Strategic Risks, and Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, January 2021, 22 pp.
52 See, for example, Jonathan Jordan, “ Russia’s Coercive Diplomacy in the Arctic,” Arctic Institute, July 6, 2021;
Kazunari Hanawa, “ Unfrozen World: Arctic T haw Becomes Major Source of Global Risk,” Nikkei Asia, June 28, 2021;
T homas Grove, “ Melting Arctic Ice Pits Russia Against U.S. and China for Control of New Shipping Route,” Wall
Street Journal
, June 23, 2021; Atle Staalesen, “ National Security Chief Says Russia Must Bolster its Arctic Military,”
Barents Observer, June 23, 2021; Economist, “ Who Controls the North,?” Economist, June 14, 2021; Laura Millan
Lombrana, “ T ensions Over Arctic Resource Rights Grow as Russia T akes Leadership Role,” World Oil, May 23, 2021;
Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch, “ Biden’s Arctic Power Plays, With Russia and China Staking Claims, Can Diplomacy
Stave Off a Militarization of the Far North?” Foreign Policy, May 20, 2021; T ony Barber, “ Arctic Rivalry Heats Up
among the Great Powers,” Financial Tim es, May 19, 2021; Yohei Ishikawa, Ryo Nakamura, and T sukasa Hadano,
“US, Russia and China Seek Edge as Battle for Arctic Heats Up,” Nikkei Asia, May 19, 2021; Mark Magnier, “ A More
Accessible Arctic Becomes Proving Ground for US-China Military Jockeying,” South China Morning Post, May 3,
2021; Sharon E. Burke, “ No One Will Win the Competition in the High North,” Defense News, April 11, 2021; Robert
C. O’Brien and Ryan T ully, “How the United States Can Win in the Arctic,” National Interest, March 8, 2021; Jariel
Arvin, “T he Latest Consequence of Climate Change: T he Arctic Is Now Open for Business Year-Round, Global
Competition in the Arctic Is Heating Up as the Year-Round Sea Ice Retreats,” Vox, February 22, 2021; Andrew A.
Latham, “ Great Power Rivalry in the Arctic Circle is Heating Up ,” National Interest, February 16, 2021.
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tensions, peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for international law —sometimes referred to
as the “Arctic spirit”—that has characterized the approach used by the Arctic states, particularly
since the founding of the Arctic Council in 1996, for managing Arctic issues.53
Some observers argue that the Arctic states and other Arctic stakeholders should attempt to
maintain the region’s tradition of cooperation and low tensions, and work to prevent the
competition and tensions that have emerged in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere in recent years from
crossing over into the Arctic. These observers argue that security issues and the competitive
aspects of Arctic relations have been overemphasized and can hinder cooperation on shared
concerns such as climate change, that the Arctic tradition of cooperation and low tensions has
proven successful in promoting the interests of the Arctic states and other Arctic stakeholders on a
range of issues, that it has served as a useful model for other parts of the world to follow, and that
in light of tensions and competition elsewhere in the world, this model is needed more now than
ever.54
Other observers could argue that, notwithstanding the efforts of Arctic states and other Arctic
stakeholders to maintain the Arctic as a region of cooperation and low tensions, it is unreasonable
to expect that the Arctic can be kept fully isolated from competition and tensions that have arisen
in other parts of the world. As a consequence, these observers could argue, the Arctic states and
other Arctic stakeholders should take steps to manage increased competition and higher tensions
in the Arctic, precisely so that Arctic issues can continue to be resolved as successful y as
conditions may permit, even in a situation of competition and increased tensions. From a U.S.
standpoint, one way of expressing this perspective is to state that in the Arctic, the United States
should cooperate where it can, but compete where it must.55
Stil other observers might argue that a policy of attempting to maintain the Arctic as a region of
cooperation and low tensions, though wel -intentioned, could actual y help encourage aggressive
behavior by Russia or China in other parts of the world by giving those two countries confidence

53 See, for example, Diana Stancy Correll, “Arctic Will Become ‘Contested’ Without US Presence and Partnerships,
2nd Fleet CO Warns,” Navy Tim es, August 2, 2021; Joshua T allis, “ As ‘Arctic Exceptionalism’ Melts Away, the US
Isn’t Sure What It Wants Next,” Defense One, January 22, 2020; T imo Koivurova, “How US Policy T hreatens Existing
Arctic Governance,” Arctic Today, January 17, 2020; Melody Schreiber, “As the Arctic Changes, International
Cooperation May Be Put to the T est,” Arctic Today, July 25, 2018; Stephanie Pezard, Abbie T ingstad, and Alexandria
Hall, The Future of Arctic Cooperation in a Changing Strategic Environm ent, RAND Europe (PE-268RC), 2018, 18
pp.; Geoff Ziezulewicz, “As Arctic Waters Open, Nations Plant T heir Flags,” Navy Times, April 8, 2018; James
Stavridis, “Avoiding a Cold War in the High North,” Bloomberg, May 4, 2018; Kristina Spohr, “The Race to Conquer
the Arctic—the World’s Final Frontier,” New Statesm an, March 12, 2018.
54 See, for example, Lawson W. Brigham, “ Reflections on the Arctic Council’s Recent Message to the Globe: Peace,
Stability and Cooperation,” Polar Points (Wilson Center), July 23, 2021; Luke Patey, “ Managing US-China Rivalry in
the Arctic, Small States Can Be Players in Great Power Competition,” Dansk Institut for Internationale Studier,
October 9, 2020; Editorial, “ Arctic Science Cannot Afford a New Cold War,” Nature, September 30, 2020; Eilís
Quinn, “Are Potential Arctic Security T hreats Eclipsing Urgent Action on Climate? A New Study Makes Its Case,” Eye
on the Arctic (Radio Canada International)
, September 10, 2020; Paul T aylor, After the Ice, The Arctic and European
Security
, Friends of Europe, Autumn 2020 (September 2020), 113 pp.; Agence France-Presse, “ Iceland Wants T o
Preserve Arctic From US-China T ensions: PM,” Barrons, July 30, 2020; T homas Graham and Amy Myers Jaffe,
“T here Is No Scramble for the Arctic, Climate Change Demands Cooperation, Not Comp etition, in the Far North,”
Foreign Affairs, July 27, 2020; Jeremy T asch, “ Why the T alk of an ‘Artic Cold War’ Is Exaggeration ,” Valdai
Discussion Club, July 7, 2020.
55 Referring to the Coast Guard’s April 2019 Arctic strategy document (see Appendix G), for example, one observer
stated: “ T he way the Arctic is defined in the new strategy is, cooperate where we can but compete where we must .”
(Sherri Goodman, as quoted in Melody Schreiber, “ T he US Coast Guard’s New Arctic Strategy Highlights Geopolitics
and Security,” Arctic Today, April 23, 2019.) DOD’s June 2019 Arctic strategy document (see Appe ndix G) states on
page 6 that DOD will “compete when necessary to maintain favorable regional balances of power” in the Arctic.
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that their aggressive behavior in other parts of the world would not result in punitive costs being
imposed on them in the Arctic. These observers might argue that maintaining the Arctic as a
region of cooperation and low tensions in spite of aggressive Russian or Chinese actions
elsewhere could help legitimize those aggressive actions and provide little support to peaceful
countries elsewhere that might be attempting to resist them. This, they could argue, could
facilitate a divide-and-conquer strategy by Russia or China in their relations with other countries,
which in the long run could leave Arctic states with fewer al ies and partners in other parts of the
world for resisting unwanted Russian or Chinese actions in the Arctic.
Stil others might argue that there is merit in some or al of the above perspectives, and that the
chal enge is to devise an approach that best mixes the potential strengths of each perspective.
In a May 6, 2019, speech in Finland that was given prior to the start of formal discussions at an
Arctic Council ministerial meeting, then-Secretary of State Michael Pompeo emphasized the
competitive dimension of Arctic affairs.56 On April 23, 2020, a senior State Department official
provided a background on the Trump Administration’s strategy for the Arctic.57
Arctic and World Order
One potential implication for the Arctic of the renewal of great power competition concerns
associated chal enges to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World
War II. One element of the U.S.-led international order that has come under chal enge is the
principle that force or threat of force should not be used as a routine or first-resort measure for
settling disputes between countries. Another is the principle of freedom of the seas (i.e., that the
world’s oceans are to be treated as an international commons).58 If either of these elements of the
U.S.-led international order is weakened or overturned, it could have potential y major
implications for the future of the Arctic, given the Arctic’s tradition of peaceful resolution of
disputes and respect for international law and the nature of the Arctic as a region with an ocean at
its center that washes up against most of the Arctic states.
More broadly, some observers assess that the U.S.-led international order in general may be
eroding or collapsing, and that the nature of the successor international order that could emerge in
its wake is uncertain. An erosion or collapse of the U.S.-led international order, and its
replacement by a new international order of some kind, could have significant implications for
the Arctic, since the Arctic’s tradition of cooperation and low tensions, and the Arctic Council
itself, can be viewed as outgrowths of the U.S.-led order.59

56 State Department, “Looking North: Sharpening America’s Arctic Focus, Remarks, Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of
State, Rovaniemi, Finland, May 6, 2019.” See also Associated Press, “ Pompeo Says US to Expand Arctic Role to Deter
Russia, China,” Associated Press, July 22, 2020.
57 State Department, Briefing on the Administration’s Arctic Strategy, Special Briefing, Office of the Spokesperson,
April 23, 2020. See also Sarah Cammarata, “ POLITICO Pro Q&A: James DeHart, State Department Coordinator for
the Arctic,” Politico Pro, January 15, 2021.
58 For additional discussion, see CRS Report R43838, Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—
Issues for Congress
, and, regarding the principle of freedom of the seas, CRS Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic
Com petition in South and East China Seas: Background and Issues for Congress
.
59 See, for example, Andreas Raspotnik and Andreas Østhagen, “A Global Arctic Order Under T hreat? An Agenda for
American Leadership in the North,” Polar Points (Wilson Center Polar Institute), March 10, 2021.
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Arctic Governance
Spotlight on Arctic Governance and Limits of Arctic Council
The renewal of great power competition has put more of a spotlight on the issue of Arctic
governance and the limits of the Arctic Council as a governing body.60 As noted earlier in this
report, regarding the limits of the Arctic Council as a governing body, the council states that “The
Arctic Council does not and cannot implement or enforce its guidelines, assessments or
recommendations. That responsibility belongs to each individual Arctic State. The Arctic
Council’s mandate, as articulated in the Ottawa Declaration, explicitly excludes military
security.”61
During the post-Cold War era—the period when the Arctic Council was established and began
operating—the limits of the Arctic Council as a governing body may have been less evident or
problematic, due to the post-Cold War era’s general situation of lower tensions and reduced overt
competition between the great powers. With the renewal of great power competition, however, it
is possible that these limits could become more evident or problematic, particularly with regard to
addressing Arctic-related security issues.
If the limits of the Arctic Council as a governing body are judged as having become more evident
or problematic, one option might be to amend the rules of the council to provide for some
mechanism for enforcing its guidelines, assessments, or recommendations. Another option might
be to expand the council’s mandate to include an ability to address military security issues.
Supporters of such options might argue that they could help the council adapt to the major change
in the Arctic’s geopolitical environment brought about the shift in the international security
environment, and thereby help maintain the council’s continued relevance in coming years. They
might also argue that continuing to exclude military security from the council’s mandate risks
either leaving Arctic military security issues unaddressed, or shifting them to a different forum

60 See, for example, Benjamin J. Sacks et al., Exploring Gaps in Arctic Governance, Identifying Potential Sources of
Conflict and Mitigating Measures
, RAND, 2021, 29 pp. (report RRA1007.1); Clara Ferreira Marques, “ As the Arctic
Heats Up, How to Keep the Peace,” Bloom berg, May 22, 2021; James Foggo and Rachael A. Gosnell, “ Building a
T rans-Polar Bridge,” Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), May 21, 2021; Ian Birdwell, “ Arctic Governance:
Keeping T he Arctic Council On T arget ,” Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), July 29, 2020;
Benjamin Chiacchia, “ T he Case for an Arctic T reaty,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, May 2020; Rashmi Ramesh,
“Changing Geopolitics of the Arctic: Challenges for Governance,” IndraStra, April 9, 2020; Angus Parker, “ Looking
North: How Should the Arctic Be Governed?” Geographical (UK), March 17, 2020; Kevin McGwin, “ An Arctic
T reaty Has Been Rejected by the Region’s Leaders. Again; Academics Will T ell You the Idea of an Arctic T reaty
Sounds T erribly Exciting. Diplomats T hink It Is Just T errible.: Arctic Today, February 12, 2020; Marc Lanteigne, “ So
You Want to Write an Arctic T reaty?” Over the Circle, February 10, 2020; Roman Chuffart, “ Is the Arctic Council a
Paper Polar bear?” High North News, November 29, 2019; David Balton and Fran Ulmer, A Strategic Plan for the
Arctic Council: Recom m endations for Moving Forward
, T he Arctic Initiative (Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School) and T he Polar Institute (Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars), June 2019, 15 pp.; Mckenna Coffey, “Concerns Rise Over Governance Gap in Arctic,” New Security Beat
(Wilson Center)
, August 5, 2019; Melody Schreiber, “ Will the Arctic Council Begin Addressing National Security?”
Arctic Today, May 17, 2019; Arne O. Holm, “ Does the Arctic Council Have Enough Power in It to Keep the Arctic a
Peaceful Region?” High North News, April 27, 2019; Gosia Smieszek, “Costs and Reality of Reforming the Arctic
Council,” Arctic Institute, April 9, 2019.
See also Ebru Caymaz, “ Rethinking Governance in T ime of Pandemics in the Arctic,” Arctic Institute, January 14,
2021.
61 Arctic Council, “About the Arctic Council,” accessed April 8, 2021, at https://arctic-council.org/en/about/.
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that might have traditions weaker than those of the Arctic Council for resolving disputes
peacefully and with respect for international law.
Opponents of such options might argue that they could put at risk council’s ability to continue
addressing successfully nonmilitary security issues pertaining to the Arctic. They might argue that
there is little evidence to date that the council’s limits as a governing body have become
problematic, and that in light of the council’s successes since its founding, the council should be
viewed as an example of the admonition, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Arctic security issues,
they might argue, can or are being addressed through existing mechanisms, such as the Arctic
Security Forces Roundtable (ASFR) and the Arctic Chiefs of Defense (ACHOD) Forum.62
China and Arctic Governance
China—which is not one of the eight Arctic states and consequently does not have a
decisionmaking role in the Arctic Council—has raised questions as to whether the Arctic Council
as currently constituted and the current broader legal framework for the Arctic should continue to
be the principal means for addressing issues relating to the Arctic, and has begun to use other

62 Regarding the question of how to address security issues, see Jane George, “ Russia Wants to Revive Military
Meetings Among Arctic Council Members,” Nunatsiaq News, May 20, 2021; Jacob Gronholt -Pedersen, “ Russia Calls
for Military Meetings between Arctic States as T ensions Rise,” Reuters, May 20, 2021; T rine Jonassen, “ Russia on
Arctic Council Chairmanship: Wants to Revive the Military Dialogue Between Arctic States,” High North News, May
20 (updated May 21), 2021; Matthew Lee, “ US, Russia At Odds over Military Activity in the Arctic,” Associated
Press
, May 20, 2021; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “ Washington Rallies Support Over Arctic Buildup; Moscow
Worried Over Deployments In Norway,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 20, 2021; Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ Arctic
Council, EU, NAT O on Agenda as Military Leaders Addressed Arctic Security Issues,” High North News, May 12
(updated May 14), 2021; EU Reporter Correspondent , “Military Leaders Address Collective Arctic Security Issues,”
Eureporter, May 11, 2021; Anita Parlow, “ T rust and Paradox: T he United States and Russia in the Arctic,” Barents
Observer
, May 11, 2021; Sherri Goodman, Marisol Maddox, and Kate Guy, “ We Need Renewed Dialogue Among
Security Forces in the Arctic,” Arctic Today, March 11, 2021; Mathieu Boulègue and Duncan Depledge, Arctic Hard
Security Taskforce: Sum m ary of the 10 Decem ber Expert Workshop
, North American and Arctic Defence and Security
Network, Activity Report, March 10, 2021, 8 pp.; Walter Berbrick, Rachael Gosnell, Lars Saunes, and Mary
T hompson-Jones, “ Preventing Conflict in the Arctic with Russia Starts with Dialogue,” National Interest, March 8,
2021; Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ Russia Should Be Invited Back to Arctic Security Forums, New Report Suggests,” High North
News
, January 26 (updated January 27), 2021; Walter Berbrick and Lars Saunes, Project Directors, Conflict Prevention
and Security Cooperation in the Arctic Region Fram eworks of the Future
, U.S. Naval War College, Newport Scholars
Arctic Initiative, Report No. 1, September 2020, 82 pp.; Joshua T allis, “ NAT O is the Right Forum for Security
Dialogue in the High North,” Defense News, July 28, 2020; Kevin McGwin, “ Denmark Should Support an Arctic
Military Forum, a Danish T hink-Tank Says,” Arctic Today, June 12, 2020; Abbie T ingstad, “ T oday’s Arctic Diplomacy
Can’t Handle T omorrow’s Problems,” Defense One, January 29, 2020; Siri Gulliksen T ømmerbakke, “Why Finland
and Iceland Want Security Politics in the Arctic Council,” Arctic Today, October 25, 2019. See also Depledge and P.
Whitney Lackenbauer, editors, On Thin Ice? Perspectives on Arctic Security, North American and Arctic Defence and
Security Network (NAADSN), T rent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, 2021, 201 pp.; Andreas Østhagen,
“T he Arctic Security Region: Misconceptions and Contradictions,” Polar Geography, Vol. 44, No. 1 (2021), published
online February 28, 2021: 55-74.
For a general discussion of the limits of the Arctic Council and what, if anything, to do about it, see, for example,
Heather Exner-Pirot et al., “ Form and Function: T he Future of the Arctic Council,” Arctic Institute, February 5, 2019.
See also Marc Lanteigne, “T he Growing Role of ‘T rack II’ Organisations in the Arctic,” Over the Circle, May 23,
2018. See also Sabrina Shankman, “ How the T rump Administration’s Climate Denial Left its Mark on the Arctic
Council,” Arctic Today, January 19, 2021.
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approaches for influencing Arctic governance.63 In May 2019, a U.S. official stated that the
United States “reject[s] attempts by non-Arctic states to claim a role” in Arctic governance.64
Relative Priority of Arctic in U.S. Policymaking
The renewal of great power competition has raised a question concerning the priority that should
be given to the Arctic in overal U.S. policymaking. During the post-Cold War era, when the
Arctic was general y a region of cooperation and low tensions, there may have been less need to
devote U.S. policymaker attention and resources to the Arctic. Given how renewed great power
competition and chal enges to elements of the U.S.-led international order might be expressed in
the Arctic in terms of issues like resource exploration, disputes over sovereignty and navigation
rights, and military forces and operations, it might be argued that there is now, other things held
equal, more need for devoting U.S. policymaker attention and resources to the Arctic.65 In August
2020, James DeHart, the U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic, reportedly stated that “if you look at
what is happening in our system over the last couple of months, you wil see that we are
launching a comprehensive and an integrated diplomatic approach and engagement in the Arctic
region,” and that “in a few years, people wil look back at this summer [of 2020] and see it as an
important pivot point, a turning point, with a more sustained and enduring attention by the United
States to the Arctic region.”66
On the other hand, renewed great power competition and chal enges to elements of the U.S.-led
international order are also being expressed in Europe, the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific, Africa,
and Latin America. As a consequence, it might be argued, some or al these other regions might
similarly be in need of increased U.S. policymaker attention and resources. In a situation of
constraints on total U.S. policymaker attention and resources, the Arctic competes against these
other regions for U.S. policymaker attention and resources. As one expression of this issue, it was
reported in January 2020 that 3,000 of a planned force of about 10,500 U.S. military personnel
scheduled to participate in a cold-weather exercise in Norway in March 2020 were to be diverted
to perform missions elsewhere.67 Some observers have expressed concern that the United States is
not al ocating sufficient attention or resources to defend and promote its interests in the Arctic. 68

63 See, for example, Pan Yixuan, “Global Governance Needed for Arctic Affairs,” China Daily, May 10, 2019; Zhang
Yao, “Ice Silk Road Framework Welcomed by Countries, Sets New Direction for Arctic Cooperation,” Global Times,
April 7, 2019; Liu Caiyu, “China’s Role in Arctic Governance ‘Cannot Be Ignored,’” Global Times, November 22,
2018; Harriet Moynihan, “China Expands Its Global Governance Ambitions in the Arctic,” Chatham House, October
15, 2018; Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “China & Russia In T he Arctic: Axis Of Ambivalence,” Breaking Defense, July 6,
2018; Nengye Liu and Michelle Lim, “ How Arctic Governance Could Become a T esting Ground for Sino -US
Relations,” The Conversation, March 29, 2017.
64 Reuters, “US Rejects Interference by Non-Arctic Countries in Polar Region: Official,” Arctic Today, May 3, 2019.
65 For an article bearing on this issue, see Heather A. Conley and Matthew Melino, The Implications of U.S. Policy
Stagnation toward the Arctic Region
, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), May 2019, 5 pp.
66 As quoted in Hilde-Gunn Bye, “T he U.S. Is Launching a Comprehensive Diplomatic Approach in the Arctic Region,
Says T op-Level Official,” High North News, August 6 (updated August 7), 2020. See also Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ USA
Steps Up Diplomatic Efforts in the Arctic,” High North News, September 29 (updated September 30), 2020; Levon
Sevunts, “ U.S. Wants to Keep the Arctic An Area of Low T ensions, [Says] T op Official,” Barents Observer, August 6,
2020.
67 John Vandiver, “US T roops Slated for Big Arctic Exercise Get Shifted to Other Missions,” Stars and Stripes,
January 17, 2020; Alte Staalesen, “American Forces Withdraw from Allied Exercise in Arctic Norway,” Arctic Today,
January 17, 2020.
68 See, for example, T yler Olson, “ Biden Admin Faces Lack of Icebreakers, Increasing Russian and Chinese T hreats in
Arctic,” Fox News, May 9, 2021; Rockford Weitz, “ Competition Heats Up in the Melting Arctic, and the US Isn’t
Prepared to Counter Russia,” The Conversation, April 19, 2021; John Rossomando, “ Will Joe Biden Lose the Arctic to
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U.S., Canadian, and Nordic Relations with Russia in the Arctic
Overview
The renewal of great power competition raises a question for U.S., Canadian, and Nordic
policymakers regarding the mix of cooperation and competition to pursue (or expect to
experience) with Russia in the Arctic. In considering this question, points that can be noted
include the following:
 As noted earlier in this report, Russia in May 2021 assumed the chairmanship of
the Arctic Council. Russian officials have stated that sustainable development,
economic growth, and national security concerns wil be a priority for Russia
during its two-year chairmanship period.69
 Geographical y, Russia is the most prominent of the eight Arctic states.
According to one assessment, Russia “has at least half of the Arctic in terms of
area, coastline, population and probably mineral wealth.”70 About 20% of
Russia’s land mass is north of the Arctic Circle.71 Russia has numerous cities and
towns in its Arctic, uses its coastal Arctic waters as a maritime highway for
supporting its Arctic communities, is promoting the Northern Sea Route that runs
along Russia’s Arctic coast for use by others, and is keen to capitalize on natural
resource development in the region, both onshore and offshore. A substantial
fraction of Russia’s oil and gas production and reserves are in the Arctic. In this
sense, of al the Arctic states, Russia might have the most at stake in the Arctic in
absolute terms.72
 The Arctic is a top strategic priority for Russia. In 2008, 2013, 2014, 2017, and
most recently in 2020, the Russian government adopted strategy documents
outlining plans to bolster the country’s Arctic military capabilities, strengthen
territorial sovereignty, and develop the region’s resources and infrastructure.73

Russia or China?” National Interest, April 18, 2021; T he Wallace Institute, “ It’s Bigger T han Icebreakers: America’s
Path Forward in the Arctic,” Defense Post, October 23, 2020.
69 Alina Bykova, “ Russian Arctic Council Chairmanship: ‘Will Welcome More Active Engagement of the Observer
States,’” High North News, March 8 (updated March 12), 2021; Atle Staalesen, “ Moscow Signals It Will Make
National Security a Priority as Russia Prepares to Chair the Arctic Council,” Arctic Today, October 15, 2020. See also
Paul Goble, “ As Arctic Warms, Moscow Increasingly Shifts Focus T here From T rade to Security ,” Eurasia Daily
Monitor
, October 20, 2020.
70 “T he Arctic: Special Report,” The Economist, June 16, 2012, p. 11. T he Arctic Council states that “ Russia stretches
over 53 percent of the Arctic Ocean coastline. Approximately two and a half million of Russia’s inhabitants live in
Arctic territory, accounting for nearly half of the population living in the Arctic worldwide. ” (“ T he Russian
Federation,” Arctic Council, accessed May 13, 2021, at https://arctic-council.org/en/about/states/russian-federation/.)
71 T estimony of Admiral Charles W. Ray, Coast Guard Vice Commandant, on “Expanding Opportunities, Challenges,
and T hreats in the Arctic: a Focus on the U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Strategic Outlook” before the Senate Commerce,
Science, & T ransportation Security Subcommittee, December 12, 2019, p. 3.
72 See also Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia’s LNG Strategy: Foreign Competition and the Role of the Arctic Region,”
Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 21, 2021; Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, and Paul Stronski, Russia in the Arctic—A
Critical Exam ination
, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2021, 23 pp.; Gabriella Gricius, “ Russian
Ambitions In T he Arctic: What T o Expect ,” Global Security Review, October 4, 2020; Stephanie Pezard, The New
Geopolitics of the Arctic, Russia’s and China’s Evolving Role in the Region
, RAND (T estimony presented before the
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian House of Commons on
November 26, 2018), pp. 1-2.
73 Regarding the 2020 document, see, for example, Atle Staalesen, “Behind Putin's New Arctic Strategy Lies a Rude
Quest for Natural Resources,” Barents Observer, October 20, 2020; Elizabeth Buchanan, “ Russia’s Updated Arctic
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Over the past several years, Russia has invested in the construction of ports and
search-and-rescue facilities, some of which are referred to as dual use (civilian-
military) facilities. Russia also has reactivated and modernized Arctic military
bases that fel into disuse with the end of the Cold War, assigned new forces to
those bases, and increased military exercises and training operations in the
Arctic.
 Arctic ice is diminishing more rapidly or fully on the Russian side of the Arctic
than it is on the Canadian side. Consequently, the Northern Sea Route along
Russia’s coast is opening up more quickly for trans-Arctic shipping than is the
Northwest Passage through the Canadian archipelago.
On the one hand, the United States, Canada, and the Nordic countries continue to cooperate with
Russia on a range of issues in the Arctic, including, for example, search and rescue (SAR) under
the May 2011 Arctic Council agreement on Arctic SAR”). More recently, the United States and
Russia in 2018 cooperated in creating a scheme for managing two-way shipping traffic through
the Bering Strait and Bering Sea,74 and in February 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard and Russia’s
Marine Rescue Service signed an agreement updating a 1989 bilateral joint contingency plan for
responding to transboundary maritime pollution incidents.75 An August 2021 press report stated
that “the U.S., China, Japan and Russia are among the countries planning to conduct joint
research in the Arctic Ocean in a step toward preventing overfishing in the region.…
Representatives from nine countries and the European Union aim to meet in South Korea early
next year to discuss exploratory fishing based on similar treaties covering other regions.”76

Strategy: New Strategic Planning Document Approved,” High North News, October 28, 2020; Atle Staalesen, “ Putin
Signs Arctic Master Plan,” Barents Observer, March 6, 2020; United Press International, “Putin Signs 15-Year Plan to
Invest in Arctic with Jobs, Military Upgrades,” Oil & Gas 360, March 6, 2020; Charles Digges, “Putin Unveils More
Plans to Boost Northern Sea Route,” Maritime Executive, March 7, 2020; Alexandra Brzozowski, “Russia Significantly
Steps Up Arctic Engagement with New Strategy,” Euractiv, March 9, 2020. See also Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ Putin
Approves Russia’s Updated Arctic Development Strategy,” Arctic Today, October 28, 2020; Elizabeth Buchanan,
“Putin’s Real Arctic Playbook: Demography, Development, and Defense,” National Interest, October 27, 2020;
Ekaterina Klimenko, “ Russia’s New Arctic Policy Document Signals Continuity Rather T han Change—Analysis,”
Eurasia Review, April 20, 2020; Marc Lanteigne, “ T he Best -Laid Plans? Russia’s New Arctic Strategies Face Many
Hurdles,” Over the Circle, March 12, 2020; Sergey Sukhankin, “ Russia Steps up Efforts to Dominate Arctic Region,”
Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 24, 2020; Jamestown Foundation, “ Russia Doubles Down On Its Arctic Ambitions,”
OilPrice.com , February 15, 2020; Rachel Menosky, “ Russia’s Plan to Move on the Arctic,” Heritage Foundation,
January 29, 2020. See also Nazrin Mehdiyeva, Russia’s Arctic Papers: The Evolution of Strategic Thinking on the High
North
, NAT O Defense College, November 19, 2018. See also T homas Nilsen, “ Ambassador Vasiliev Lists Russia's
New Arctic Priorities with Focus on Fossil Fuels and Positive Effects of Climate Changes,” Barents Observer, January
27, 2021.
74 See, for example, U.S. Coast Guard, “ U.S., Russia Propose Bering Strait Ship T raffic Routing Measures,” January
25, 2018; Amy Midgett , “ U.S., Russia Jointly Propose Bering Strait Routing Measures,” Coast Guard Maritim e
Com m ons
, January 25, 2018; Amy Midgett, “ IMO Approves U.S.-Russian Federation Proposal for Bering Strait
Routing Measures,” Coast Guard Maritim e Com m ons, May 25, 2018; Yereth Rosen, “ With Marine T raffic Growing,
International Shipping Agency Approves US-Russia Plan for Bering Strait Shipping Lanes,” Arctic Today, May 26,
2018; Associated Press, “Maritime Organization Approves T wo-Way Shipping Routes in Bering Strait,” CBC, May 27,
2018; “U.S., Russia Propose Bering Strait T raffic Routing,” Maritime Executive, May 27, 2018; Margaret Kriz Hobson,
“Amid Ice Melt, New Shipping Lanes Are Drawn Up off Alaska,” E&E News (Scientific American), May 29, 2018.
75 See Melody Schreiber, “U.S. and Russia Sign New Maritime Pollution Agreement, Conduct Joint Bering Sea
Patrol,” Arctic Today, February 10, 2021.
76 Miki Okuyama, “International Research Planned to Manage Arctic Fish Stocks,” Nikkei Asia, August 1, 2021. See
also Peter Bakkemo Danilov (High North News), “ US, China and Russia Plan Joint Research Aimed at Regulating
Arctic Fishing,” Arctic Today, August 2, 2021.
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Some observers see possibilities for further U.S., Canadian, and Nordic cooperation with Russia
in the Arctic.77 On the other hand, as discussed later in this report, a significant increase in
Russian military capabilities and operations in the Arctic in recent years has prompted growing
concerns among U.S., Canadian, and Nordic observers that the Arctic might once again become a
region of military tension and competition, as wel as concerns about whether the United States,
Canada, and the Nordic countries are adequately prepared militarily to defend their interests in
the region.
In February 2020, a disagreement between Norway and Russia arose regarding Russia’s access to
the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard under the terms of the Svalbard Treaty of 1920.78
Russian actions outside the Arctic could affect relations between Russia and the other Arctic
states. For example, in protest of Russia’s forcible occupation and annexation of Crimea and its
actions elsewhere in Ukraine, Canada announced that it would not participate in an April 2014
working-level-group Arctic Council meeting in Moscow.79 Economic sanctions that the United
States imposed on Russia in response to Russian actions in Ukraine could affect Russian Arctic
offshore oil exploration.80

77 See, for example, Melody Schreiber and Krestia DeGeorge, “What the Biden-Putin Summit Means—and Doesn’t
Mean—for Arctic Cooperation,” Arctic Today, June 18, 2021; Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ Plenty of Ground for Cooperation in
the Arctic, Putin Says,” High North News, June 17 (updated June 18), 2021; Malgorzata (Gosia) Smieszek, “ US-Russia
Cooperation on an Arctic Methane Agreement Could Improve Relations—and Slow Climate Change,” Arctic Today,
June 14, 2021; Paul Arthur Berkman, “ Cooperation in the Arctic Offers a Model for US-Russia Cooperation
Elsewhere,” Arctic Today, June 11, 2021; T homas Rotnem, “The Arctic Council Power Flex that Could Prove
Prosperous—for America,” National Interest, May 31, 2021; T om Balmforth and Humeyra Pamuk, “ Russia, U.S. T out
Cooperation Ahead of Arctic Council Meeting,” Reuters, May 18, 2021; Heather A. Conley and Colin Wall, “ U.S.-
Russian Arctic Relations: A Change in Climate?” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 31,
2021; Sherri Goodman, Marisol Maddox, and Kate Guy, “ We Need Renewed Dialogue Among Security Forces in the
Arctic,” Arctic Today, March 11, 2021; Agence France-Presse, “Russia T o Cooperate With US On Arctic, Forests:
Report ,” Barron’s, March 9, 2021; Mathieu Boulègue and Duncan Depledge, Arctic Hard Security Taskforce:
Sum m ary of the 10 Decem ber Expert Workshop
, North American and Arctic Defence and Security Network, Activity
Report, March 10, 2021, 8 pp.; Walter Berbrick, Rachael Gosnell, Lars Saunes, and Mary T hompson-Jones,
“Preventing Conflict in the Arctic with Russia Starts with Dialogue,” National Interest, March 8, 2021.
78 See, for example, Atle Staalesen, “Norway’s Celebration of Svalbard T reaty Was Followed by Ardent and
Coordinated Response from Moscow Media,” Barents Observer, July 2, 2020; Megan Eckstein, “ Foggo: Changing
Conditions Require New Arctic Strategy, International Code of Conduct ,” USNI News, June 26, 2020; Nerijus
Adomaitis, “Norway Rejects Moscow’s Claim It Violated Svalbard T reaty,” Reuters, February 21, 2020; Luke Coffey,
“Russia’s and China’s Interest in Cold Svalbard Heats Up,” National Interest, February 13, 2020; Pavel K. Baev,
“Moscow Plays Hard Ball in the High North,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 10, 2020; Brett Davis, “Russia Has
Always Challenged Norway on Svalbard. T his T ime Parts of Its Criticism is [sic] Different,” High North News,
February 10, 2020; Jennifer Alvarez, “As Russia Returns to Svalbard,” KXAN Daily News, February 9, 2020; Marc
Lanteigne, “ Norway, Russia, and a Changing Svalbard,” Over the Circle, February 7, 2020; Arme O. Holm, “If Russia
Wants More Power on Svalbard, T here Is A Far More Efficient Method,” High North News, February 6, 2020; Atle
Staalesen, “Amid Jubilant Celebration at Svalbard, Norway Sends Strong Sign al It Will Not Accept Encroachment on
Sovereignty,” Barents Observer, February 9, 2020; Amund T rtellevik, “Russia With Stern Svalbard Warning to
Norway,” High North News, February 5, 2020; T om Balmforth and Nerijus Adomaitis, “Russia Accuses Norway of
Restricting Its Activities on Arctic Islands,” Reuters, February 4, 2020.
79 For additional discussion of Canadian-Russian relations regarding the Arctic, see Sergey Sukhankin, “Russia’s Arctic
Agenda and the Role of Canada,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 15, 2020.
80 See, for example, Reuters staff, “ Expanded U.S. Sanctions May Affect Russia’s Foreign Expansion in Oil and Gas”
Reuters, November 19, 2017.
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Northern Sea Route
Another concern for U.S. policymakers in connection with Russia in the Arctic relates to the
Northern Sea Route (NSR)—the Arctic shipping route linking Europe and Asia via waters
running along Russia’s Arctic coast. Russia considers certain parts of the NSR to be internal
Russian waters and has asserted a right to regulate commercial shipping passing through these
waters81—a position that creates a source of tension with the United States, which considers those
waters to be international waters.82 The U.S.-Russian dispute over this issue could have
implications not only for U.S.-Russian relations and the Arctic, but for other countries and other
parts of the world as wel , since international law is universal in its application, and a successful
chal enge to international waters in one part of the world can serve as a precedent for chal enging
it in other parts of the world.
The issue of the U.S.-Russian dispute over the international legal status of the NSR was largely
dormant for many years. In March 2019, however, Russia announced that
The Russian government has elaborated a set of rules for foreign naval vessels’ sailing on
the Northern Sea Route, [the Russian newspaper] Izvestia informs. The newspaper has
obtained a copy of the document that states that all vessels are obliged to comply.
The foreign state must send a notification about the voyage at least 45 days ahead of its
start. Included will have to be the name of the ship, its objective, route and period of sailing,
as well as ship characteristics such as length, width, deadweight, draft and type of engine
power. Also the name of the ship captain must be listed.
The ships must also have on board a Russian maritime pilot.
In case the voyage is not conducted in line with the regulations, Russia will have the right
to take extraordinary measures including its forced halt, arrest and in extreme cases
elimination, Izvestia writes.83
In September 2019, it was reported that Russia had used military commandos to board a Russian-
flag commercial ship operating in the NSR that Russian authorities suspected of violating certain
regulations.84

81 See, for example, James Foggo III, “Russia, China Offer Challenges in the Arctic,” Defense One, July 10, 2019;
Dmitry Sudakov, “Russia Closes Northern Sea Route for Foreign Warships,” Pravda Report, May 30, 2019; Nastassia
Astrasheuskaya and Henry Foy, “Polar Powers: Russia’s Bid for Supremacy in the Arctic Ocean,” Financial Times,
April 27, 2019; James R. Holmes, “ Don’t Let Russia Create a ‘Caribbean’ in the Arctic,” The Hill, March 28, 2019;
Marex (Maritime Executive), “Russia T ightens Control Over Northern Sea Route,” Maritime Executive, March 8,
2019; Atle Staalesen, “Russia Sets Out Stringent New Rules for Foreign Ships on the Northern Sea Route,” Barents
Observer
, March 8, 2019; Will Stewart, “ Moscow T hreatens to Sink Foreign Ships Using Arctic Sea Route T hat Links
Atlantic to the Pacific Unless It Is Given 45 Days Notice of Voyages and Vessels T ake a Russian Pilot on Board,”
Daily Mail, March 6, 2019; “ Russia Will Restrict Foreign Warships in Arctic Ocean, Defense Official Says,” Moscow
Tim es
, November 30, 2018.
82 See, for example, Peter B. Danilov, “ Russia has Advanced Unlawful Maritime Claims in the Arctic, Says Antony
Blinken,” High North News, May 19, 2021; Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Humeyra Pamuk, “ Blinken Says Russia Has
Advanced Unlawful Maritime Claims in the Arctic,” Reuters, May 18, 2021.
83 Atle Staalesen, “Izvestia: T his Is What Awaits Foreign Military Vessels on Northern Sea Route,” Barents Observer,
March 7, 2019. (A similar version published as Atle Staalesen, “ Russia Sets Out Stringent New Rules for Foreign Ships
on the Northern Sea Route,” Arctic Today, March 8, 2019.) See also Maritime Executive, “ Russia T ightens Control
Over Northern Sea Route,” Maritime Executive, March 8, 2019; Will Stewart, “ Russia Warning: Moscow Could Sink
or Detain Foreign Ships in Arctic Waters under New Rules,” Express (UK), March 6, 2019.
84 See Atle Staalesen, “Navy Commandos Board Cargo vessel on Northern Sea Route,” Barents Observer, September
13, 2019. See also Luke Coffey, “ Cold truth about Russia’s Arctic ambitions and Northern Sea Route,” Arab News,
March 14, 2020.
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The issue of the NSR was reportedly discussed in detail at the June 2021 U.S.-Russian summit
meeting in Geneva.85
NATO and European Union in the Arctic
NATO
Five of the eight Arctic states—the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway—are
members of NATO. The renewal of great power competition has led to a renewal of NATO
interest in NATO’s more northerly areas.
During the Cold War, NATO member Norway and its adjacent sea areas were considered to be the
northern flank of NATO’s defensive line against potential aggression by the Soviet-led Warsaw
Pact al iance. With the end of the Cold War and the shift to the post-Cold War era, NATO
planning efforts shifted away from defending against potential aggression by Russia, which was
considered highly unlikely, and toward other concerns, such as the question of how NATO
countries might be able to contribute to their own security and that of other countries by
participating in out-of-area operations, meaning operations in areas outside Europe.
With the renewal of great power competition, NATO is now once again focusing more on the
question of how to deter potential Russian aggression against NATO countries, including in the
Arctic.86 As one consequence of that, Norway and its adjacent sea areas are once again receiving
more attention in NATO planning.87 For example, a NATO exercise cal ed Trident Juncture 18
that was held from October 25 to November 7, 2018, in Norway and adjacent waters of the Baltic
and the Norwegian Sea, with participation by al 29 NATO members plus Sweden and Finland,
was described as NATO’s largest exercise to that point since the Cold War, and featured a strong

T he United States believes that the part of the Northwest Passage that runs through the Canadian archipelago is an
international strait; Canada believes it is internal Canadian waters. In 1985, the use of the waterway by a U.S. polar
icebreaker led to a diplomatic dispute between the United States and Canada. In January 1988, the two countries signed
an agreement under which, observers, say, the two sides essentially agreed to disagree on the issue. T he agreement —
formally called Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America
on Arctic Cooperation—states in part that “ the Government of the United States pledges that all navigation by U.S.
icebreakers within waters claimed by Canada to be internal will be undertaken with the consent of the Government of
Canada,” and that “nothing in this agreement of cooperative endeavour between Arctic neighbours and friends nor any
practice thereunder affects the respective positions of the Governments of the United States and of Canada on the Law
of the Sea in this or other maritime areas or their respective positions regarding third parties. ” T he text of the agreement
as posted by the Canadian government is available at https://www.treaty-accord.gc.ca/text-texte.aspx?id=101701.
85 Atle Staalesen, “On Putin-Biden agenda: the Northern Sea Route,” Barents Observer, June 17, 2021.
86 See, for example, Candace Huntington, “ NAT O Needs Unity as Russia’s Arctic Presence Grows,” Center for
European Policy Analysis (CEPA), May 19, 2021; Christopher Woody, “ Russian and NAT O Militaries Are Getting
More Active in the Arctic, but Neither Is Sure About What the Other Is Doing,” Business Insider, July 21, 2020; Colin
Barnard, “ Why NAT O Needs a Standing Maritime Group in the Arctic,” Center for International Maritime Security,
May 15, 2020; “ NAT O is facing up to Russia in the Arctic Circle,” Economist, May 14, 2020; Sebastian Sprenger,
“NAT O’s Camille Grand on the Alliance’s Arctic T ack,” Defense News, May 12, 2020; Rebecca Pincus, “NAT O
North? Building a Role for NAT O in the Arctic,” War on the Rocks, November 6, 2019; Anna Wieslander, “It’s T ime
for NAT O to Engage in the Arctic,” Defense One, September 16, 2019; T yler Cross, “T he NAT O Alliance’s Role in
Arctic Security,” Maritime Executive, July 19, 2019. See also Gozde Bayar, “ T urkey striving to become polar power:
Analysts,” Anadolu Agency, May 21, 2020.
87 See, for example, T eri Schultz, “NAT O and Washington Worry About Russian Subs in the High North,” Deutsche
Welle
, April 26, 2018.
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Arctic element, including the first deployment of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier above the Arctic
Circle since 1991.88
In September 2020, NATO established a new Atlantic Command in Norfolk, VA, cal ed Joint
Force Command Norfolk, as NATO’s first command dedicated to the Atlantic since 2003. Co-
located with the U.S. Navy’s reestablished 2nd Fleet for the Atlantic, Joint Force Command
Norfolk “wil provide coherent command arrangements for Al ied forces, maintain situational
awareness, conduct exercises, and draw up operational plans covering vast geographic areas,
from the US East Coast, past the Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap and into the Arctic.”89
The question of NATO’s overal involvement in the Arctic has been a matter of debate within
NATO and among other observers.90 Russia has expressed opposition to the idea of NATO
becoming more involved in the Arctic.91
European Union
Three of the eight Arctic states—Denmark, Finland, and Sweden—are members of the European
Union (EU), and two other Arctic states—Iceland and Norway—have close ties to the EU as
members of the European Economic Area. The EU is showing increased interest in the Arctic,92

88 See, for example, Christopher Woody, “‘We Can Do Better’: T he Navy’s Newest Fleet Commander Says US Ships
and Sailors Got ‘Beat Up’ During NAT O’s Biggest Exercise Since the Cold War,” Business Insider, December 4,
2018; Levon Sevunts, “ NAT O’s Arctic Dilemma; T wo Visions of the Arctic Collide as NAT O and Russia Flex
Muscles,” Radio Canada International, December 3, 2018; Megan Eckstein, “T ruman CSG: Arctic Strike Group
Operations Required Focus on Logistics, Safety,” USNI News, November 6, 2018; Mary T hompson-Jones, “ NATO’s
Arctic Exercise is a Good Start to Standing Up to Russian Militarization of the High North,” National Interest,
November 6, 2018; Pierre-Henry Deshayes, “ Antifreeze and Balaclavas: NAT O T roops in cold War Games,”
Military.com , November 2, 2018; Vasco Cotovio and Frederik Pleitgen, “ Submarines a Centerpiece of Russia’s Navy,”
CNN, November 19, 2018; Shawn Snow, “ T he Corps’ Armor Makes a Big Showing in Norway as Marine s T est Future
Force,” Marine Corps Times, October 25, 2018; T erje Solsvik, “As Winter Comes, NAT O Kicks Off Largest
Maneuvers Since Cold War,” Reuters, October 25, 2018; Kyle Rempfer, “US Breaches the Arctic with Marines,
Fighter Jets and Aircraft Carriers,” Military Tim es, October 23, 2018; Megan Eckstein, “ T ruman Carrier Strike Group
Operating North of Arctic Circle; First T ime for US Navy Since 1991,” USNI News, October 19, 2018; T homas
Gooley, “HST Strike Group Enters Arctic Circle, Prepares for NAT O Exercise,” DVIDS (Defense Visual Information
Distribution Service)
, October 19, 2018; T homas Nilsen, “ US Marines Launch Exercise in Northern Norway Ahead of
T rident Juncture,” Barents Observer, October 15, 2018.
89 NAT O headquarters news release, “ NAT O’s New Atlantic Command Declared Operational,” September 18, 2020.
See also Levon Sevunts, “ NAT O’s New Atlantic Command to Keep Watch over the European Arctic,” Eye on the
Arctic (Radio Canada International)
, September 18, 2020.
90 See, for example, David Auerswald, “NAT O in the Arctic: Keep Its Role Limited, for Now,” War on the Rocks,
October 12, 2020; Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis, “ Brussels NAT O Summit 2018: T ime to Get Serious About the
Arctic,” Heritage Foundation, June 27, 2018 (Issue Brief 4875), p. 1.
91 Peter Bakkemo Danilov, “Russia Warns Against Pulling NAT O into the Arctic,” High North News, June 17, 2020.
92 See, for example, Kevin McGwin, “ EU Lawmakers Push for More Visibility in the Arctic—and a Stronger Response
to Russia and China,” Arctic Today, July 6, 2021; European Interest, “Arctic: MEPs Call for Peace and Reduced
T ension in the Region,” European Interest, July 1, 2021; Andreas Raspotnik, “ A Quantum of Possibilities, T he
Strategic Spectrum of the EU’s Arctic Policy,” Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), December 17, 2020; Atle
Staalesen, “Member of the European Parliament Comes to Barents Coast Calls for Stronger EU Engagement in Ar ctic,”
Barents Observer, February 13, 2020; Romain Chuffart and Andreas Raspotnik, “ T he EU and Its Arctic Spirit: Solving
Arctic Climate Change from Home?” European View, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2019: 156 -162; Kevin McGwin, “T he EU Moves
T oward a New Arctic Strategy—and a More Independent Role in the Region,” Arctic Today, December 11, 2019;
Kevin McGwin, “T he EU Is Poised to T ake a Broader—and More Proactive—Role in the Arctic,” Arctic Today,
November 27, 2019; Adam Stepien and Andreas Raspotnik, “Can the EU’s Arctic Policy Find T rue North?” Centre for
European Policy Studies (CEPS), September 11, 2019; Wesley Morgan, “ Politico Pro Q&A: EU Ambassador at Large
for the Arctic Marie-Anne Coninsx,” Politico Pro, August 6, 2019; Adam Stepien and Andreas Raspotnik, “ T he EU’s
Arctic Policy: Between Vision and Reality,” College of Europe Policy Brief, August 2019, 5 pp.; Martin Breum,
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and the European Parliament (EP) supports an active EU role in the Arctic.93 The EU is
considered an “observer in principle” to the Arctic Council, but to date has been denied full
observer status at the council, alternately by Canada (because of Canadian Inuit objections to the
EU’s ban on the import of seal products) and Russia (following heightened EU-Russian tensions
since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine).94
In 2016, the European Commission (the EU’s executive) and the EU’s High Representative for
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued a joint communication (or policy paper), An Integrated
European Union Policy for the Arctic
, that states that a “safe, stable, sustainable, and prosperous
Arctic” is important for the region, the EU, and the world, and that “the EU has a strategic
interest in playing a key role in the Arctic region.”95 The policy outlined in the document seeks to
boost the EU’s profile in the region and focuses on three broad themes—climate change and
safeguarding the environment, sustainable development in the Arctic, and international
cooperation on Arctic issues.
In 2017, the EU appointed its first Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic, and in October 2019, the
EU held its first-ever Arctic Forum, a high-level conference in northern Sweden focused on
promoting EU efforts in the Arctic.96 The EU is also a major financial contributor to Arctic
research, providing around €200 mil ion in the past decade under the Horizon 2020 Research and
Innovation Program.97 Some analysts contend, however, that the EU’s policy statements on the
Arctic have yet to coalesce into a clearly defined narrative with concrete goals; the European
Commission’s in-house think tank argues that the EU must develop a more comprehensive
strategy that balances protecting the Arctic environment with facilitating the sustainable
economic and social development of the region.98

“Spurred by Chinese and Russian Activity, EU President Juncker Is Making the Arctic More Central to EU Policy,”
Arctic Today, February 20, 2019. See also Natalia Skripnikova and Andreas Raspotnik, “ Has Russia Heard about the
European Union’s Arcticness? T he EU’s Arctic Steps As Seen from Russia,” Polar Record (Cambridge University
Press)
, March 26, 2020.
93 In March 2017, the EP adopted a resolution largely endorsing the 2016 joint communication on an integrated EU
policy for the Arctic (by 483 votes to 100, with 37 abstentions). (European Parliament, Resolution on An Integrated EU
Policy for the Arctic
, P8_T A(2017)0093, March 16, 2017.) T he resolution advocated keeping the Arctic a low-tension
area, recognized the important role of the Arctic Council in maintaining constructive cooperation and stability in the
region, and called upon the EU to develop a more concrete EU Arctic strategy and ac tion plan.
94 Kamrul Hossain, “EU Engagement in the Arctic: Do the Policy Responses from the Arctic States Represent the EU
as a Legitimate Stakeholder?,” Arctic Review on Law and Politics, Vol. 6, No. 2, November 2015.
95 European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joint
Communication to the European Parliament and the Council, An Integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic,
April 27, 2016, p. 2.
96 Martin Breum, “EU Plays Catch-up with US, China, Russia in Arctic,” EUObserver.com, October 3, 2019.
97 European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joint
Communication to the European Parliament and the Council, An Integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic,
April 27, 2016, p. 2.
98 European Political Strategy Centre/European Commission, Walking on Thin Ice: A Balanced Arctic Strategy for the
EU
, July 2019; Adam Stepien and Andreas Raspotnik, “ T he EU’s Arctic Policy: Between Vision and Reality,” College
of Europe Policy Brief, August 2019.
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In July 2020, the European Commission and the European External Action Service jointly
launched a public consultation on a way forward for the EU’s Arctic policy.99 An updated EU
policy document for the Arctic may be released in 2021.100
China in the Arctic
China’s Growing Activities in the Arctic
China’s diplomatic, economic, and scientific activities in the Arctic have grown steadily in recent
years, and have emerged as a major topic of focus for the Arctic in a context of renewed great
power competition.
In 2013, China was one of six non-Arctic states that were approved for observer status by the
Arctic Council.101 In January 2018, China released a white paper on China’s Arctic policy that
refers to China as a “near-Arctic state.”102 (China’s northernmost territory, northeast of Mongolia,
is at about the same latitude as the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, which, as noted earlier in this
report, the United States includes in its definition of the Arctic for purposes of U.S. law.) The
white paper refers to trans-Arctic shipping routes as the Polar Silk Road, and identifies these

99 New Europe Online, “ EU Reflects on the Future of Arctic Policy,” New Europe, July 20, 2020. See also Kevin
McGwin, “For the EU’s New Arctic Envoy, Low T ension Is Job No. 1,” Arctic Today, September 14, 2020.
100 Kevin McGwin, “ An Updated EU Arctic Policy Is Expected Next Year,” Arctic Today, October 22, 2020. See also
Andreas Raspotnik, “ T he Presence of the EU’s Arctic Future,” Euractiv, March 16, 2021; Gabriella Gricius, “ T he EU’s
New Arctic Policy: Lessons from Human Security and the European Green Deal,” European Leadership Network,
March 1, 2021.
101 T he other five were India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. For a list of the observer states and when they
were approved for observer status, see Arctic Council, “ Non-Arctic States,” accessed April 8, 2021, at https://arctic-
council.org/en/about/observers/non-arctic-states/.
102 “Full T ext: China’s Arctic Policy,” Xinhua, January 26, 2018. The white paper states that “China is an important
stakeholder in Arctic affairs. Geographically, China is a ‘Near-Arctic State’, one of the continental States that are
closest to the Arctic Circle. T he natural conditions of the Arctic and their changes have a direct impact on China’s
climate system and ecological environment, and, in turn, on its economic interests in agriculture, forestry, fishery,
marine industry and other sectors. China is also closely involved in the trans-regional and global issues in the Arctic,
especially in such areas as climate change, environment, scientific research, utilization of shipping routes, resource
exploration and exploitation, security, and global governance. T hese issues are vital to the existence and develo pment
of all countries and humanity, and directly affect the interests of non -Arctic States including China.”
Somewhat similarly, France’s June 2016 national roadmap for the Arctic refers to France as a “polar nation.”
(Republique Francaise, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et du Developpement International, The Great Challenge of
the Arctic, National Roadm ap for the Arctic
, June 2016, 60 pp.) T he document states on page 9 that “ France has
established itself over the last three centuries as a polar nation, with a strong tradition of expeditions and exploration,
and permanent research bases at the poles,” and on page 17 that “[b]uilding on its long-standing tradition of exploration
and expeditions in high latitudes, France has carved out its place as a polar nation over the last three centuries. France
has permanent scientific bases in the Arctic and in Antarctica.” It can also be noted that the northernmost part of
mainland France, next to Belgium and across the Strait of Dover from England, is almost as far north as the more
southerly parts of the Aleutian Islands.
Also somewhat similarly, a November 2018 UK parliamentary report refers to the UK as a “near -Arctic neighbour.”
T he report states the following: “ While the UK is not an Arctic state, it is a near-Arctic neighbour. T he UK’s weather
system is profoundly affected by changes in the Arctic’s climate and sea currents. T he UK has been an Observer to the
Arctic Council since 1998.” (United Kingdom, House of Commons, Environmental Audit Committee, The Changing
Arctic, Twelfth Report of Session 2017-19
, November 29, 2018, p. 3. [Report, together with formal minutes relating to
the report, Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed November 6, 2018]. See also pp. 6, 29, and 32.)
See also Eva Dou, “A New Cold War? China Declares Itself a ‘Near-Arctic State,’ Wall Street Journal, January 26,
2018; Grant Newsham, “China As A ‘Near Arctic State’—Chutzpah Overcoming Geography,” Asia Times, January 30,
2018.
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routes as a third major transportation corridor for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s
major geopolitical initiative, first announced by China in 2013, to knit Eurasia and other regions
together in a Chinese-anchored or Chinese-led infrastructure and economic network.103 The polar
regions (both the Arctic and Antarctic) are included in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, covering the
period 2021-2025.104
China has a Ukrainian-built polar-capable icebreaker, Xue Long (Snow Dragon), that in recent
years has made several transits of Arctic waters—operations that China describes as research
expeditions.105 A second polar-capable icebreaker (the first that China has built domestical y),
named Xue Long 2, entered service in 2019.106 China in 2018 announced an intention to build a
30,000-ton (or possibly 40,000-ton) nuclear-powered icebreaker,107 which would make China
only the second country (following Russia) to operate a nuclear-powered icebreaker. In December
2019, it was reported that China’s third polar-capable icebreaker might instead be built as a
26,000-ton, conventional y powered ship.108 (By way of comparison, the new polar icebreakers
being built for the U.S. Coast Guard are to displace 22,900 tons each.)
China in recent years has engaged in growing diplomatic activities with the Nordic countries, and
has increased the size of its diplomatic presences in some of them. China has also engaged in
growing economic discussions with Iceland and also with Greenland, a territory of Denmark that
might be moving toward eventual independence.109 China’s engagement with Greenland appears
related in significant part to Greenland’s deposits of rare earth elements. Like several other

103 See, for example, Maria Shagina and Elizabeth Buchanan, “China Enters the Arctic Digitization Race,” National
Interest
, January 17, 2021; Nima Khorrami, “ Data Hunting in Subzero T emperatures: T he Arctic as a New Frontier in
Beijing’s Push for Digital Connectivity,” Arctic Institute, August 4, 2020; Marc Lanteigne, “ T he T wists and T urns of
the Polar Silk Road,” Over the Circle, March 15, 2020; Zhang Chun, “ China’s ‘Arctic Silk Road,’” Maritim e
Executive
, January 10, 2020; Sabena Siddiqui, “ Arctic Ambition: Beijing Eyes the Polar Silk Road,” Asia Tim es,
October 25, 2018. T he BRI’s other two main corridors, which were announced at the outset of the BRI, are a land
corridor that runs east to west across the middle of Eurasia—the “ belt” in BRI—and a sea corridor called the Maritime
Silk Road that passes through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean
Sea—the “ road” in BRI. For more on the BRI, see CRS In Focus IF10273, China’s “One Belt, One Road, by Susan
V. Lawrence and Gabriel M. Nelson. See also Atle Staalesen, “ Chinese Money for Northern Sea Route,” Barents
Observer
, June 12, 2018. See also Lin Boqiang, “ China Can Support Arctic Development as Part of B&R,” Global
Tim es
, August 9, 2018.
104 See, for example, Marc Lanteigne, “T he Polar Policies in China’s New Five-Year Plan,” Diplomat, March 12, 2021.
105 See, for example, “Icebreaker Sets Sail on China’s 9th Arctic Research Expedition,” Xinhua, July 20, 2018; “China
Begins 9th Arctic Expedition to Help Build ‘Polar Silk Road,’” Global Tim es, July 20, 2018.
106 “China Delivers First Self-Built Icebreaking Research Vessel,” People’s Daily Online, July 12, 2019; Kamaran
Malik, “China Launches First Locally-made Icebreaker,” Asia Times, July 11, 2019.
107 See T rym Aleksander Eiterjord, “Checking in on China’s Nuclear Icebreaker,” Diplomat, September 5, 2019;
T homas Nilsen, “Details of China’s Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker Revealed,” Barents Observer, March 21, 2019; Zhao
Yusha, “China One Step Closer to Nuke-Powered Aircraft Carrier with Cutting-Edge Icebreaker Comes on Stream,”
ChinaMil.com, June 23, 2018; China Daily, “China’s 1st Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker in the Pipeline,” People’s Daily
Online
, June 25, 2018; Kyle Mizokami, “ China Is P lanning a Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker,” Popular Mechanics, June
25, 2018; China Military Online, “ Why Is China Building a 30,000-Ton Nuclear-Powered Icebreaker?” ChinaMil.com,
June 30, 2018.
108 Malte Humpert, “China Reveals Details of a Newly Designed Heavy Icebreaker,” Arctic Today, December 17,
2019.
109 See, for example, Marc Lanteigne, “Greenland’s Widening World,” Over the Circle, March 28, 2020; Marco Volpe,
“T he T ortuous Path of China’s Win-Win Strategy in Greenland,” Arctic Institute, March 24, 2020; Marc Lanteigne,
“Stumbling Block: China-Iceland Oil Exploration Reaches an Impasse,” Over the Circle, January 24, 2018. “Greenland
Plans Office in Beijing to Boost T rade T ies with China,” Reuters, July 18, 2018.
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nations, China has established a research station in the Svalbard archipelago. China maintains a
second research station in Iceland.
China appears to be interested in using the NSR to shorten commercial shipping times between
Europe and China110 and perhaps also to reduce China’s dependence on southern sea routes
(including those going to the Persian Gulf) that pass through the Strait of Malacca—a maritime
choke point that China appears to regard as vulnerable to being closed off by other parties (such
as the United States) in time of crisis or conflict.111 China reportedly reached an agreement with
Russia on July 4, 2017, to create an “Ice Silk Road,”112 and in June 2018, China and Russia
agreed to a credit agreement between Russia’s Vnesheconombank (VEB) and the China
Development Bank that could provide up to $9.5 bil ion in Chinese funds for the construction of
select infrastructure projects, including in particular projects along the NSR.113 In September
2013, the Yong Shen, a Chinese cargo ship, became the first commercial vessel to complete the
voyage from Asia to Rotterdam via the NSR.114
China has made significant investments in Russia’s Arctic oil and gas industry, particularly the
Yamal natural gas megaproject located on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic.115 China is also
interested in mining opportunities in the Arctic seabed, in Greenland, and in the Canadian
Arctic.116 Given Greenland’s very smal population, China may view Greenland as an entity that
China can seek to engage using an approach similar to ones that China has used for engaging with
smal Pacific and Indian Ocean island states.117 China may also be interested in Arctic fishing
grounds.

110 See, for example, Eduardo Baptista, “China ‘More T han Other States’ Looks to Future Sea Route T hrough
Resource-Rich Arctic, Study Says,” South China Morning Post, September 22, 2020.
111 See, for example, Jonathan Hall, “Arctic Enterprise: T he China Dream Goes No rth,” Journal of Political Risk,
September 2019. See also Andrew Latham, “ China Looks to the Arctic to Avoid Another Suez Slowdown,” National
Interest
, April 2, 2021.
112 Xinhua, “ China, Russia agree to jointly build ‘Ice Silk Road,’” Xinhuanet, July 4, 2017.
113 Atle Staalesen, Chinese Money for Northern Sea Route,” Barents Observer, June 12, 2018. See also Xie Wenwen
(Caixin Globus), “For Chinese Companies, Investment I Arctic Infrastructure Offers Both Opportunities and
Challenges,” Arctic Today, June 17, 2019.
114 “Chinese Make First Successful North Sea Route Voyage,” The Arctic Journal, September 12, 2013. See also Malte
Humpert, “Chinese Shipping Company COSCO T o Send Record Number of Ships T hrough Arctic,” High North News,
June 13, 2019; Marex (Maritime Executive), “ Russia and China Sign Arctic Deal,” Maritim e Executive, June 8, 2019.
115 See, for example, Malte Humpert (High North News), “China Acquires 20 Percent Stake in Novatek’s Arctic LNG
2 Project,” Arctic Today, April 30, 2019; Ernesto Gallo and Giovanni Biava, “A New Energy Frontier Called ‘Polar
Silk Road,’” China Daily, April 12, 2019.
116 See, for example, Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “ T op Defence Official Says China is a T hreat to Canadian Arctic,”
Globe and Mail (Canada), March 10 (updated March 11), 2021; Marc Montgomery, “ China’s Effort to Buy an Arctic
Gold Mine Raises Many Concerns,” Radio Canada International, August 10 (updated August 11), 2020; Vipal Monga,
“China’s Move to Buy Arctic Gold Mine Draws Fire in Canada,” Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2020; Mingming Shi
and Marc Lanteigne, “ A Cold Arena? Greenland as a Focus of Arctic Competition,” Diplomat, June 10, 2019; Nadia
Schadlow, “Why Greenland Is Really About China,” The Hill, August 28, 2019; Marc Lanteigne and Mingming Shi,
“China Steps up Its Mining Interests in Greenland,” Diplomat, February 12, 2019; John Simpson, “How Greenland
Could Become China’s Arctic Base,” BBC, December 18, 2018; Marc Lanteigne, “Do Oil and Water Mix? Emerging
China-Greenland Resource Cooperation,” Over the Circle, November 2, 2018; Martin Breum, “ China and the US Both
Have Strategic Designs for Greenland,” Arctic Today, October 17, 2018; Mia Bennett, “T he Controversy over
Greenland Airports Shows China Isn’t Fully Welcome in the Arctic—Yet,” Arctic Today, September 13, 2018;
Mingming Shi and Marc lanteigne, “T he (Many0 Roles of Greenland in china’s Developing Arctic Policy,” Diplomat,
March 30, 2018; Miguel Martin, “China in Greenland: Mines, Science, and Nods to Independence,” China Brief,
March 12, 2018.
117 For further discussion of China-Greenland relations, see Kevin McGwin, “ Greenland Lawmakers Will Consider
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China’s growing activities in the Arctic may also reflect a view that as a major world power,
China should, like other major world powers, be active in the polar regions for conducting
research and other purposes. (Along with its growing activities in the Arctic, China has recently
increased the number of research stations in maintains in the Antarctic.118)
Particularly since China published its Arctic white paper in January 2018, observers have
expressed curiosity or concern about China’s exact mix of motivations for its growing activities
in the Arctic, and about what China’s ultimate goals for the Arctic might be.119
Arctic States’ Response
The renewal of great power competition underscores a question for the Arctic states regarding
whether and how to respond to China’s growing activities in the Arctic. China’s growing
activities in the Arctic could create new opportunities for cooperation between China and the
Arctic states.120 They also, however, have the potential for posing chal enges to the Arctic states
in terms of defending their own interests in the Arctic.121

Opening an East Asia Office,” Arctic Today, April 6, 2020.
118 For additional discussion, see CRS Report R46708, Antarctica: Overview of Geopolitical and Environmental Issues,
by Pervaze A. Sheikh, Bruce Vaughn, and Kezee Procita. See also Alexander B. Gray, “ China's Next Geopolitical
Goal: Dominate Antarctica,” National Interest, March 20, 2021.
119 See, for example, Emil Avdaliani, “China Seeks T o Boost Role In T he Arctic—Analysis,” Eurasia Review, May 26,
2021; Abigail Ng, “ T ensions Will Likely Grow as China Seeks Bigger Role in the Arctic,” CNBC, May 20 (updated
May 22), 2021; Rush Doshi, Alexis Dale-Huang, and Gaoqi Zhang, Northern Expedition, China’s Arctic Activities and
Am bitions
, Brookings Institution, April 2021, 69 pp.; Nengye Liu, “ Why China Needs an Arctic Policy 2.0, It Is T ime
for China to Shed Light on Which Kind of Order It Would Like to Construct in the Arctic Using Its Rising Power,”
Diplom at, October 22, 2020; Mary Kay Magistad, “ China's Arctic Ambitions Have Revived US Interest in the
Region,” The World, October 12, 2020; T homas Ayres, “ Op-ed | China’s Arctic Gambit a Concern for U.S. Air and
Space Forces,” Space News, October 5, 2020; Marco Giannangeli, “ China Expanding into Melting Arctic in Major
Military T hreat to West ,” Express (UK), August 2, 2020; Joel Gehrke, “ China Aims to Control Ports and Shipping
Lanes in Europe and the Arctic,” Washington Exam iner, July 1, 2020; T ies Dams, Louise van Schaik, and Adaja
Stoetman, Presence Before Power, China’s Strategy in Iceland and Greenland , Netherlands Institute of International
Relations (Clingendael), June 2020; T rine Jonassen, “ Rejects Notion that China is a T hreat to the Arctic,” High North
News
, May 27, 2020 (which reports remarks by State Secretary Audun Halvorsen of the Norwegian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs); Swee Lean Collin Koh, “ China’s Strategic Interest in the Arctic Goes Beyond Economics,” Defense
News
, May 12, 2020; Marc Lanteigne, “ Identity and Relationship-Building in China’s Arctic Diplomacy,” Arctic
Institute, April 28, 2020; Nick Solheim, “ T ime to Crush China’s Arctic Influence,” Spectator, April 20, 2020; Yun Sun,
“Defining the Chinese T hreat in the Arctic,” Arctic Institute, April 7, 2020; Sanna Kopra, “China and its Arctic
T rajectories: T he Arctic Institute’s China Series 2020,” Arctic Institute, March 17, 2020; Atle Staalesen, “China’s
Ambassador Brushes Off Allegations His Country Is T hreat in Arctic,” Barents Observer, February 16, 2020; Luke
Coffey, “China’s Increasing Role in the Arctic,” Heritage Foundation, February 11, 2020; Jacquelyn Chorush, “Is
China Really T hreatening Conquest in the Arctic?” High North News, January 6, 2020.
120 See, for example, Ellis Quinn, “ Iceland Welcomes ‘Peaceful, Low-T ension Cooperation’ with China in Arctic, Says
Foreign Minister,” Eye on the Arctic (Radio Canada International), February 15, 2021; Atle Staalesen, “ As Arctic
T alks Move to China, Leaders Downplay Divides,” Barents Observer, May 11, 2019; T homas Nilsen, “China Seeks a
More Active Role in the Arctic,” Barents Observer, May 11, 2019; Nathan Vanderklippe, “Agreeing on the Arctic:
Amid Dispute, Canada Sides with China over the U.S. on How to Manage the North,” Globe and Mail, May 10, 2019;
“China and Finland: T he Ice Road Cometh?” Over the Circle, March 17, 2020; Nong Hong, “Arctic Ambitions of
China, Russia—and Now the US—Need Not Spark a Cold War,” South China Morning Post, March 11, 2019.
121 See, for example, David Pugliese, “Canada Calls Out China, Climate Change as Growing Concerns in Arctic,”
Defense News, April 11, 2021; Sanna Kopra and Matti Puranen, “ China’s Arct ic Ambitions Face Increasing Headwinds
in Finland,” Diplom at, March 18, 2021; T homas Nilsen, “ China Wanted to Buy Airport in Lapland for North Pole
Climate Research Flights, T he Finnish Defence Forces Spurned an Offer by the Chinese Polar Research Institute to
Buy or Rent Kemijärvi Airport over Security Reasons,” Barents Observer, March 4, 2021; Mingming Shi and Marc
Lanteigne, “ China’s Central Role in Denmark’s Arctic Security Policies,” Diplomat, December 08, 2019; Humphrey
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For U.S. policymakers, a general question is how to integrate China’s activities in the Arctic into
the overal equation of U.S.-China relations, and whether and how, in U.S. policymaking, to link
China’s activities in the Arctic to its activities in other parts of the world. Some observers see
potential areas for U.S.-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic.122 As noted earlier, an August 2021
press report stated that “the U.S., China, Japan and Russia are among the countries planning to
conduct joint research in the Arctic Ocean in a step toward preventing overfishing in the
region.… Representatives from nine countries and the European Union aim to meet in South
Korea early next year to discuss exploratory fishing based on similar treaties covering other
regions.”123 Other observers view the Arctic as emerging arena of U.S.-China strategic
competition.124 Stil other observers view the Arctic as a mixed situation involving potential
elements of cooperation and competition.125
A specific question could be whether to impose punitive costs on China in the Arctic for
unwanted actions that China takes elsewhere. As one potential example of such a cost-imposing
action, U.S. policymakers could consider moving to suspend China’s observer status on the Arctic

Hawksley, “Nordic Nations Can Stand Up to China in the Arctic,” Nikkei Asian Review, June 13, 2019; T homas Nilsen,
“‘We Must Be Prepared for Clearer Chinese Presence in Our Neighborhood’; Chief of Norway’s Military Intelligence
Service, Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde, Highlighted Chinese, Russian Arctic Cooperations in His Annual
Focus Report,” Barents Observer, February 11, 2019.
122 See, for example, Pavel Devyatkin, “Science Cooperation with the Snow Dragon: Can the U.S. and China work
together on the Arctic Climate Crisis?” Arctic Institute, April 15, 2021; James Stavridis, “ Can the U.S. and China
Cooperate? Sure,” Bloom berg, July 31, 2020; Stephen Delaney, “ T he United States Must Work with China to Ensure
Freedom of Navigation in the Arctic,” Global Security Review, September 6, 2019; Alison McFarland, “ Arctic Options:
Why America Should Invest in a Future with China,” National Interest, September 30, 2018.
123 Miki Okuyama, “International Research Planned to Manage Arctic Fish Stocks,” Nikkei Asia, August 1, 2021. See
also Peter Bakkemo Danilov (High North News), “ US, China and Russia Plan Joint Research Aimed at Regulating
Arctic Fishing,” Arctic Today, August 2, 2021.
124 See, for example, Michael Krull, “ T he Arctic: China Wants It; We Need to Deny T hem,” American Military News,
September 8, 2020; Simone McCarthy, “T rade, tech … and Now the Arctic? T he Next Frontier in the China -US
Struggle for Global Control,” South China Morning Post, January 14, 2020 (ellipsis as in the article’s title); Chen
Zinan, “T o Keep Hegemony, US T rying to Obstruct China’s Rights in Arctic,” Global T imes, December 25, 2019.
125 See, for example, Laura Zhou, “ US Admiral Warns of Risk of ‘Bogus’ Chinese Claims in Arctic,” South China
Morning Pos
t, June 28 (updated June 29), 2020.
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Council126 as a punitive cost-imposing measure for unwanted Chinese actions in the South China
Sea.127 In a May 6, 2019, speech in Finland, Secretary of State Pompeo stated (emphasis added)
The United States is a believer in free markets. We know from experience that free and fair
competition, open, by the rule of law, produces the best outcomes.
But all the parties in the marketplace have to play by those same rules. Those who violate
those rules should lose their rights to participate in that marketplace. Respect and
transparency are the price of admission.
And let’s talk about China for a moment. China has observer status in the Arctic
Council, but that status is contingent upon its respect for the sovereign rights of Arctic
states.
The U.S. wants China to meet that condition and contribute responsibly in the
region. But China’s words and actions raise doubts about its intentions.128
China’s interest in Greenland, particularly as a potential site for mining rare earth elements, is a
matter of concern for U.S. policymakers.129 In February 2019, it was reported that the United

126 Paragraph 37 of the Arctic Council’s rules of procedure states the following:
Once observer status has been granted, Observers shall be invited to the meetings and other
activities of the Arctic Council unless SAOs [Senior Arctic Officials] decide otherwise. Observer
status shall continue for such time as consensus exists among Ministers. Any Observer that engages
in activities which are at odds with the Council’s [Ottawa] Declaration [of September 19, 1996,
establishing the Council] or these Rules of Procedure shall have its status as an Observer
suspended.
Paragraph 5 of Annex II of the Arctic Council’s rules of procedure—an annex regarding the accreditation and review of
observers—states the following:
Every four years, from the date of being granted Observer status, Observers should state
affirmatively their continued interest in Observer status. Not later than 120 days before a
Ministerial meeting where Observers will be reviewed, the Chairmanship shall circulate to the
Arctic States and Permanent Participants a list of all accredited Observers and up -to-date
information on their activities relevant to the work of the Arctic Council.
(Arctic Council, Arctic Council Rules of Procedure, p. 9. T he document was accessed April 8,
2021, at https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/940.
Paragraph 4.3 of the Arctic Council’s observer manual for subsidiary bodies states in part
Observer status continues for such time as consensus exists among Ministers. Any Observer that
engages in activities which are at odds with the Ottawa Declaration or with the Rules of Procedure
will have its status as an Observer suspended.
(Arctic Council. Observer Manual for Subsidiary Bodies, p. 5. T he document was accessed April 8,
2021, at https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/handle/11374/939.)
See also Alyson JK Bailes, “ Understanding T he Arctic Council: A ‘Sub-Regional’ Perspective,” Journal of Military
and Strategic Studies
, Vol. 15, Issue 2, 2013: 48; Brianna Wodiske, “ Preventing the Melting of the Arctic Council:
China as a Permanent Observer and What It Means for the Council and the Environment,” Loyola of Los Angeles
International and Com parative Law Review
, Vol. 315, Issue 2, 2014 (November 1, 2014): 320; Sebastian Knecht ,
“New Observers Queuing Up: Why the Arctic Council Should Expand—And Expel,” Arctic Institute, April 20, 2015;
Evan Bloom, “ Establishment of the Arctic Council,” undated; accessed April 8, 2021, at https://2009-2017.state.gov/e/
oes/ocns/opa/arc/ac/establishmentarcticcouncil/index.htm, which states “ T he following paper was authored by Evan
Bloom in July 1999 when serving as an attorney in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State. Mr.
Bloom is now the Director of the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs for the Bureau o f Oceans and International
Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.” See also Kevin McGwin, “After 20 years, the
Arctic Council Reconsiders the Role of Observers,” Arctic Today, October 24, 2018.
127 For more on China’s actions in the South China Sea and their potential implications for U.S. interests, see CRS
Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic Com petition in South and East China Seas: Background and Issues for Congress.
128 State Department, “Looking North: Sharpening America’s Arctic Focus, Remarks, Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of
State, Rovaniemi, Finland, May 6, 2019.”
129 See, for example, Robinson Meyer, “ Greenland’s Rare-Earth Election,” Atlantic, May 3, 2021; Liselotte Odgaard,
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States in 2018 had urged Denmark to finance the construction of airports that China had offered
to build in Greenland, so as to counter China’s attempts to increase its presence and influence
there.130 In May 2019, the State Department announced plan for establishing a permanent
diplomatic presence in Greenland,131 and on June 2020, the State Department formal y announced
the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Greenland’s capital of Nuuk.132 In April 2020, the U.S.
government announced $12.1 mil ion economic aid package for Greenland that the Trump
Administration presented as a U.S. action done in a context of Chinese and Russian actions aimed
at increasing their presence and influence in Greenland.133 Some observers argue that a desire to
preclude China (or Russia) from increasing its presence and influence in Greenland may have
been one of the reasons why President Trump in August 2019 expressed an interest in the idea of

“Greenland’s National Election and the US-China T ech Competition: The Rare Earth Challenge,” Hudson Institute,
April 9, 2021; Antonia Noori Farzan, “ How an Election in Greenland Could Affect China—and the Rare-Earth
Minerals in Your Cellphone,” Washington Post, April 8, 2021; Stacy Meichtry and Drew Hinshaw, “ China’s Greenland
Ambitions Run Into Local Politics, U.S. Influence,” Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2021; Agence France-Presse,
“Greenland Gears Up for Election Sparked by Debate over Chinese-Backed Rare Earths Mining,” South China
Morning Post
, April 4, 2021; Sam Dunning, “ 56,000 Greenlanders Could Shape the Future of Rare Earths, Washington
and Beijing Are Watching a Snap Election on the Huge Island Closely,” Foreign Policy, March 10, 2021; Mary Kay
Magistad, “ How China's Belt and Road and an Australian Mining Company Could be the Deciding Issues in the
Greenland Election,” ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] News, March 6 (updated March 14), 2021; Eric
Onstad, “ Five Eyes Alliance Urged to Forge T ies with Greenland to Secure Minerals,” Reuters, March 4, 2021; Jacob
Gronholt -Pedersen and Eric Onstad, “ Mining Magnets: Arctic Island Finds Green Power Can Be a Curse,” Reuters,
March 1, 2021; Per Kalvig and Hans Lucht , “ Greenland’s Minerals to Consolidate China’s Rare Earth Dominance?”
Dansk Institut for Internationale Studier (DIIS), February 25, 2021.
130 Drew Hinshaw and Jeremy Page, “How the Pentagon Countered China’s Designs on Greenland; Washington Urged
Denmark to Finance Airports that Chinese Aimed to Build on North America’s Doorstep,” Wall Street Journal,
February 10, 2019. See also Marc Lanteigne, “Greenland’s Airport Saga: Enter the US?” Over the Circle, September
18, 2018; Marc Lanteigne, “Greenland’s Airports: A Balance between China and Denmark?” Over the Circle, June 15,
2018; Arne Finne (translated by Elisabeth Bergquist), “Intense Airport Debate in Greenland,” High North News, May
30, 2018.
131 State Department, “Secretary Pompeo Postpones T ravel to Greenland,” Press Statement, Morgan Ortagus,
Department Spokesperson, May 9, 2019. See also Krestia DeGeorge, “US State Department Announces Plans for a
Diplomatic Presence in Greenland,” Arctic T oday, May 9, 2019; Morten Soendergaard Larsen and Robbie Gramer,
“T rump Puts Down New Roots in Greenland,” Foreign Policy, November 8, 2019.
132 See, for example, Eavan Cull, “Setting Up Shop in Nuuk,” Foreign Service Journal, May 2021; Lauren Meier and
Guy T aylor, “ U.S. Reopens Consulate in Greenland Amid Race for Arctic Supremacy,” Washington Tim es, June 10,
2020.
133 For State Department briefings about the economic aid package, see State Department, Briefing On the Road to
Nuuk: Economic Cooperation, Special Briefing, Michael J. Murphy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European
and Eurasian Affairs, Francis R. Fannon, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources, Jonathan Moore, Principal
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International En vironmental and Scientific Affairs, Gretchen Birkle,
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator, May 15, 2020; and State Department, Briefing on the Administration’s Arctic
Strategy, Special Briefing, Office of the Spokesperson, April 23, 2020.
For press reports about the economic aid package, see, for example, Jessica Donati, “ U.S. Offers Aid to Greenland to
Counter China, Russia,” Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2020; Carol Morello, “ U.S. to Give Aid to Greenland, Open
Consulate in Bid to Counter Russia and China,” Washington Post, April 23, 2020; Jacob Gronholt -Pedersen and
Humeyra Pamuk, “ US Extends Economic Aid to Greenland to Counter China, Russia in Arctic,” Reuters, April 23,
2020; Laura Kelly, “ US Announces New Funding for Greenland in Push for Stronger Arctic Presence,” The Hill, April
23, 2020; Paul McCleary, “ Battle For T he Arctic: Russia Plans Nuke Icebreaker, US Counters China In Greenland,”
Breaking Defense, April 23, 2020; Katrina Manson and Richard Milne, “ US Financial Aid for Greenland Sparks
Outrage in Denmark,” Financial Tim es, April 23, 2020; Alex Fang, “ US Rejects China’s ‘Near-Arctic State’ Claim in
New Cold War; Washington to Open Consulate in Greenland and Give Economic Aid,” Nikkei Asian Review, April 24
(updated April 26), 2020; Martin Breum, “ T he US Aid Package to Greenland Marks a New Chapter in a Long,
Complex Relationship,” Arctic Today, April 29, 2020; Malte Humpert, “ U.S. Says Arctic No Longer Immune from
Geopolitics As It Invests $12m in Greenland,” High North News, April 29, 2020; T om Parfitt, “ US, China and Russia
Wrestle for Influence in Greenland and the Arctic Circle,” Tim es (UK), May 1, 2020.
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buying Greenland from Denmark.134 In May 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a stop
in Greenland while returning to the United States from an Arctic Council ministerial meeting in
Reykjavik. During the stop, he was accompanied by Greenland’s prime minister, Greenland’s
foreign minister, and Denmark’s foreign minister.135
For Russia, the question of whether and how to respond to China’s activities in the Arctic may
pose particular complexities. On the one hand, Russia is promoting the NSR for use by others, in
part because Russia sees significant economic opportunities in offering icebreaker escorts,
refueling posts, and supplies to the commercial ships that wil ply the waterway. In that regard,
Russia presumably would welcome increased use of the route by ships moving betw een Europe
and China. More broadly, Russia and China have increased their cooperation on security and
other issues in recent years, in no smal part as a means of balancing or countering the United
States in international affairs, and Russian-Chinese cooperation in the Arctic (including China’s
investment in Russia’s Arctic oil and gas industry) can both reflect and contribute to that
cooperation.136 The U.S. Department of Defense stated in 2020 that China’s “expanding Arctic
engagement has created new opportunities for engagement between China and Russia. In April
2019, China and Russia established the Sino-Russian Arctic Research Center. In 2020, China and
Russia plan to use this center to conduct a joint expedition to the Arctic to research optimal routes

134 See, for example, Marc Lanteigne and Mingming Shi, “ ‘No Sale’: How T alk of a US Purchase of Greenland
Reflected Arctic Anxieties,” Over the Circle, September 17, 2020; Stuart Lau, “ Did China’s Growing Presence in
Arctic Prompt Donald T rump’s Offer to Buy Greenland?” South China Morning Post, September 1, 2019; Nadia
Schadlow, “Why Greenland Is Really About China,” The Hill, August 28, 2019; Daniel Lippman, “T rump’s Greenland
Gambit Finds Allies Inside Government,” Politico, August 24, 2019; Seth Borenstein (Associated Press), “Icy Arctic
Becomes Hot Property for Rival Powers,” Navy Times, August 22, 2019; Ragnhild Grønning, “Why T rump Is Looking
to Buy Greenland—Even If It’s Not for Sale,” High North News, August 19, 2019. See also Caitlin Hu and Stephen
Collinson, “ Why Exactly Is the US So Interested in Greenland?” CNN, July 23, 2020. See also T arisai Ngangura, “ Ex-
Staffer: T rump Wanted to T rade ‘Dirty’ Puerto Rico for Greenland,” Vanity Fair, August 19, 2020; Jacob Gronholt -
Pedersen, “ As the Arctic’s Attractions Mount, Greenland is a Security Black Hole,” Reuters, October 20, 2020; Gordon
Lubold, “U.S. Holds T alks Over Economic, Security Arrangements With Greenland,” Wall Street Journal, October 28,
2020
135 Kevin McGwin, “ Blinken’s Stop-Over in Greenland Highlights Its Importance to the US,” Arctic Today, May 21,
2021. See also Rebecca Beitsch, “ Blinken Confirms US No Longer Seeking to Purchase Greenland,” The Hill, May 21,
2021.
136 See, for example, Andrea Kendall-T aylor and David Shullman, “China and Russia’s Dangerous Convergence,”
Foreign Affairs, May 3, 2021; Sherri Goodman and Yun Sun, “ What You May Not Know About Sino-Russian
Cooperation in the Arctic and Why it Matters,” Diplom at, August 13, 2020; Sarah Cammarata, “ Russia and China
Should Be Viewed as ‘One Alliance’ in the Arctic, U.K. Defense Official Warns,” Politico, June 6, 2020; Owen
Matthews, “ Putin Needs Xi More than China Needs Russia,” Spectator USA, May 25, 2020; Ken Moriyasu, “ US
Awakens to Risk of China-Russia Alliance in the Arctic,” Nikkei Asian Review, May 24, 2020; Christopher Weidacher
Hsiung, “ T he Emergence of a Sino-Russian Economic Partnership in the Arctic?” Arctic Institute, May 19, 2020;
Mario Giagnorio, “ A Cold Relation: Russia, China and Science in the Arctic,” New Eastern Europe, March 25, 2020
(interview with Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen and Mariia Kobzeva); Alana Monteiro, “ Strategic Partnership, Arctic-Style:
How Russia and China Play the Game,” Modern Diplom acy, March 14, 2020; Matteo Giovannini, “ China and Russia
Strengthen Strategic Partnership Along ‘Polar Silk Road,’” China Daily, December 6, 2019; “Russia Reinforces its
Arctic Policies (With China Alongside),” Over the Circle, April 19, 2019: Melody Schreiber, “ US Has ‘Vital National
Interests’ at Stake in Russia-China Relationship in the Arctic, Expert Says,” Arctic Today, April 2, 2019; Rebecca
Pincus, China and Russia in the Arctic, T estimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission
Hearing on “An Emerging China-Russia Axis? Implications for the United States in an Era of Strategic Competition,”
March 21, 2019; Liz Ruskin, “China, Russia Find Common Cause in Arctic,” Alaska Public Media, March 21, 2019;
Olga Alexeeva and Frederic Lasserre, “An Analysis of Sino-Russian Cooperation in the Arctic in the BRI Era,”
Advances in Polar Science, December 2018: 269-282; Marc Lanteigne, “ Northern Crossroads, Sino -Russian
Cooperation in the Arctic,” National Bureau of Asian Research, March 2018, 6 pp.
Nicholas Groffman, “Why China-Russia Relations Are Warming Up in the Arctic,” South China Morning Post,
February 17, 2018.
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of the Northern Sea Route and the effects of climate change. The PRC wil cover 75 percent of
the expedition’s expenses.”137
On the other hand, Russian officials are said to be wary of China’s continued growth in wealth
and power, and of how that might eventual y lead to China becoming the dominant power in
Eurasia, and to Russia being relegated to a secondary or subordinate status in Eurasian affairs
relative to China. Increased use by China of the NSR could accelerate the realization of that
scenario: As noted above, the NSR forms part of China’s geopolitical Belt and Road Initiative
(BRI). Some observers argue that actual levels of Sino-Russian cooperation in the Arctic are not
as great as Chinese or Russian announcements about such cooperation might suggest.138
Linkages Between Arctic and South China Sea
Another potential implication of the renewal of great power competition is a linkage that is
sometimes made between the Arctic and the South China Sea relating to international law of the
sea or the general issue of international cooperation and competition.139 One aspect of this linkage
relates to whether China’s degree of compliance with international law of the sea in the South
China Sea has any implications for understanding potential Chinese behavior regarding its
compliance with international law of the sea (and international law general y) in the Arctic.
A second aspect of this linkage, mentioned earlier, is whether the United States should consider
the option of moving to suspend China’s observer status on the Arctic Council as a punitive cost-
imposing measure for unwanted Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

137 Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020, Annual
Report to Congress
, generated August 21, 2020, released September 1, 2020, p. 133.
138 For additional discussion, see, for example, Jim T ownsend and Andrea Kendall-T aylor, Partners, Competitors, or a
Little of Both? Russia and China in the Arctic
, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), March 2021, 17 pp.;
Duncan Depledge, “ Why We Must Watch Sino-Russia Relations in the Arctic,” Sunday Guardian, November 28,
2020; Elizabeth Buchanan, “ Russia and China in the Arctic: Assumptions and Realities,” Australian Strategic Policy
Institute, September 25, 2020; Maria Shagina and Benno Zogg, “ Arctic Matters: Sino-Russian Dynamics,” Center for
Security Studies (CSS) at ET H Zurich, September 2020, 4 pp.; Elizabeth Buchanan, “ T here Is No Arctic Axis, Russia
and China’s Partnership in the North is Primarily Driven by Business, Not Politics,” Foreign Policy, July 21, 2020;
Mariia Kobzeva, “ A Framework for Sino-Russian Relations in the Arctic,” Arctic Institute, May 5, 2020; Ling Guo and
Steven Lloyd Wilson, “ China, Russia, and Arctic Geopolitics,” Diplom at, March 29, 2020; James Foggo III, “ Russia,
China Offer Challenges in the Arctic,” Defense One, July 10, 2019; Anita Parlow, “Does a Russia-China Alignment in
the Arctic Have Staying Power?” Arctic Today, June 27, 2019; Marc Lanteigne, “Scenes from a Northern Crossroad:
China and Russia in the Arctic,” Over the Circle, February 20, 2019; Marc Lanteigne, “No Borderline: A Norway -
Russia Frontier Festival Connects with China,” Over the Circle, February 16, 2019; Atle Staalesen, “ Beijing Finds a
Chinatown on NoRway’s Arctic Coast,; T he Asian Superpower Looks towards the Arctic and Finds a Home in T his
Year’s Barents Spektakel Winter Festival,” Barents Observer, February 12, 2019; Elizabeth Wishnick, “Russia and the
Arctic in China’s Quest for Great -Power Status,” in Ashley J. T ellis, Alison Szalwinski, and Michael Wills, editors,
Strategic Asia 2019, China’s Expanding Strategic Ambitions, National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle and
Washington, DC, pp. 64-75.
139 See, for example, Robinson Meyer, “T he Next ‘South China Sea’ Is Covered in Ice,” Atlantic, May 15, 2019; Justin
D. Nankivell, “T he Role of History and Law in the South China Sea and Arctic Ocean,” Maritime Awareness Project,
August 7, 2017; Sydney J. Freedberg, “Is T he Arctic T he next South China Sea? Not Likely,” Breaking Defense,
August 4, 2017; Caroline Houck, “T he Arctic Could Be the Next South China Sea, Says Coast guard Commandant,”
Defense One, August 1, 2017; Daniel T homassen, “ Lessons from the Arctic for the South China Sea,” Center for
International Maritime Security, April 4, 2017. For a different perspective, see Elizabeth Buchanan and Bec Strating,
“Why the Arctic Is Not the ‘Next’ South China Sea,” War on the Rocks, November 5, 2020.
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link to page 137 Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

A third aspect of this linkage concerns the question of whether the United States should become a
party to UNCLOS: Discussions of that issue sometimes mention both the situation in the South
China Sea140 and the extended continental shelf issue in the Arctic.141
Extended Continental Shelf Submissions, Territorial Disputes,
Sovereignty Issues

For additional background information on extended continental shelf submissions, territorial
disputes, and sovereignty issues in the Arctic, see Appendix H.
U.S. Military Forces and Operations142
Overview
During the Cold War, the Arctic was an arena of military competition between the United States
and the Soviet Union, with both countries, for example, operating long-range bombers, tactical
combat aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines, surface warships, and
ground forces in the region. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of most elements of the
Russian military establishment following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991
greatly reduced this competition, leading to a post-Cold War period of reduced emphasis on the
Arctic in U.S. military planning. In more recent years, the return of great power competition and a
significant increase in Russian military capabilities and operations in the Arctic has led to
growing concerns among U.S. officials and other observers that the Arctic is once again
becoming a region of military tension and competition,143 and to a renewed focus on the Arctic in
U.S. military planning.
As noted earlier, Russia since 2008 has adopted a series of strategy documents outlining plans
that cal for, among other things, bolstering the country’s Arctic military capabilities. Among
other actions, Russia has established a new Arctic Joint Strategic Command at Severomorsk (the
home of the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet), reactivated and modernized Arctic military bases
that fel into disuse with the end of the Cold War, assigned new forces to those bases, and
increased military exercises and training operations in the Arctic.144 Some observers have

140 For further discussion of this situation, see CRS Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and
East China Seas: Background and Issues for Congress
.
141 See, for example, Ben Werner, “Zukunft: U.S. Presence in Arctic Won’t Stop Chinese, Russia Encroachment
Without Law of the Sea Ratification,” USNI News, August 1, 2017.
142 T his section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and T rade
Division.
143 See, for example, Nancy T eeple, “ T he Impact of the Post-Arms Control Context and Great Power Competition in
the Arctic,” Arctic Institute, June 22, 2021; Christopher Woody, “As Militaries Get Busier in the Arctic, the US and
Russia Are Running Out of Ways to Solve Problems T here,” Business Insider, May 26, 2021; Kris Osborn, “ Russia vs.
U.S. Navy: How a Warming Arctic Is Heating up Military Competition ,” National Interest, January 12, 2021; Rebecca
Hersman, Eric Brewer, and Maxwell Simon , Strategic Stability and Com petition in the Arctic, Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS), January 2021, 11 pp.; Christopher Woody, “ As T rump Shakes Up the Military Footprint
in Europe, the US and Russia Are Making Moves in the High North,” Business Insider, August 30, 2020; Anya
Gorodentsev, “ Will the Arctic Become the Next South China Sea?” National Interest, May 17, 2020; “ America and
Britain Play Cold-War Games with Russia in the Arctic,” Econom ist, May 10, 2020. See also “ Arctic Military Activity
T racker,” Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
144 Regarding increased Russian military capabilities and operations in the Arctic, see, for example, Andrew E. Kramer,
“In the Russian Arctic, the First Stirrings of a Very Cold War,” New York Times, May 22, 2021; Sarah Rainsford,
“Russia Flexes Muscles in Challenge for Arctic Control,” BBC News, May 20, 2021; Kostya Manenkov and Vladimir
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expressed growing concern at these developments. Other observers have noted the continued
cooperative aspects of relations among the Arctic states, including Russia, and argue that the
competitive aspects of the situation have been overstated.145 Some observers argue that Russia’s
recent military investment in the Arctic is sometimes exaggerated, reflects normal modernization
of aging capabilities, or is intended partly for domestic Russian consumption.146
With the return of great power competition, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Coast
Guard (which is part of the Department of Homeland Security [DHS]) are devoting increased
attention to the Arctic in their planning and operations. DOD as a whole, the Army, the Navy and
Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard have each issued Arctic strategy documents in
recent years (see Appendix G for excerpts from these documents, as wel as DOD and Coast
Guard testimony on their Arctic strategies and operations). Al U.S. military services are

Isachenkov, “ Russia’s Northernmost Base Projects Its Power Across Arctic,” Associated Press, May 18, 2021; John
Grady, “Panel Warns of Economic and Military Impacts from Russia’s Plans for Arctic,” USNI News, May 11, 2021;
Sebastian Sprenger, “ Russian Military Buildup in the Arctic Has Northern NAT O Members Uneasy,” Defense News,
April 12, 2021; Alexander Bratersky, “ Russia’s Arctic Activity to Increase with Fresh Strategy and More Capability
T ests,” Defense News, April 11, 2021; Kris Osborn, “ Why Did Russia Send More S-400 Missile Defense Systems to
the Arctic?” National Interest, April 7, 2021; C. T odd Lopez, “ DOD Closely Monitoring Russian Activities in Arctic,”
DOD News, April 5, 2021; Abraham Mahshie, “ Russia T hreatens US Interests in Arctic with Military Buildup,”
Washington Exam iner, April 5, 2021; Ellen Mitchell, “ Satellite Images Show Large Russian Military Build Up in
Arctic: Report ,” The Hill, April 5, 2021; Stephen Silver, “ Danger Ahead: Russia Is Increasing Its Military Presence in
the Arctic,” National Interest, April 5, 2021; Nick Paton Walsh, “ Satellite Images Show Huge Russian Military
Buildup in the Arctic,” CNN, April 5, 2021; Christopher Woody, “ The US Military Wants to Get Ahead of ‘More
Complex’ Russian Operations, T op North American Commander Says,” Business Insider, April 1, 2021..
See also Heather A. Conley and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Ice Curtain: Tiksi Airbase—Many Russian Announcem ents,
Little Equipm ent
, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 2020, 9 pp.; Heather A. Conley and
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Ice Curtain: Why Is There a New Russian Military Facility 300 Miles from Alaska ? Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 2020, 6 pp.; Matthew Melino, Heather A. Conley, and Joseph S.
Bermudez Jr., Modernization on the Kola Peninsula, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March
2020, 15 pp.; Matthew Melino and Heather A. Conley, “ T he Ice Curtain: Russia’s Arctic Military Presence,” Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 26, 2020.
145 See, for example, Robert David English and Morgan Grant Gardner, “Phantom Peril in the Arctic, Russia Doesn’t
T hreaten the United States in the Far North—But Climate Change Does,” Foreign Affairs, September 29, 2020; Mia
Bennett, “U.S. Rhetoric About the Strategic Importance of the Arctic Is Out of Step with Its Spending Priorities,”
Arctic Today, July 26, 2019; “ Arctic Conflict With Russia ‘Not Likely In T he Short -T erm’, Analyst Says,” Forces,
January 30, 2019; Danita Catherine Burke, “ Why the New Arctic ‘Cold War’ Is a Dangerous Myth,” The Conversation,
December 13, 2018; Martin Breum, “Why Russia Is Likely to Remain Cooperative in the Arctic,” Arctic Today,
November 22, 2018; John Grady, “Panel: Cooperation, Not Conflict Key to Future of the Arctic,” USNI News, April 8,
2018; Levon Sevunts,” NAT O Wants to Keep the Arctic An Area of Low T ensions, Stoltenberg,” Radio Canada
International
, April 4, 2018; Levon Sevunts, “ Arctic Nations Develop Coast Guard Co-operation,” Independent
Barents Observer
, March 13, 2018.
146 See, for example, Hilde-Gunn Bye, “Russia Pays Considerable Attention to Improve Arctic Infrastructure, Says
Defence Minister,” High North News, April 14, 2021; Lyle Goldstein, “ Washington Should Chill Out over Russia’s
Arctic Ambitions,” Defense News, November 13, 2020; Robert D. English, “ Why an Arctic Arms Race Would Be a
Mistake,” Arctic Today, June 18, 2020; Marc Montgomery, “Russia’s Military Feat in Arctic, Spectacular, But No Real
T hreat to West ,” Radio Canada International, May 12, 2020; Elizabeth Buchanan and Mathieu Boulègue, “ Russia’s
Military Exercises in the Arctic Have More Bark T han Bite,” Foreign Policy, May 20, 2019; Arne F. Finne, “Russia Is
a Responsible Actor in the Arctic,” High North News, January 22, 2019; Stephanie Pezard, The New Geopolitics of the
Arctic, Russia’s and China’s Evolving Role in the Region
, RAND (T estimony presented before the Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian House of Commons on November 26,
2018), pp. 2-4 (which presents comments on both sides of the issue of whether other countries should be concerned by
Russia’s Arctic military capabilities); T homas Nilsen, “New Weapons T esting Is Worrying, But Does Not Raise
T ensions in the North, [Norway’s] Defense Minister Says,” Barents Observer, August 26, 2018. See also Hilde-Gunn
Bye, “From Norway to North America: Differing Views On New Russian Weapon Systems,” High North News,
February 24, 2020.
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conducting increased exercises and training operations in the region, some in conjunction with
forces from NATO al ies and non-NATO Nordic countries, that are aimed at
 reacquainting U.S. forces with—and responding to changes in—operating
conditions in the region,147
 rebuilding Arctic-specific warfighting skil s that eroded during the post-Cold War
era,
 strengthening interoperability with al ied forces in the region,
 identifying Arctic military capability gaps,
 testing the performance of equipment under Arctic conditions, and
 sending Russia and China signals of resolve and commitment regarding the
Arctic.148
A July 28, 2021 press report stated:
US military leaders said on Tuesday [July 27] that they see Arctic operations as a deterrent
to China, which has staked a claim to the region as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and
increasingly as a base for operations in the Indo-Pacific.
Panellists including US Air Force officials Kelli Seybolt and Lieutenant General Clinton
Hinote discussed the strengthening of what Seybolt called defence relationships with “six
of the seven other Arctic nations providing key strategic advantages”, excluding Russia….
While Russia’s military activities in the Arctic are understandable given that it has an
interest in oil and gas from its deposits in the region, and the US would be open to including
Moscow in discussions among Arctic nations in the long-term if relations were to improve,
Seybolt said, China’s claim in 2018 to be a near-Arctic nation was a “kind of mind-
boggling statement”….

147 See, for example, Caitlin M. Kenney, “ In the Newly Noisy Arctic, Underwater Operations Are Getting Harder,”
Defense One, August 2, 2021; Court ney Mabeus, “ T he Navy Sent Another Carrier on a Rare T rip to the High North.
Here’s How Sailors Kept It Going in Harsh Conditions Around Alaska,” Business Insider, July 25, 2021.
148 See, for example, T heresa Hitchens, “ Air Force Plans Wargames, T ech Experiments T o Flesh Out Arctic Strategy ,”
Breaking Defense, July 27, 2021; Immanuel Johnson, “ Fires Shock Artillery Drills End in the Arctic as US Army
Launches Rockets in Norway,” Stars and Stripes, June 11, 2021; Philip Athey, “ A Marine Fight in the Arctic May
Look Like T his,” Marine Corps Tim es, June 4, 2021; John Harper, “ Cold Front: Special Operations Forces Bracing for
Arctic Missions,” National Defense, May 14, 2021; USS T heodore Roosevelt Public Affairs, “ U.S. T heodore Roosevelt
Carrier Strike Group Begins Exercise Northern Edge 2021 ,” U.S. Navy, May 4, 2021; Stavros Atlamazoglou, “ How
Delta, Rangers, and the Green Berets’ Unique T raining Would Pay Off in an Arctic War with Russia,” Business
Insider
, April 15, 2021; Christen McCurdy, “ U.S. Marines, Norwegian Military Hold Arctic T raining Exercise,” United
Press Internationa
l, April 8, 2021; T homas Nilsen, “ U.S. Special Operation Forces Exercise Winter Combat in
Northern Sweden,” Barents Observer, April 8, 2021; Rachel S. Cohen, “ ‘Northern Edge’ Brings Firepower to Alaska,
with an Eye on Arctic Jockeying,” Air Force Tim es, April 1, 2021; Sam LaGrone, “ Carrier Strike Group, 15th Marine
Expeditionary Unit Will Join Air Force in Massive Alaska Exercise,” USNI News, March 31, 2021; Brian W. Everstine,
“U.S., Canadian Aircraft T rain to Protect Arctic Airspace,” Air Force Magazine, March 26, 2021; Ed Adamczyk, “B-2
bomber, Norwegian F-35s Integrate in Arctic Circle Exercise,” United Press International, March 22, 2021; Nunatsiaq
News, “ NORAD Exercise T akes to the Arctic Skies,” Nunatsiaq News, March 22, 2021; Brian W. Everstine, “ B-1s, B-
2s Fly T ogether Near Iceland, Highlighting Importance of Arctic Ops,” Air Force Magazine, March 17, 2021; David
Axe, “U.S. Air Force Bomber Crews Brave T he Cold As T he Pentagon Expands Its Arctic Options,” Forbes, March
10, 2021; Christen McCurdy, “ B-1B Conducts Bomber T ask Force Mission in Norway and Sweden,” United Press
International
, March 9, 2021; T homas Nilsen, “ U.S. B-1 Bomber Makes First Landing Inside Norway’s Arctic Circle,”
Barents Observer, March 9, 2021; Brian W. Everstine, “ First B-1 Deployment to Norway Shows Importance of Arctic,
Cold-Weather Ops,” Air Force Magazine, March 5, 2021; Paul McLeary, “ No ‘New Cold War’ As US Bombers Move
Into Norwegian Base,” Breaking Defense, March 5, 2021; Marcy Sanchez, “ FinnsT teach American Soldiers How to
Fight a ‘Winter War,’” Audacy, March 1, 2021.
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Also on the panel was William Liquori, a lieutenant general serving in the new United
States Space Force….
While promoting integration with the Arctic forces of Canada, Finland, Norway and other
US allies as a way to counter objectionable activities by China, the panellists said military
installations in Alaska were becoming crucial as bases for operations in the Indo-Pacific,
where Washington is working more closely with regional partners to check Beijing’s
expansive maritime claims.
“You could also think of military power that is stationed in the high north, and especialy
in Alaska, as being forward positioned in two major theatres, the Indo -Pacific and in
Europe, and in essence you could conceivably do power projection sorties out of Alaska to
both of those areas,” Hinote said.
“What we have seen in our war gaming is that it’s an incredibly effective place to base air
operations out of,” he added. “And so this gets into the reason why we are investing so
much in places like [Anchorage and Fairbanks], and what we’ve got going on with the
extended operations.149
In addition to these increased exercises and training operations, the Coast Guard, as a major new
acquisition project, is procuring new polar icebreakers cal ed Polar Security Cutters (PSCs) to
replace its aging heavy polar icebreakers. (For further discussion, see the following section of this
report on polar icebreaking.)
Canada, the UK, and the Nordic countries are taking steps to increase their own military presence
and operations in the region, and as noted above, have participated alongside U.S. military forces
in certain Arctic exercises.150 As mentioned earlier, a NATO exercise cal ed Trident Juncture 18
that was held from October 25 to November 7, 2018, in Norway and adjacent waters of the Baltic
and the Norwegian Sea, with participation by al 29 NATO members plus Sweden and Finland,
was described as NATO’s largest exercise to that point since the Cold War, and featured a strong
Arctic element, including the first deployment of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier above the Arctic
Circle since 1991.151

149 Robert Delaney, “ Arctic Is Key Region in Countering China’s Aggression, US Air Force Officials Say,” South
China Morning Post
, July 28, 2021. See also Jim Garamone, “ Austin Says Alaska Is Strategic Hotspot for Indo-Pacific,
Arctic Operations,” DOD News, July 25, 2021.
150 See, for example, Andrew Eversden, “ 7 Allies Sign onto Polar Research Project,” C4ISRNet, April 11, 2021; Larry
Luxner, “ How Russia, China, and Climate Change Are Shaking Up the Arctic,” Atlantic Council, March 23, 2021;
John Grady, “ Norwegian Officials: Russian Arctic Expansion Making Security Landscape ‘Difficult,’” USNI News,
March 22, 2021; Ed Adamczyk, “ NORAD Readies for Arctic Air Defense Exercises,” United Press International,
March 17, 2021; Larisa Brown, “ Royal Navy to Defend Arctic T rade as Ice Melts,” Times (UK), March 10, 2021;
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, “ Acting SecAF, Nordic Ministers of Defense Sign Letter of Intent
Strengthening US-Nordic Defense T ies,” U.S. Air Force, February 18, 2021; Richard Milne, “ Denmark Raises
Investment in Arctic Surveillance to Counter Russian Build-up,” Financial Tim es, February 14, 2021; Jacob Gronholt -
Pedersen, “ Denmark to Spend More on Arctic Defence as Melting Sea Ice Prompts Jostle for Control,” Reuters,
February 11, 2021; Patricia Kime, “ Nordic Allies Help Navy Improve Ship Ops in Icy Waterways as Arctic
Competition Heats Up,” Military.com , February 4, 2021.
151 See, for example, Christopher Woody, “‘We Can Do Better’: T he Navy’s Newest Fleet Commander Says US Ships
and Sailors Got ‘Beat Up’ During NAT O’s Biggest Exercise Since the Cold War,” Business Insider, December 4,
2018; Levon Sevunts, “ NAT O’s Arctic Dilemma; T wo Visions of the Arctic Collide as NAT O and Russia Flex
Muscles,” Radio Canada International, December 3, 2018; Megan Eckstein, “T ruman CSG: Arctic Strike Group
Operations Required Focus on Logistics, Safety,” USNI News, November 6, 2018; Mary T hompson-Jones, “NATO’s
Arctic Exercise is a Good Start to Standing Up to Russian Militarization of the High North,” National Interest,
November 6, 2018; Pierre-Henry Deshayes, “ Antifreeze and Balaclavas: NAT O T roops in cold War Games,”
Military.com , November 2, 2018; Vasco Cotovio and Frederik Pleitgen, “ Submarines a Centerpiece of Russia’s Navy,”
CNN, November 19, 2018; Shawn Snow, “ T he Corps’ Armor Makes a Big Showing in Norway as Marines T est Future
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An exercise to be held in Norway in 2022, cal ed Cold Response 2022, reportedly wil be largest
military exercise inside the Arctic Circle in Norway since the 1980s.152
Some observers have expressed concern about whether the United States is doing enough
militarily to defend its interests in the Arctic, and in some cases have offered their
recommendations for doing more.153 Whether DOD and the Coast Guard are devoting sufficient
resources to the Arctic and taking sufficient actions for defending U.S. interests in the region has
emerged as a topic of congressional oversight. Those who argue that DOD and the Coast Guard
are not devoting sufficient resources and taking sufficient actions argue, for example, that DOD
and the Coast Guard should build ice-hardened surface ships other than icebreakers for
deployment to the Arctic and/or establish a strategic port in Alaska’s north to better support DOD
and Coast Guard operations in the Arctic.154 A June 17, 2021, press report states:
The Pentagon’s 2022 budget is light on funding for defending the Arctic, but Defense
Department officials expect future funding requests to rise with the region’s growing
importance.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense
subcommittee June 17, said the current fiscal 2022 request provides only “some capability”
for the Arctic, adding, “We have to better resource our Arctic efforts in the future.”
The Pentagon is hashing out a new National Defense Strategy, he said, and “my goal is to
make sure that our efforts in the Arctic, our requirements in the Arctic, are reflected in the
new National Defense Strategy.”
U.S. Northern Command boss Gen. Glen D. VanHerck testified to the Senate Armed
Services Committee June 9 that the Arctic region is not getting the funding it needs.
“Senator, I think when I look at the FY22 budget, I see an inching along in all of the
services, he said. “I’m encouraged: They all have strategies now, and the department has a
strategy, and my strategy heavily relies on the Arctic,” the Air Force four-star said. “But
we didn’t move the ball very far down the field this year in the budget.”…

Force,” Marine Corps Times, October 25, 2018; T erje Solsvik, “As Winter Comes, NAT O Kicks Off Largest
Maneuvers Since Cold War,” Reuters, October 25, 2018; Kyle Rempfer, “US Breaches the Arctic with Marines,
Fighter Jets and Aircraft Carriers,” Military Times, October 23, 2018; Megan Eckstein, “T ruman Carrier Strike Group
Operating North of Arctic Circle; First T ime for US Navy Since 1991,” USNI News, October 19, 2018; T homas
Gooley, “HST Strike Group Enters Arctic Circle, Prepares for NAT O Exercise,” DVIDS (Defense Visual Information
Distribution Service)
, October 19, 2018; T homas Nilsen, “ US Marines Launch Exercise in Northern Norway Ahead of
T rident Juncture,” Barents Observer, October 15, 2018.
152 T homas Nilsen, “ Norway to Host Biggest Exercise Inside Arctic Circle Since Cold War,” Barents Observer, April
14, 2021.
153 See, for example, David Auerswald, “A U.S. Security Strategy for the Arctic,” War on the Rocks, May 27, 2021;
T homas Grove, “ Russian Military Seeks to Outmuscle U.S. in Arctic,” Wall Street Journal, May 25,m 2021; T imothy
Greenhaw, Daniel L. Magruder Jr., Rodrick H. McHaty, and Michael Sinclair, US Military Options To Enhance Arctic
Defense
, Brookings Institution, May 2021, 15 pp.; Mark Magnier, “ A More Accessible Arctic Becomes Proving
Ground for US-China Military Jockeying,” South China Morning Post, May 3, 2021; C. T odd Lopez, “ U.S. Must Get
‘On the Field’ in Arctic to Defend National Interests T here,” DOD News, April 15, 2021; Christen McCurdy,
“NORT HCOM says U.S. must defend interests in the Arctic,” United Press International, April 15, 2021; John Grady,
“Panel: NAT O Needs to T ake Russian Offensive, Defensive Advances in Arctic Seriously ,” USNI News, July 1, 2020;
Jerry Hendrix, “ T he United States Must Defend Open Seas in the Arctic,” National Review, May 13, 2020; Mathieu
Boulegue, “Military Assets in the Arctic: A Russia-West Correlation of Forces,” Russia Matters, January 22, 2020.
154 See, for example, Dermot Cole, “T he US Writes, But Does Not Implement, Arctic Strategies,” Arctic Today,
January 13, 2020; John M. Doyle, “U.S. Lacks Ice Hardened Sh ips, Repair and Refueling Ports for Arctic Ops,”
Seapower, March 4, 2020; Ben Werner, “ Navy, Marines T ell Congress Emphasis on Arctic is Growing,” USNI News,
March 5, 2020.
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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, appearing alongside Austin,
said the 2022 budget request provides adequate investment “for right now.” But he said the
region will become “increasingly important geostrategically” and that DOD has little
choice but to “increase resourcing in the Arctic.”155
March 2021 Interim National Security Strategic Guidance Document
As mentioned earlier, an Interim National Security Strategic Guidance document released by the
Biden Administration in March 2021156 does not specifical y mention the Arctic.
January 2018 National Defense Strategy Document
An unclassified summary of the National Defense Strategy released by the Trump Administration
in January 2018157 does not specifical y mention the Arctic.
U.S. and Canada Plan to Update Warning Radars in Arctic
A February 27, 2021, press report states:
The U.S. and Canada plan to modernize a network of defense satellites and radar in the
Arctic, in a bid to counter a growing military presence in the north from Russia and China.
President Biden asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ramp up Canada’s
spending on defense, including an upgrade of the North American Aerospace Defense
Command, commonly known as Norad, during a bilateral meeting between the two leaders
on Tuesday [February 23], according to an official familiar with the discussions….
… On Friday [February 26], the U.S. State Department listed the defense system as one of
the priorities for the U.S. and Canadian bilateral relationship, ahead of a meeting between
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mr. Trudeau along with other senior
officials….
Norad also came up during a Jan. 22 call between the leaders, highlighting the importance
the U.S. is placing on the upgrade of a surveillance system that was first developed in the
1950s.158
April 2021 Agreement Regarding Bases in Norway
An April 19, 2021, press report states:

155 Brian W. Everstine, “ DOD Leaders Want More Arctic Funding, But Not Right Now,” Air Force Magazine, June 17,
2021. See also Greg Hadley, “ VanHerck: Services ‘Didn’t Move the Ball Very Far’ With Arctic Spending in 2022 ,”
Air Force Magazine, June 10, 2021.
156 White House, Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, March 2021, released on March 3, 2021, 23 pp.
157 Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America:
Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge
, January 2018, 11 pp.
158 Vipal Monga and Paul Vieira, “ Cold War-Era Defense System to Get Upgrade to Counter Russia, China,” Wall
Street Journal
, February 27, 2021. See also Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ USA and Canada Agree to Modernize NORAD,” High
North News
, February 24,2021; Levon Sevunt s, “ NORAD Modernization to Dominate Agenda of Canada-U.S.
Defence Relations, Experts Say,” Eye on the Arctic (Radio Canada International), February 5, (updated February 6),
2021. See also Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ NORAD, NORT HCOM Strategy Highlights Changing Strategic Environment in the
Arctic,” High North News, March 18, 2021; T om Yun, “ T hreats from Russia, China Underscore Need to Modernize
Norad: Expert ,” CTV News (Canada), March 30, 2021; Frank Wolfe, “ Modernization of North Warning System for
Arctic Needed, Hinote Says,” Defense Daily, July 27, 2021.
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American and NATO ships, submarines, and aircraft will soon come calling at a handful
of new ports and airfields in the Norwegian Arctic, thanks to a major new pact signed
Friday [April 16].
The Supplementary Defense Cooperation Agreement will allow the US to build
infrastructure at three air bases and a navy facility along the Norwegian coast to bolster
American and NATO allied operations in the Arctic and North Atlantic….
Once it’s approved, the US will be able to start building new facilities at the Rygge, Sola,
and Evenes airfields, along with the Ramsund navy base, while rotating troops and
contractors to those bases to maintain facilities and service US aircraft and ships.
The Ramsund facilities would mark the second base where American submarines and ships
can regularly resupply along Norway’s North Atlantic coast, following the expected
opening of the Tromso port even further north to American submarines in the coming
weeks after undergoing a major expansion effort last year….
The new work is likely to include facilities for P-8 surveillance planes and B-1 bombers,
which would use the bases as a launching pad to monitor Russian submarines sailing from
Northern Fleet’s main base on Kola peninsula, hard up against the Norwegian border.
The US government will pay for all facilities it builds on Norwegian soil, and won’t
permanently base any troops there, officials in Oslo were quick to point out. It’s a point the
Norwegian government has long stressed when talking about US Marine rotations to the
country for training.159
August 2020 Press Report About Marines in Norway
In August 2020, it was reported that a force of about 700 U.S. Marines that had been stationed in
Norway on a rotational basis since 2017 would be withdrawn, leaving only 20 Marines
permanently stationed there, and that in the future Marines would visit Norway in larger numbers
only in connection with exercises.160
Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Domain Awareness, and Communications
DOD and Coast Guard officials have stated that recent U.S. military operations in the Arctic have
highlighted a need for improved capabilities for conducting surveil ance and reconnaissance in
the region, so as to support improved domain awareness (i.e., real-time or near-real-time
awareness of military and other activities taking place across the region), and for improved
communication abilities, because existing U.S. military communications systems were designed
to support operations in lower latitudes rather than in the polar regions. A September 21, 2020,
press report states:
The United States and its allies have been chilling out this summer, but experts and officials
say something has been missing that prevents them from making the most of the
experience….
… according to analysts, governments and a senior former military official, the Western
coalition lacks adequate surveillance and intelligence in the region.

159 Paul McLeary, “ Norway, US Bolster Russian Sub Watching With New Bases,” Breaking Defense, April 19, 2021.
See also Chad Garland, “ US Can Build Military Facilities in Norway Under New Defense Cooperation Pact,” Stars and
Stripes
, April 16, 2021; T homas Nilsen, “ U.S. Navy Will Build Airport Infrastructure in Northern Norway to Meet
Upped Russian Submarine Presence,” Barents Observer, April 16, 2021; T erje Solsvik and Nerijus Adomaitis,
“Norway to Allow U.S. Military to Build on Its Soil in New Accord,” Reuters, April 16, 2021.
160 See, for example, Atle Staalesen, “Most US Marines Based in Norway Will Leave T his Fall,” Arctic Today, August
6, 2020.
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“We have significant domain awareness challenges, and that really begins in the high
latitudes,” former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told a virtual
audience at the 2020 Defense News Conference, which took place Sept. 9-10. “Things start
to get pretty dark once you get up higher than 72 degrees north.”…
To illustrate the issue, Zukunft said the Coast Guard recently made a stunning discovery in
the Arctic—something for which the service should have received early warning from
intelligence officials.
“We sent a national security cutter to patrol that region in a relatively ice-free portion of
the season,” Zukunft recounted. “And we stumbled upon a joint exercise between Russia
and China. Our intelligence community did not have awareness that this was going on. So
we were the originators of this information and otherwise we would not have known. We
need to continue to invest in domain awareness.”
Zukunft posited that it should be possible to identify high-threat locations in the Arctic
region and send assets to monitor those areas. That would be more effective than trying to
saturate the whole region with air and surface assets, he said.161
U.S. military services are starting to take actions to address the need for improved surveil ance
and reconnaissance, domain awareness, and communications in the Arctic.162
Impact of Warmer Temperatures on U.S. Military Bases in Alaska
An August 9, 2020, press report about the impact of warmer temperatures on U.S. military bases
in Alaska stated
When warming temperatures melted the frozen ground under the munitions repair facility
here [Eielson Air Force Base] years ago, the foundation shifted, causing deep cracks to
spread across the thick concrete walls.
Over time, the repair bay for missiles and other explosives began to separate from the floor,
forcing the 12-foot blast-proof doors out of alignment so they could not be properly closed,
according to Defense Department documents and interviews with base construction
officials.
Then the entire facility, built on a sloping hillside and hidden in a patch of dense trees,
started slowly sliding toward the base of 10,000 people working and living below….
The detrimental effect of global warming is pushing up the cost of ongoing operations at
three of Alaska’s four major U.S. military bases: Eielson [Air Force Base], Fort
Wainwright and Clear Air Force Base. All are located in the warming south-central swath
of Alaska where patchwork or “discontinuous” permafrost exists and is prone to melting.
Military planners have requested more than $1 billion over five years to fund construction
needed to keep the three bases operational and to support the employees and families who

161 David B. Larter, “ T he Arctic Is a Strategic Hot Spot, but Western Allies Lack Good Intel,” Defense News,
September 21, 2020.
162 See, for example, Bill Liquori and Iris Ferguson, “How the US Space Force Plans to Improve Arctic
Communication,” C4ISRNet, July 14, 2021; William McCormick, “ NORT HCOM, NORAD Request $80M Budget for
T esting of Arctic Communication Satellites,” ExecutiveBiz, June 11, 2021; Nathan Strout, “ NORAD, NORT HCOM
Want $80 Million to T est SpaceX and OneWeb in the Arctic,” C4ISRNet, June 10, 2021; Frank Wolfe, “ 10 Starlink
Satellites to Enhance Arctic Communications for NORT HCOM,” Defense Daily, April 15, 2021; T heresa Hitchens,
“AFRL, NORT HCOM Eye Commercial Internet Sats For Arctic,” Breaking Defense, March 3, 2021; Frank Wolfe,
“Air Force Envisions Improved Communications and Sensor Capabilities for Arctic,” Defense Daily, October 5, 2020;
Joseph T revithick, “ The Navy Is Building A Network Of Drone Submarines And Sensor Buoys In T he Arctic,” The
Drive
, October 1, 2020.
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work and live on them, according to a Howard Center for Investigative Journalism analysis
of military service construction requests submitted to Congress from fiscal year 2015-2020.
While only a portion of that spending was for climate-related work, that portion is expected
to grow.163
June 2021 DOD Creation of Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies
A June 9, 2021, DOD News article states:
The Defense Department announced today the creation of a new DOD center to focus on
issues related to the Arctic.
The Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies will be the sixth such regional c enter
for the department, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a briefing today at
the Pentagon.
“The Ted Stevens Center will provide a new venue to collaborate across the U.S.
government and with our allies and partners to advance shared interests for a peaceful and
prosperous Arctic,” Kirby said. “Defense Department regional centers are international
academic venues for bilateral and multilateral research, communication and training, with
the goal of building strong, sustainable, international networks of security leaders.”164
FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283)
The FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021;
conference report H.Rept. 116-617 of December 3, 2020) includes a number of provisions
relating to the Arctic, including the following:
Section 905, which directs the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International
Security Affairs to assign responsibility for the Arctic region to the Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere or any other Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense the Secretary of Defense considers appropriate.
Section 1045, which directs the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff to continue assessing potential multidomain risks in the
Arctic, identifying capability and capacity gaps in the current and projected
force, and planning for and implementing the training, equipping, and doctrine
requirements necessary to mitigate such risks and gaps, and authorizes the
Secretary to conduct research and development on the current and future
requirements and needs of the Armed Forces for operations in the Arctic.
Section 1089, which directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination, with the
Secretary of State, to submit a plan to establish a DOD Regional Center for
Security Studies for the Arctic, and authorizes the Secretary, subject to the
availability of appropriations, to establish and administer such a center, to be
known as the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies.

163 Sara Karlovitch, Luciana Perez-Uribe, Julia Lerner, and Lindsey Collins, “Global Warming Is Having a Costly, and
Dangerous, Impact on Key Military Bases in Alaska,” Seattle Tim es, August 9, 2020. See also Brian W. Everstine,
“Climate Change Will Guide How the Air Force Builds Arctic Infrastructure,” Air Force Magazine, November 20,
2020; Rhemi Marlatt , “ T he Intersection of U.S. Military Infrastructure & Alaskan Permafrost T hrough the 21st
Century,” Arctic Institute, October 27, 2020.
164 Department of Defense news release, “ DOD Announces Center to Collaborate on, Advance Shared Interests in
Arctic Region,” DOD News, June 9, 2021. See also Department of Defense, “ The Department of Defense Announces
Establishment of Arctic Regional Center,” June 9, 2021.
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Section 1208, which directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the
Secretary of State, to submit, within 90 days of enactment of the FY2021
National Defense Authorization Act, a plan to establish a Department of Defense
Regional Center for Security Studies for the Arctic, and authorizes the Secretary
of Defense, not earlier than 30 days after the plan is submitted, and subject to the
availability of appropriations, to establish and administer a Department of
Defense Regional Center for Security Studies for the Arctic, to be known as the
“Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies.”
Division G of H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 is the Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act
of 2020, which includes the following additional provisions relating to the Arctic:
Section 8421, which makes a number of findings regarding the strategic
importance of the Arctic and expresses the sense of the Congress regarding the
strategic importance of the Arctic and on actions the Coast Guard should take to
better align its mission prioritization and development of capabilities to meet the
growing array of chal enges in the region.
Section 8422, which directs the Coast Guard to engage directly with local coastal
whaling and fishing communities in the Arctic region when conducting the
Alaskan Arctic Coast Port Access Route Study.
Section 8424, which directs the Coast Guard to shal submit a report setting forth
the results of a study on the Arctic capabilities of the Armed Forces, and to enter
into a contract with an appropriate federal y funded research and development
center for the conduct of the study.
Section 8425, which directs the Coast Guard to submit a report on the Coast
Guard’s search and rescue capabilities in Arctic coastal communities.
H.R. 4135 and S. 2294 of 117th Congress
 H.R. 4135 and S. 2294 of 117th Congress, referred to as the Arctic Security
Initiative Act of 2021, would “requir[e] the Department of Defense (DOD) to
conduct a security assessment of the Arctic region and establish an Arctic
Security Initiative (ASI) with a five-year plan to fully resource the DOD and
individual service-specific strategies for the Arctic that have been released over
the past several years. U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) would lead
the independent assessment in coordination with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
(USINDOPACOM) and U.S. European Command USEUCOM).”165
Navy and Coast Guard
Overview
The Navy has increased deployments of attack submarines and surface ships to the Arctic for
exercises and other operations.166 Many of the Navy’s attack submarines are ice-hardened and

165 T he bill’s title of the Arctic Security Initiative Act of 2021 and the quoted summary of what the bill wold require are
taken from Office of Senator Dan Sullivan, “ Sullivan, King, Gallagher & Luria Launch Arctic Security Initiative Act ,”
press release dat ed June 24, 2021, accessed July 16, 2021, at https://www.sullivan.senate.gov/newsroom/press-
releases/sullivan-king-gallagher-and-luria-launch-arctic-security-initiative-act.
166 See, for example, Diana Stancy Correll, “Destroyer Ross T reks into the Barents Sea’s Arctic Waters—Again,” Navy
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capable of surfacing through thinner Arctic ice. The Coast Guard annual y deploys a polar
icebreaker, other cutters, and aircraft into the region to perform various Coast Guard missions and
to better understand the implications of operating such units there. Key points relating to the
Navy and Coast Guard in the Arctic that have emerged in recent years include the following:
 The diminishment of Arctic ice is creating new operating areas in the Arctic for
Navy surface ships and Coast Guard cutters.
 U.S. national security interests in the Arctic include “such matters as missile
defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic
sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations;
and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.”167
 Search and rescue (SAR) in the Arctic is a mission of increasing importance,
particularly for the Coast Guard, and one that poses potential y significant
operational chal enges;
 Navy officials have stated that they do not see a strong near-term need for
building ice-hardened surface ships and deploying them into the Atlantic, but
acknowledge that such a need might emerge in the longer run.168
 More complete and detailed information on the Arctic as an operating area is
needed to more properly support expanded Navy and Coast Guard ship and
aircraft operations in the region.
 The Navy and the Coast Guard currently have limited infrastructure in place in
the Arctic to support expanded ship and aircraft operations in the Arctic.169
 Cooperation with other Arctic countries wil be valuable in achieving defense and
homeland security goals.
2018 Reestablishment of 2nd Fleet for North Atlantic and Arctic
In May 2018, the Navy announced that it would reestablish the 2nd Fleet, which was the Navy’s
fleet during the Cold War for countering Soviet naval forces in the North Atlantic. The fleet’s
formal reestablishment occurred in August 2018. The 2nd Fleet was created in 1950 and

Tim es, October 21, 2020; T homas Nilsen, “ U.S. Warship Returns to Barents Sea,” Barents Observer, October 20, 2020;
John Vandiver, “ For the T hird T ime T his Year, a Navy Destroyer Enters the Barents Sea,” Stars and Stripes, October
20, 2020; Caleb Larson, “ T he U.S. Navy Wants to Make Sure It Can T ake on Russia in the Arctic,” National Interest,
October 7, 2020; Christopher Woody, “ A US Navy Destroyer T eamed Up with Canada’s Navy to Learn How to
Operate in Harsh Arctic Conditions,” Business Insider, September 17, 2020; Caitlin M. Kenney, “ US Participates in
Arctic Exercise as Region Sees Increased Military Activity from Russia and China,” Military.com , August 4, 2020;
Christopher Woody, “ With Russia Keeping Watch, US Navy Subs Ventured Back to the High North to T rain Where
T here’s ‘No Safe Haven,’” Business Insider, June 10, 2020.
167 NSPD 66/HSPD 25, Section III B.
168 See, for example, Ben Werner, “Arleigh Burke Destroyers Are More Viable Option for Near -T erm Navy Presence
in Arctic,” USNI News, September 18, 2019; Megan Eckstein, “ CNO: Arctic Operations Limited Now, But Future Ship
Designs Should Consider Environment,” USNI News, September 12, 2016.
169 See, for example, Christopher Woody, “The Navy Is Putting ‘T he Proper Equipment’ Back on Its Ships to Operate
in Harsh Arctic Conditions,” Business Insider, August 8, 2020; Andrew Eversden, “Failure to Communicate: US Navy
Seeks Faster Data T ransfers amid Arctic Ice,” Defense News, May 12, 2020; Nathan Strout, “ SpaceX Could Fill the US
Military’s Arctic Communications Gap by the End of T his Year,” C4ISRNet, May 4, 2020; Geoff Ziezulewicz,
“Welcome to the Arctic: Degraded Radios, Poor Satellite Geometry and Sea Charts Dating Back to Capt. Cook,” Navy
Tim es
, September 19, 2019.
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disestablished in September 2011. In its newly reestablished form, it is described as focusing on
countering Russian naval forces not only in the North Atlantic but in the Arctic as wel .170
2019 Announcement of Potential Freedom of Navigation (FON) Operation
In January 2019, the Navy announced that “in coming months” it would send a Navy warship
through Arctic waters on a freedom of navigation (FON) operation to assert U.S. navigational
rights under international law in Arctic waters.171 The U.S. government’s FON program was
established in 1979 and annual y includes multiple U.S. Navy FON operations conducted in
various parts of the world.172 The announced FON operation in the Arctic, however, would
reportedly be the Navy’s first ever FON operation in the Arctic. Some observers have expressed
concern about a potential increase in regional tensions that could result from the United States
conducting an FON operation in Arctic waters.173
Polar Icebreaking174
Polar Icebreaker Operations and Current Polar Icebreaker Fleet
Within the U.S. government, the Coast Guard is the U.S. agency responsible for polar
icebreaking. U.S. polar ice operations conducted in large part by the Coast Guard’s polar
icebreakers support 9 of the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions.175 The roles of U.S. polar
icebreakers can be summarized as follows:
 conducting and supporting scientific research in the Arctic and Antarctic;

170 See, for example, Christopher Woody, “The US Navy’s Newest Fleet Is Bulking Up for ‘Leaner, Agile’ Operations
to Counter Russia in the Atlantic and the Arctic,” Business Insider, January 18, 2019; Patricia Kime, “T he Navy Isd
gearing Up for ‘Leaner, Agile’ Operations in Arctic, North Atlantic,” Military.com, January 16, 2019; Rich Abott, “2nd
Fleet T o Be Fully Operational in 2019, Sees Real Russian T hreat,” Defense Daily, December 3, 2018; Sam LaGrone,
“U.S. 2nd Fleet Racing T oward a 2019 Operational Capability,” USNI News, November 29, 2018; Paul McLeary, “New
Second Fleet T o Stay Lean, Unpredictable, Commander Says; & Watching China,” Breaking Defense, November 29,
2018; Sam LaGrone, “ CNO: New 2nd Fleet Boundary Will Extend North to the Edge of Russian Waters,” USNI News,
August 24, 2018.
171 See, for example, Ben Kesling, “Cold War Games: U.S. Is Preparing to T est the Waters in Icy Arctic,” Wall Street
Journal
, January 11, 2019; Samuel Osborne, “ US Navy to Sail Warship T hrough Arctic Waters in Show of Strength to
Russia and China,” Independent (UK), January 14, 2019. See also Megan Eckstein “Navy May Deploy Surface Ships
to Arctic T his Summer as Shipping Lanes Open Up,” USNI News, January 8, 2019; Malte Humpert , “ U.S. Navy Plans
to Send Surface Vessels T hrough Arctic,” High North News, March 11, 2019.
172 For background information on the FON program, see the section entitled “ Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program”
in CRS Report R42784, U.S.-China Strategic Com petition in South and East China Seas: Background and Issues for
Congress
.
173 See, for example, Rebecca Pincus, “ Rushing Navy Ships into the Arctic for a FONOP is Dangerous,” U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings
, January 2019; Hilde-Gunn Bye, “ U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operation in the Arctic: ‘Would
Be a High-Risk Gesture with Unpredictable Consequences,’” High North News, September 11, 2020.
174 T his section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and T rade
Division. For more on the Coast Guard’s polar icebreakers, see CRS Report RL34391, Coast Guard Polar Security
Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program : Background and Issues for Congress
.
175 T he nine missions supported by polar ice operations are search and rescue; maritime safety; aids to navigation; ice
operations; marine environmental protection; living marine resources; ot her law enforcement (protect the exclusive
economic zone [EEZ]); ports, waterways and costal security; and defense readiness. T he two missions not supported by
polar ice operations are illegal drug interdiction and undocumented migrant interdiction. (Depar tment of Homeland
Security, Polar Icebreaking Recapitalization Project Mission Need Statem ent, Version 1.0 , approved by DHS June 28,
2013, p. 10.)
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 defending U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic by helping to maintain a U.S. presence
in U.S. territorial waters in the region;
 defending other U.S. interests in polar regions, including economic interests in
waters that are within the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) north of Alaska;
 monitoring sea traffic in the Arctic, including ships bound for the United States;
and
 conducting other typical Coast Guard missions (such as search and rescue, law
enforcement, and protection of marine resources) in Arctic waters, including U.S.
territorial waters north of Alaska.176
The Coast Guard’s large icebreakers are cal ed polar icebreakers rather than Arctic icebreakers
because they perform missions in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Operations to support National
Science Foundation (NSF) research activities in both polar regions account for a significant
portion of U.S. polar icebreaker operations.
The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker,
Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, Healy. In addition to Polar Star, the Coast Guard
has a second heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Sea. Polar Sea, however, suffered an engine casualty
in June 2010 and has been nonoperational since then. Polar Star and Polar Sea entered service in
1976 and 1978, respectively, and are now wel beyond their original y intended 30-year service
lives. The Coast Guard in recent years has used Polar Sea as a source of spare parts for keeping
Polar Star operational.
Providing support for NSF’s research in the Antarctic focuses on performing an annual mission,
cal ed Operation Deep Freeze (ODF), to break through Antarctic sea ice so as to reach and
resupply McMurdo Station, the large U.S. Antarctic research station located on the shore of
McMurdo Sound, near the Ross Ice Shelf. The Coast Guard states that Polar Star, the Coast
Guard’s only currently operational heavy polar icebreaker, “spends the [northern hemisphere]
winter [i.e., the southern hemisphere summer] breaking ice near Antarctica in order to refuel and
resupply McMurdo Station. When the mission is complete, the Polar Star returns to dry dock [in
Seattle] in order to complete critical maintenance and prepare it for the next ODF mission. Once
out of dry dock, it’s back to Antarctica, and the cycle repeats itself.”177 In terms of the maximum
thickness of the ice to be broken, the annual McMurdo resupply mission general y poses the
greatest icebreaking chal enge for U.S. polar icebreakers, though Arctic ice can frequently pose
its own significant icebreaking chal enges for U.S. polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard’s medium
polar icebreaker, Healy, spends most of its operational time in the Arctic supporting NSF research
activities and performing other operations.
Although polar ice is diminishing due to climate change, observers general y expect that this
development wil not eliminate the need for U.S. polar icebreakers, and in some respects might
increase mission demands for them. Even with the diminishment of polar ice, there are stil
significant ice-covered areas in the polar regions, and diminishment of polar ice could lead in
coming years to increased commercial cargo ship, cruise ship, research ship, and naval surface

176 T his passage, beginning with “T he roles of …,” originated in an earlier iteration of this CRS report and wa s later
transferred by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with minor changes to Government Accountability
Office, Coast Guard[:]Efforts to Identify Arctic Requirem ents Are Ongoing, but More Com m unication about Agency
Planning Efforts Would Be Beneficial
, GAO-10-870, September 2010, p. 53.
177 NyxoLyno Cangemi, “Coast Guard Icebreaker Crew Completes Second Arctic Mission; U.S. Interests in Arctic
Domain Depends [sic] on Fleet Recapitalization,” DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution System ), October
19, 2018.
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ship operations, as wel as increased exploration for oil and other resources, in the Arctic—
activities that could require increased levels of support from polar icebreakers, particularly since
waters described as “ice free” can actual y stil have some amount of ice.178 Changing ice
conditions in Antarctic waters have made the McMurdo resupply mission more chal enging since
2000.179
Polar Security Cutter (PSC) Program
A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Mission Need Statement (MNS) approved in June
2013 states that “current requirements and future projections ... indicate the Coast Guard wil
need to expand its icebreaking capacity, potential y requiring a fleet of up to six icebreakers (3
heavy and 3 medium) to adequately meet mission demands in the high latitudes.... ”180
The Coast Guard in its FY2013 budget initiated a program to acquire three new heavy polar
icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar
icebreakers. The program was original y referred to as the polar icebreaker program but is now
referred to as the Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program.
The Coast Guard estimates the total procurement costs of the new three heavy PSCs as $1,039
mil ion (i.e., about $1.0 bil ion) for the first ship, $792 mil ion for the second ship, and $788
mil ion for the third ship, for a combined estimated cost of $2,619 mil ion (i.e., about $2.6
bil ion). The first ship wil cost more than the other two because it wil incorporate design costs
for the class and be at the start of the production learning curve for the class.
The PSC program has received a total of $1,754.6 mil ion (i.e., about $1.8 bil ion) in procurement
funding through FY2021. With the funding the program has received through FY2021, the first
two PSCs are now fully funded.
Search and Rescue (SAR)181
Overview
Increasing sea and air traffic through Arctic waters has increased concerns regarding Arctic-area
search and rescue (SAR) capabilities.182 Table 1 presents figures on ship casualties in Arctic
Circle waters from 2005 to 2019. As shown in the table, the number of ship casualties in Arctic
waters since 2009 has ranged between about 40 and 70, most of which are caused by damage to

178 For more on changes in the Arctic due to diminishment of Arctic ice, see CRS Report R41153, Changes in the
Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
.
179 National Research Council, Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World, An Assessment of U.S. Needs, Washington,
2007, pp. 6-7, 14, 63.
180 Department of Homeland Security, Polar Icebreaking Recapitalization Project Mission Need Statement, Version
1.0
, approved by DHS June 28, 2013, p. 9.
181 T his section prepared by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and T rade
Division.
182 See, for example, Romain Chuffart, “French and Danish Navies Hold Joint SAR Exercises in Greenland’s Waters,”
High North News, September 6, 2019; “ Arctic Search and Rescue May Face Challenges,” Cruise Industry News, June
27, 2019; Robbie Gramer, “Stretched T hin on T hin Ice; With the Arctic Melting and Norther Coast Guards Struggling
to Keep Up, the Next Disaster Is a Matter of When, Not If,” Foreign Policy, September 12, 2018; Edward Struzik, “ As
Ice Recedes, the Arctic Isn’t Prepared for More Shipping T raffic,” phys.org, September 5, 2018; Derek Minemyer,
“Arctic Council Members Say Alaska Needs Search and Rescue in the Arctic, Now,” KTUU, August 16, 2018;
T imothy William James Smith, Search and Rescue in the Arctic: Is the U.S. Prepared? RAND Corporation, 2017, 148
pp. (Dissertation report RGSD-382.)
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or failure of ship machinery, the wrecking or stranding (grounding) of ships, or fires or explosions
on ships.
Table 1. Ship Casualties in Arctic Circle Waters, 2005-2019
(Ships of 100 gross tons or more)

2005
2006 2007 2008
2009 2010
2011 2012
2013
2014
2015 2016
2017
2018
2019
Machinery
damage/failure
2
3
5
13
14
16
12
13
20
27
45
32
46
23
14
Wrecked/
stranded
1
4
10
11
14
9
9
8
10
14
6
11
9
7
6
Fire/explosion
0
0
3
1
2
6
6
1
4
2
4
1
3
6
8
Col ision
0
0
0
1
4
10
4
4
2
0
3
2
4
2
3
Contact (e.g.,
harbor wal )
0
0
1
1
2
4
1
3
6
4
5
1
1
0
1
Hul damage
0
1
3
1
6
2
2
1
2
1
1
2
2
0
0
Foundered
(i.e., sunk or
0
0
1
1
2
0
3
1
1
2
0
1
0
1
1
submerged)
Labor dispute
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
Miscel aneous
0
0
5
1
4
4
2
6
5
5
6
4
6
4
8
Total
3
8
28
30
48
51
39
37
50
55
70
55
71
43
41
Sources: Al ianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Safety and Shipping Review 2015, p. 28. (Table entitled “Arctic
Circle Waters—Al Casualties including Total Losses 2005–2014.”); Al ianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Safety
and Shipping Review 2018
, p. 29. (Table entitled “Arctic Circle Waters—Causes of Casualties (Shipping Incidents)
2008-2017.”): Al ianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Safety and Shipping Review 2020, p. 33. (Table entitled
“Incidents In Arctic Circle Waters.”) The tables include similar source notes; the one for the third source states
“Source: Lloyd’s List Intel igence Casualty Statistics; Data Analysis & Graphic: Al ianz Global Corporate &
Specialty.”)
Given the location of current U.S. Coast Guard operating bases, it could take Coast Guard aircraft
several hours, and Coast Guard cutters days or even weeks, to reach a ship in distress or a downed
aircraft in Arctic waters. The Coast Guard states that “the closest Coast Guard Air Station to the
Arctic is located in Kodiak, AK, approximately 820 nautical miles south of Utqiagvik, AK, which
is nearly the same distance as from Boston, MA, to Miami, FL.”183 In addition to such long
distances, the harsh climate complicates SAR operations in the region.
A 2017 survey of Arctic SAR capabilities conducted as part of the Finnish Border Guard’s Arctic
Maritime Safety Cooperation project in cooperation with the Arctic Coast Guard Forum stated the
following:
The key challenges for Arctic search and rescue identified in this survey include long
distances, severe weather, ice and cold conditions, a poor communications network, lack
of infrastructure and lack of resource presence in the region. In addition, the capacity to
host patients, achieving situational awareness, and unsuitable evacuation and survival
equipment pose major challenges for maritime safety and SAR in the Arctic.
The Arctic SAR authorities have recognized a need to further develop advanced
information sharing between coast guards, emergency authorities, and other stakeholders

183 Coast Guard, Arctic Strategic Outlook, April 2019, p. 11.
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involved in SAR operations. In addition, joint training and systematic sharing of lessons
learned, as well as technological innovation in communications networks and connections,
navigation, survival and rescue equipment, and healthcare services are being called for in
order to improve SAR capabilities in the Arctic.
The survey recommends enhancing practical cooperation between various stakeholders
involved in Arctic SAR such as coast guards, rescue centers, other authorities, industry
groups, private operators, academia and volunteer organizations. It encourages further
information sharing on infrastructure projects and resource assets, Automatic Identification
System and weather data, emergency plans and standard operating procedures, as well as
exercises and lessons learned via a common database. Furthermore, developing joint
courses specifically intended for Arctic SAR and establishing a working group that
examines new innovations and technological developments, are recommended as potential
initiatives for improving practical international cooperation.184
Particular concern has been expressed about cruise ships carrying large numbers of civilian
passengers that may experience problems and need assistance.185 There have already been
incidents of this kind with cruise ships in recent years in waters off Antarctica, and a Russian-
flagged passenger ship with 162 people on board ran aground on Canada’s Northwest Passage on
August 24, 2018.186 A 2020 report from Al ianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) states:
Last year’s [2019’s] engine failure incident involving the cruise ship demonstrates how
such events could quickly turn into a major disaster, particularly if they occur in remote
waters such as the Arctic, where a growing number of such vessels are expected to operate
in future.
In March 2019, the Viking Sky cruise ship suffered engine failure with 1,373 people on
board when sailing from Tromsø to Stavanger in Norway when it hit bad weather. The
vessel, which narrowly avoided grounding, was left without power or propulsion and had
to rely on rescue helicopters to evacuate passengers as sea conditions did not allow for the
use of lifeboats or tugs….
“The incident with the Viking Sky clearly shows how a problem with engines or fuel could
quickly turn into a major disaster,” says Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head of Marine
Risk Consulting at AGCS. “This incident is a reminder of the importance to have the right
amount of fuel and lubrication oil on board and that it is not impacted by the running of the
vessel in heavy weather. Otherwise the consequences can be dire, including grounding,
sinking or foundering.”
The incident is also a wake-up call for cruise ships operating in polar waters, raising
questions for emergency response capabilities. Had such an incident happened in the
Arctic, a rapid rescue response would most likely not have been possible.187

184 Emmi Ikonen, Arctic Search and Rescue Capabilities Survey: Enhancing International Cooperation 2017 , Finnish
Border Guard, Arctic Maritime Safety Cooperation (SARC) project, August 2017, p. iv. See also Finnish Red Cross,
Red Cross Arctic Disaster Managem ent Study, August 2018, 71 pp.
185 See, for example, Ken Potter, “Passenger Vessels and the Canadian Arctic: A Risky Combination?” Maritime
Executive
, June 9, 2021; Jane George, “ Exercise Held to Prepare for Arctic Cruise Ship Mishap,” Nunatsiaq News,
April 15, 2019; Brian Castner, “How to Rescue a Cruise Ship in the Northwest Passage,” Motherboard (Vice), October
24, 2017; Henry Fountain, “With More Ships in the Arctic, Fears of Disaster Rise,” New York Times, July 23, 2017;
Gwladys Fouche, “ Uncharted Waters: Mega-Cruise Ships Sail the Arctic,” Reuters, October 10, 2016; Abbie T ingstad
and T imothy Smith, “Being Safer in the Arctic,” National Interest, October 3, 2016.
186 Malte Humpert, “A Cruise Ship Runs Aground in Canada’s Arctic Waters; T he Akademik Ioffe’s Sister Ship Was
Nearby, and T ogether with Canadian Coast guard Ships, Was Able to Rescue All Passengers,” Arctic Today, August
28, 2018.
187 Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, Safety and Shipping Review 2020, p. 32.
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Coast Guard officials have noted the long times that would be needed to respond to potential
emergency situations in certain parts the Arctic. The Coast Guard is participating in exercises
focused on improving Arctic SAR capabilities.188 Increasing U.S. Coast Guard SAR capabilities
for the Arctic could require one or more of the following: enhancing or creating new Coast Guard
operating bases in the region; procuring additional Arctic-capable aircraft, cutters, and rescue
boats for the Coast Guard; and adding systems to improve Arctic maritime communications,
navigation, and domain awareness.189 It may also entail enhanced forms of cooperation with
navies and coast guards of other Arctic countries.
May 2011 Arctic Council Agreement on Arctic SAR
On May 12, 2011, representatives from the member states of the Arctic Council, meeting in
Nuuk, Greenland, signed an agreement on cooperation on aeronautical and maritime SAR in the
Arctic. Key features of the agreement include the following:
 Article 3 and the associated Annex to the agreement essential y divide the Arctic
into SAR areas within which each party has primary responsibility for
conducting SAR operations, stating that “the delimitation of search and rescue
regions is not related to and shal not prejudice the delimitation of any boundary
between States or their sovereignty, sovereign rights or jurisdiction,” and that
“each Party shal promote the establishment, operation and maintenance of an
adequate and effective search and rescue capability within its area.”
 Article 4 and the associated Appendix I to the agreement identify the competent
authority for each party. For the United States, the competent authority is the
Coast Guard.
 Article 5 and the associated Appendix II to the agreement identify the agencies
responsible for aeronautical and maritime SAR for each party. For the United
States, those agencies are the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense.
 Article 6 and the associated Appendix III to the agreement identify the
aeronautical and/or maritime rescue coordination centers (RCCs) for each party.
For the United States, the RCCs are Joint Rescue Coordination Center Juneau
(JRCC Juneau) and Aviation Rescue Coordination Center Elmendorf (ARCC
Elmendorf).
 Article 12 states that “unless otherwise agreed, each Party shal bear its own costs
deriving from its implementation of this Agreement,” and that “implementation
of this Agreement shal be subject to the availability of relevant resources.”190

188 See, for example, Jane George, “ Arctic Reps Practise Response to Maritime Emergency,” Nunatsiaq News, April
17, 2021; Eilís Quinn, “ Arctic Guardian Exercise 2021 Underway to T est Joint Emergency Marine Response,” Barents
Observer
, April 13, 2021; Melody Schreiber, “ Arctic Disaster Responders T rain T ogether in a First-of-Its-Kind Joint
Exercise,” Arctic Today, April 15, 2021.
189 For a report assessing certain emergency scenarios in the Arctic, including search and rescue scenarios, see Opening
the Arctic Seas, Envisioning Disasters and Fram ing Solutions
, Coastal Response and Research Center, University of
New Hampshire, report of January 2009, based on conference held March 18 -20, 2008, at Durham, NH.
190 Source: T ext of final version of agreement made ready for signing and dated April 21, 2011, accessed April 8, 2 021,
at https://oaarchive.arctic-council.org/bitstream/handle/11374/531/EDOCS-1910-v1-
ACMMDK07_Nuuk_2011_Arctic_SAR_Agreement_unsigned_EN.PDF? sequence=8&isAllowed=y. For a State
Department fact sheet on the agreement, see “ Secretary Clinton Signs the Arct ic Search and Rescue Agreement with
Other Arctic Nations,” May 12, 2011, accessed April 8, 2021, at https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/05/
163285.htm.
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