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"Element of competition": in the United States predict a growing risk of "shipping incidents" in the Arctic
Material posted: Publication date: 26-11-2018
The accounts chamber of the USA has prepared a report on threats to the United States in the Arctic. The document focuses on the need to strengthen the American military presence in the region. The Agency refers to the updated Strategy of national defense of the United States in 2018, which States that Washington should prevent the "aggression" of Russia and China. In the document U.S. accounts chamber of the representatives of the U.S. Coast guard consider Russian investments in energy, logistics and infrastructure along the Northern sea route "risk factor" and are predicting an increase in the likelihood of "shipping incidents" in the region. According to experts, that kind of rhetoric Americans hide dissatisfaction behind the level of development of Russian infrastructure and its own plans to strengthen influence in the region.

In the United States considered it necessary to strengthen the military presence in the Arctic. This is stated in the official report of the accounting chamber of the United States, to assess threats facing the United States in the region, and how to adequately assess these threats in the U.S. Navy. The document was posted on the Ministry website in November 2018.

"According to the National information center for snow and ice (NSIDC), since 1981, the area of sea ice in the Arctic has declined significantly. These changes may facilitate commercial and other Maritime activities in the region, which, along with disputes over sovereign rights may require US to increase in the Arctic the presence of its armed forces and internal security forces", — emphasized in the study of the American accounting chamber.

It is noted that the United States must possess the necessary "military capabilities in order to protect the interests of the United States" in the vastness of the Arctic ocean. In particular, mentioned that the region can be concentrated 13% of the world's undiscovered oil, 30% gas, and deposits of gold, zinc, platinum and Nickel at $1 trillion.

At the same time, the activities of Russia and China in the region is Washington's questions.

"In 2018, the U.S. Department of defense updated the national defense Strategy, stressing the need to curb aggression by Russia and China: both countries showed interest in the Arctic," the document says.

November 6, similar in tone, the statement was made by the Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff US Armed forces General Joseph Dunford. Speaking at Duke University in Durham (North Carolina), he noted that the task of the us military in the region — "freedom of navigation", but Russia and China challenge the United States.

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"In the face of climate change, Russia will expand its presence in the Arctic, — said Dunford. China is also showing interest in this region. Potentially, the Arctic could become an arena of conflict."

According to experts, the us accusations of Russia in aggressive behaviour is unfounded.

"This is a traditional anti-Russian rhetoric of Americans hiding their own concealed plans and the realization that the U.S. position in the region is not too strong," — said in an interview with RT, associate Professor of international relations and foreign policy of Russia MGIMO-University Oleg Alexandrov.

The expert recalled that Russia was the only country that since 1991 has significantly reduced its military presence in the Arctic borders and in recent years only restores combat potential. Therefore, the allegations by the Americans in the militarization of the region "not true".

According to him, China has fallen out of favor with Americans as a power, which is a "natural partner of Russia for the development of the Northern sea route".

In turn, Russian military expert, chief editor of the magazine "national defense" Igor Korotchenko said in an interview with RT that all the actions of the Russian military buildup in the Arctic is purely defensive in nature.

"We are building military infrastructure associated with the security of the Russian segment of the Arctic, — the expert noted. — This activity does not bear a threat to anyone, as implemented on the Islands of the Arctic archipelago, which are in the Russian jurisdiction".

The strengthening of NATO

According to experts, it is the NATO countries are a source of constant military activity in the region. Recently in Norway at the borders of Russia ended large-scale exercises in the Arctic of the North Atlantic Alliance Trident Juncture 2018, launched in late October.

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The maneuvers, which were attended by 50 thousand people were involved 10 thousand military vehicles, 150 aircraft and helicopters, 60 ships, recognized by major within NATO since the end of the cold war. For the first time in 30 years in the Arctic became an American aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.

For "containment of Russia" in areas adjacent to the Arctic waters of the North Atlantic in September of this year the United States formally restored the Second fleet, disbanded in 2011.

The Pentagon had previously announced plans to participate in various activities with the aim of improving the experience of combat operations in polar conditions. Arctic doctrine the US adopted in 2016, requires the Pentagon to answer demonstrative maneuvers in attempts of any country to limit the passage of American commercial and military ships through Arctic waters.

Not far behind the Americans and their closest allies — the British. On 30 September the Minister of defence of great Britain Gavin Williamson announced a new Arctic strategy of the Department, implying the presence of British troops in the Arctic regions of Norway for at least ten years. In addition, the 2019 British Typhoon aircraft for the first time will begin to patrol the airspace of Iceland.

On tensions in the Arctic in connection with the activities of foreign States previously warned the Russian defense Ministry.

"Today the Arctic has become the object of territorial, resource and military-strategic interests of some States. This can lead to the buildup of the conflict potential in this region," said August 31 the Russian defense Minister, army General Sergei Shoigu at the Board meeting of the military Department.

"America is moving towards the gradual development of Arctic technologies. They understand that the Arctic is changing, new opportunities, and they strive to use them", — said Alexandrov.

"Obvious weakness"

However, while Americans are far from being able to gain a strategic advantage in the Arctic region. The main task, which set itself the audit chamber of the USA, researching the risks to the United States in the Arctic region — an independent evaluation of the report of the U.S. Navy regarding the actions of troops of this type in the Arctic. A report of the American military in accordance with the law on the military budget of the United States in 2018, presented in July of this year.

In this document the naval command claims to be able to ensure US interests in the Arctic, relying on existing resources: aircraft, submarines and surface ships.

However, as found by the American chamber of accounts, the Navy can "run with restrictions" while using surface ships, as they are ill-suited for service in polar regions. Program for the modernization of the fleet for service in the Arctic ice, according to sailors, worsen such ship characteristics as speed and range, as well as resistance to pitching. In addition, such programs will complicate the already tense attempts to maintain a military presence in other regions of the World ocean. The design and construction of new military vessels that can maneuver in the Arctic ice, will take 20 years.

In turn, the auditors of the accounts chamber of the United States noted that over the last ten years the U.S. Navy has repeatedly encountered problems relating to the commissioning of new warships. So, the cost of construction of 11 last entered service head of courts in the amount of $8 billion exceeded the planned amount. In addition, members of staff of the Navy admitted to auditors that U.S. shipbuilders do not have enough experience for the construction of combat vessels intended for operations in Arctic conditions.

The question of how to overcome these problems, the court of audit's report leaves open. It notes that the U.S. military now appreciate the pros and cons of certain decisions. Among the possible options of finding the answer is to study the experience of Finland, Norway, Denmark and Canada. Moreover, the United States, according to the report, can make up their own shortcomings by bringing to operations in the Arctic allies and using the potential of the Coast guard, under the Ministry of internal security of the United States.

"Americans have an obvious weakness for ice-breaker fleet", — says Alexander. This same feature notes and Korotchenko, emphasizing that Russia, unlike the USA, feels great in the waters of the Arctic ocean.

"We are doing well in the Arctic, there is the powerful nuclear icebreaker fleet. Russia has a unique competence in this sphere", — said the military expert.

At the same time, according to Alexandrov, a significant help Washington can provide to allies.

"The Americans have someone to lean on, — said the analyst. Their allies — the same as Canada, Norway, Denmark. They can help technology. In the United States do not developed the technology of construction of the icebreaker fleet, but these ships are built in Finnish shipyards in Norway".

The battle for the path

In the document of the accounts chamber of the United States also notes that increased traffic in the Arctic area, combined with the extreme Arctic conditions and limited infrastructure in the area increases the likelihood of shipping incidents that affect people's lives, natural resources, economic security and the environment. Another risk factor is supposedly the increased Russian activity in the circumpolar area.

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"In the technical comments submitted to the Coast guard, reported on the areas involving significant risk, including talking about Maritime trade and Russian investments in power generation facilities, logistics and infrastructure along the Northern sea route, — stated in the document. — Despite the fact that the Coast guard notes the generally smaller volume of Maritime activities in the Arctic compared to other regions of the world, increasing traffic in combination with severe Arctic conditions and limited infrastructure in the region increases the likelihood of shipping incidents that could hurt people, natural resources, economic security and the environment".

According to Alexandrov, while the environmental risks of exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic exist, they apply equally to both projects in Russia and to similar American plans for Alaska. He believes that the concern of the American authorities to the operation of the Northern sea route is caused by not care about the environment or Maritime safety.

"Most likely, this kind of rhetoric, for which there are concerns that Russia is ahead of America in the development of Arctic transport routes. This is an element of competition to control the development of the Arctic routes", — the expert believes.

He notes that the Northern sea route is the most promising transport route in the Arctic. Located between the Islands North of Canada's Northwest passage almost 500 nautical miles long, and the conditions of navigation it is more difficult. Therefore, the US challenge to Russian control of Northern sea route, citing the principles of freedom of navigation, said the expert.

However, according to Korotchenko, Russia can repel any attempts to infringe on its sovereignty.

"Better to let the Americans stay out of our territorial waters, because if they appear here, you'll get an adequate reply, — said the military expert. We therefore are engaged in military activity in the Arctic, so they do not have any desire to even try to put pressure on us".


Tags: assessment , USA

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