Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S. Arctic Policy

Warming in the Arctic continues to get a lot of press, so Sophia has put together a quick analysis of the new U.S. policy for the Arctic (released January 9, 2009).

The National Security/ Homeland Security Presidential Directive on Arctic Region Policy perceives “the effects of climate change and increasing human activity in the Arctic region” as one of the main developments that needs to be taken into account. The Directive proposes research and study as an important means of dealing with changing climate conditions:

“Such efforts shall include inventories and assessments of villages, indigenous communities, subsistence opportunities, public facilities, infrastructure, oil and gas development projects, alternative energy development opportunities, forestry, cultural and other sites, living marine resources, and other elements of the Arctic's socioeconomic composition.”

Not only are energy resources and human development important that need to be dealt with properly in the context of climate change, but there is a growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers who say that the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters, and that the thawing region has triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration by foreign nations, such as Russia and Canada.

Canada and US relations have been further intensified due to the recent occurrence of the Northwest Passage becoming navigable. A dispute resulting in an ‘Agreement to Disagree’ states that the US considers this Northern Sea Route open for international navigation, while Canada asserts the Northwest Passage as its territorial waters.

Rear Adm. Dave A. Gove, the oceanographer/navigator of the Navy said even the Chinese "have also expressed an interest because of the natural resources that are available." Gove also thinks that the melting and breaking of ice has potential to leave the US more vulnerable to terrorism and access to the country. He emphasizes the need for a strong American military presence in the region, meaning improvement is needed.

Up to now, the Obama administration said little about its polar policy, although Secretary Clinton did breifly address the issue under questioning during her confirmation hearing.

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