Military buildup in Arctic as melting ice reopens northern borders


The climate crisis is intensifying a new military buildup in the Arctic, diplomats and analysts said this week, as regional powers attempt to secure northern borders that were until recently reinforced by a continental-sized division of ice. That so-called unpaid sentry is now literally melting away, opening up shipping lanes and geo-security challenges, said delegates at the Arctic Frontiers conference, the polar circle’s biggest talking shop, who debated a series of recent escalations.

Russia is reopening and strengthening cold war bases on the Kola peninsula in the far north-west of the country. Norway is beefing up its military presence in the high Arctic. Last October, Nato staged Trident Juncture with 40,000 troops, its biggest military exercise in Norway in more than a decade. A month earlier Britain announced a new “Defence Arctic Strategy” and promised a 10-year deployment of 800 commandos to Norway and four RAF Typhoons to patrol Icelandic skies. The US is also sending hundreds more marines to the region on long-term rotations and has threatened to send naval vessels through Arctic shipping lanes for the first time.

While these strategic moves have echoes of the cold war, the modest buildup falls far short of that era, and there remains a strong spirit of cooperation in many areas. The current tensions are a result of a world warmed by industrial emissions. The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet, shrinking sea ice and exposing more water and territory to exploitation and access.(theguardian)…[+]