web analytics

Northern Nations Vie for Power and a Presence in the Arctic

With Russia and now China eying the icy north, what choice does America and NATO really have?

US and NATO forces are taking a much greater interest in defending the Arctic. Recent moves by Russia and China to increase their presence and hold over regions of the Arctic ice mass have caused concern among the US and its allies. Though not a new phenomenon, American and Alliance forces recently focused on readiness to fight in the coldest reaches of planet Earth. US ground forces are increasing their combat capability effectiveness despite subzero temperatures and inhospitable terrain.

Seeking a Greater Presence in the Arctic

China has most recently made known its designs for building an economic claim on the ice-capped North Pole, ostensibly as part of its Belt and Road initiative. “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) goes so far as to suggest it is a ‘near-Arctic State,'” Liberty Nation reported a year ago. The notion that the PRC is a “near-Artic” country when the closest point in China is 900 miles from the Arctic Circle is laughable. However, with Alaska reaching far into the Arctic, the US definitely qualifies – and it’s responsible for defending its sovereignty.

During his written testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), General Gregory M. Guillot, United States Air Force, Commander of the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), explained the challenge his forces face. Explicitly referring to Chinese incursions into the Arctic, the general warned:

“Meanwhile, the PRC continues to expand its influence and activity in the Arctic. Last summer, Beijing again employed its Xue Long 2 ice-hardened research vessel to conduct the country’s 13th scientific expedition to the Arctic. During its voyage, the vessel deployed autonomous underwater vehicles, floating ice stations, and an acoustic monitoring buoy system in waters off Alaska and Canada to collect data that could inform future PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Navy deployments to the region.”

During the same testimony, Guillot relayed his concern that Russia and China had been engaged in combined naval exercises in the Bearing Sea. The Sino-Russian training in the Arctic waters included cruise missile-capable surface vessels participating in anti-submarine maneuvers close to the Aleutian Islands.

In discussing Russia specifically, Guillot told the SASC: “In September, the Russian Pacific Fleet conducted its Finval-2023 exercise, which demonstrated Moscow’s ability to control access to the Arctic through the Bering Strait and included live cruise missile launches by coastal defense units as well as surface and subsurface vessels operating within the US Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska.”

US Pitifully Short of Icebreakers

Additionally, where the US falls far short of meeting Russian capability is the ability to move effectively where only icebreaker vessels can operate. Again, the USNORTHCOM leader’s assessment is chilling. According to Business Insider, “[The] US currently has really only one heavy icebreaker ship for Arctic operations while Russia has approximately 40 available.” Many Russian icebreakers are nuclear-powered, giving the vessels greater range and sustained operating capability. The icebreaker gap puts the US at a disadvantage in regional maneuverability, as America has just one heavy icebreaker, the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, and one medium icebreaker, the Healy.

In the last several years, the US military has taken on the challenge of readiness for engaging global competitors in frozen environments, increasing the number and variety of exercises and training events to season US combat forces. “The US military is staging at least three major exercises north of the Arctic Circle this month, even as the Defense Department seeks to define what its Arctic presence should be and the technology it needs to make it happen,” Defense News reported. Furthermore, a recent Military Times article explained: “More than 8,000 soldiers in Alaska recently concluded a large-scale exercise that included a 150-mile helicopter deep strike, flying a rocket launcher 500 miles to operate above the Arctic Circle and snowmobile hunter-killer teams armed with shoulder-fired rockets.”

NATO has also increased the number and size of training exercises. “The simulated assault on NATO’s frigid Arctic fringe was part of its sprawling, four-month Steadfast Defender exercise -– the largest drills staged by the US-led military alliance since the Cold War,” according to the global news agency AFP. The Defense Department will release its latest Arctic Strategy in April, which is expected to address how the US military will address Russian and Chinese operations above the Arctic Circle, acting alone or in concert.

Combat operations in extreme weather make engaging an enemy difficult. Snow, ice, and subzero temperatures degrade the fighting effectiveness of ground forces and their weapons. The increasing presence of China and Russia in the Arctic increases the importance of the US soldiers, airmen, and sailors being trained and ready to meet an adversary in frigid climates.

The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.

Read More From Dave Patterson

Latest Posts

Boeing Whistleblower Calls Aircrafts Unsafe

Two Senate committee hearings were held yesterday, April 17, to discuss Boeing’s continued worrisome troubles....

ESG Is Dead, Long Live DEI?

Over the past two years, conservatives have been close to declaring victory against woke investing, also known as...

Biden’s Swing State Boondoggles

As part of his strategy to win back support in every all-important swing state before the November election,...

Winds of War – C5 TV

Israel is now wondering if Biden and the US are still allies.

Is Iran Closing in on Nuclear Weapons?

There are reasons for concern regarding Iran's desire for nuclear weapons – a priority for Tehran. Iran is...

China Quietly Infiltrates the United Nations

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has stealthily insinuated itself into ever-more influential positions at the...

Could Israel Be Joe Biden’s Waterloo?

The lives of the deranged, Jew-hating, anti-American protesters who despise Israel and have nothing else to do...

Will SCOTUS Shield J6 Rioters From Biden DOJ Lawfare?

On Tuesday, April 16, many January 6 defendants had a shot of relief from the Supreme Court in the case Fischer...

Latest Posts

Boeing Whistleblower Calls Aircrafts Unsafe

Two Senate committee hearings were held yesterday, April 17, to discuss Boeing’s continued worrisome troubles....

ESG Is Dead, Long Live DEI?

Over the past two years, conservatives have been close to declaring victory against woke investing, also known as...

Biden’s Swing State Boondoggles

As part of his strategy to win back support in every all-important swing state before the November election,...

Winds of War – C5 TV

Israel is now wondering if Biden and the US are still allies.