The New Cold War: Arctic Front
It would appear that Sarah Palin’s state of Alaska will be playing an increasingly important role in energy independence and national security. It would also appear that this will be a challenge for the next administration. Hopefully that administration will have the experience and local knowledge to guide us through the trying times ahead.
The Arctic is quickly reemerging as a strategic area where vital U.S. interests are at stake. The geopolitical and geo-economic importance of the Arctic region is rising rapidly, and its mineral wealth will likely transform the region into a booming economic frontier in the 21st century. The coasts and continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean are estimated to hold large deposits of oil, natural gas, and methane hydrate (natural gas) clusters along with large quantities of valuable minerals.
With the shrinking of the polar ice cap, extended navigation through the Northwest Passage along the northern coast of North America may soon become possible with the help of icebreakers. Similarly, Russia is seeking to make the Northern Sea Route along the northern coast of Eurasia navigable for considerably longer periods of the year. Opening these shorter routes will significantly cut the time and costs of shipping. (See Map 1.)
In recent years, Russia has been particularly active in the Arctic, aggressively advancing its interests and claims by using international law and by projecting military might into the region.