The attempt by the United States to compete with Russia in the Arctic runs into a significant difference in material resources (America has 2 icebreakers against 40 in Russia), but what is much more important - the Russians have a much more professional approach to the development of the endless expanses of the Arctic Ocean.
In a recent article in The National Interest, the translation of which is published on the website inosmi.ru, American journalist Michael Lyons ponders why Washington is so far behind its rivals in a region that plays a key role in the politics of world powers.
According to the author of the article, the strategic struggle with China and Russia has become an important aspect of the US Arctic strategy, although five years ago America had nothing to do with this.
“The United States has a wide range of interconnected national security interests that relate to the Arctic region ... The Arctic is a potential corridor for strategic rivalry. The Arctic is a potential playground for aggression and expanded rivalry between major powers, spanning the space between two key regions - the Indo-Pacific / Europe and the United States. The interests of the United States include maintaining flexibility to project global power, including by ensuring freedom of navigation and flight, and limiting the ability of China and Russia to use the region as a competitive corridor that will allow them to advance their strategic goals through aggressive behavior. " - such a conclusion was made in the Report of the Department of Defense on the Arctic strategy, presented to the US Congress in June 2019.
Although changes in the global economy and climate have forced American policymakers to take a closer look at the Arctic region, today the United States is clearly lagging behind the main world players in this part of the globe. The same Russia has not only 38 more icebreakers than the United States, but by 2035 another 13 newest nuclear-powered ships will be added to them. Russia is the undisputed leader in this area, but the United States lags behind other smaller players as well.
“Having demonstrated their commitment to an operational presence, Canada, Denmark and Norway have already made strategic investments in the construction of patrol ships with icebreaking capabilities ... The United States is the only Arctic nation that has not made such investments in surface ships with icebreaking capabilities to ensure safety at sea.” - said in the document on the strategic prospects of the US Coast Guard from April 2019.
The long-term global hegemony of the United States has played a trick on them. By paying too much attention to the situation in the Middle East and coming together in a deadly clinch with China, the United States overlooked the booming Arctic region.
But even fighting with China, and constantly monitoring the actions of Beijing, the Americans managed to miss the northern ambitions of the Celestial Empire.
“In January 2018, China proclaimed itself a 'near-Arctic state' - which made the cartographic community laugh - and began to prepare for the implementation of its Polar Silk Road initiative. The strategic importance of the economic opportunities offered by the Arctic is not yet fully understood, but it is already clear that China has declared its determined desire to become an important player in a relatively exclusive game. As with the Belt and Road Initiative, China will use the investment as its ticket to the show - in 2013, China was granted observer status at the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum dedicated to Arctic cooperation (United States, Canada , Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Russian Federation) in the Arctic, ”the article says.
According to Lyons, the Arctic is not only a "potential corridor for strategic rivalry" and not only "a potential platform for expanded rivalry among major powers." This game has already begun, and American politicians are lagging behind their counterparts in other countries in responding to this threat.
“Until now, the United States turned a blind eye to China's ambitions in virtually every region of the world. These ambitions of China were aimed at the Arctic as well, and in order to prevent Russia and China from dictating the rules of the game in the entire Arctic region, America must properly prepare to defend its interests there, ”the author of the article writes.
The expert is convinced that if China and Russia join forces to carry out joint activities in the Arctic, this ratio will be 42 icebreakers against eight, that is, the advantage will be on the side of Moscow and Beijing. And if the Pentagon believes its mission in the Arctic is to “limit the ability of China and Russia to use this region as a rivalry corridor that will enable them to advance their strategic goals,” then it is completely unprepared for this mission.