News / USA

As Arctic Ice Melts, US Military Adapting Strategy, Forces

Reuters
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Friday the Pentagon's first Arctic strategy to guide changes in military planning as rapidly thawing ice reshapes global commerce and energy exploration, possibly raising tensions along the way.

Ice on the Arctic Ocean shrank last year to its lowest levels since satellite observations began in the 1970s, and many experts expect it will vanish in summers by mid-century due to climate change.

As the sea ice thaws, ships are increasingly using a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and competition is intensifying for Arctic oil and gas, estimated at about 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively, of undiscovered reserves.

Hagel, addressing a security forum in Canada, said the military would “evolve” its infrastructure and capabilities and would keep defending U.S. sovereignty in and around Alaska while working to help ensure freedom of the seas.

Part of strategy would also include bolstering U.S. military ties with fellow Arctic nations, including Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the Arctic as crucial to Russia's economic future and security, and has redeployed forces to the region.

“Throughout human history, mankind has raced to discover the next frontier. And time after time, discovery was swiftly followed by conflict,” said Hagel.

“We cannot erase this history. But we can assure that history does not repeat itself in the Arctic.”

In September, Putin announced Russia was reopening a Soviet-era military base in the Arctic, part of a drive to make the northern coast a global shipping route and secure the region's vast energy resources.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has an extensive presence in Alaska, with roughly 27,000 U.S. forces there. Hagel noted that the U.S. military had ski-equipped C-130s and nuclear submarines with decades of operations in polar regions.

Beyond potential tensions over energy, Hagel noted that increased tourism and commercial activity on Arctic sea routes would increase the risk of accidents.

“Migrating fish stocks will draw fishermen to new areas, challenging existing management plans,” said Hagel.

Hagel said the U.S. military would adapt infrastructure and capabilities “at a pace consistent with changing conditions.” He did not offer specific details or promise specific resources, and the speech came as the Pentagon reels from funding shortfalls.

One U.S. official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, played down any current tensions with Russia over the Arctic. The official noted that the U.S. Coast Guard had experienced “quite positive” interaction with its Russian counterparts over the years.

Another U.S. official said the strategy assessed a relatively low military threat in the Arctic, “and we don't see that changing in the near term.”

Hagel stressed the opportunity for strengthening ties in the region.

“By taking advantage of multilateral training opportunities with partners in the region, we will enhance our cold-weather operational experience, and strengthen our military-to-military ties with other Arctic nations,” he said. “This includes Russia.”

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid