The Hill discusses how great power competition is racing to the Arctic.
A recent Congressional Research Service report depicts the Arctic Ocean basin as a shapeshifter. In more ways than one. The icy north is undergoing physical change as warming temperatures open regional waters to shipping for part of each year. And the region is undergoing geopolitical change as countries that front on the Arctic Ocean — and ambitious powers that don’t — eye new shipping routes and, potentially, a fresh source of undersea natural riches.
In all likelihood the coming years will see the top of the world become an arena for strategic competition.
First, consider the region’s physical complexion. Some years back the U.S. Navy’s chief oceanographer projected that the polar icecap would retreat enough each year to open the Northwest Passage, which skirts along the northern coasts of Canada and Alaska, to shipping intermittently by 2025. The Northern Sea Route, which passes along the Russian seacoast, will be open for about six weeks by then. And, most strikingly, a brand-new Trans-Polar Route will be ice-free for a couple of weeks annually.