• Russia’s Arctic Ambitions: Hype vs. Reality

    Russia has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects to strengthen its military foothold in the Arctic. It is widely assumed that this has been done to establish greater leverage over the fossil fuels that lie beneath the ice. However, the problem with this line of thought is that it is based on exaggerated expectations about the region’s energy potential. In fact, due to a combination of poor exploration data, high extraction costs, and potential environmental risks, the Arctic is likely to remain a rather desolate place for years to come.

    The Arctic has always played a significant role in Russia’s geopolitical vision. In tsarist times, it provided an enormous military buffer which ensured that no country could flank it from the north. During the Soviet-era it was home to Moscow’s nuclear submarine fleet. Nowadays, the region promises enormous fortunes as it reportedly holds vast quantities of untapped oil and gas resources.

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  • The Arctic’s Changing Frontier

    Our world is changing, and quickly. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Arctic region. For decades, Arctic sea ice has been shrinking, the result of higher temperatures driven by climate change. So too has Greenland’s ice sheet, for the same reason. While each new winter has brought with it evidence of deterioration in polar stability, the winter of 2016-2017 has been the most alarming of them all. In the first winter months of 2016, temperature readings in the Arctic were the highest ever recorded, by 20-35 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 11-19 degrees Celsius) above historic averages.

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  • Defining an Arctic Strategy

    The national security challenge posed in the Arctic by the growing presence of Russia and China as well as climate change makes it imperative for the United States to develop the strategic infrastructure needed to play a key leadership role, while maintaining safety and security in the region, said a senior White House official.

    According to Amy Pope, deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to US President Barack Obama at the National Security Council, “it was clear that with a rapidly changing climate we needed to put in a leadership structure to guide US activity in the region.” The United States must prepare to engage other countries in a coordinated way in the region, she said at the Atlantic Council on October 25.

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  • Alaska’s Microgrid Experience Applied Across Borders

    There is a stark divide between rural and urban Alaska, with 41 percent of the state’s residents residing in the city of Anchorage. Most communities are located off the road system, accessible only by airplane or boat. Supplying reliable, secure, and affordable energy is a challenge. Remote electricity systems, and even large cities concerned about storms and terrorist attacks, are increasingly looking to microgrid technology to meet their energy needs. A 2014 report by Navigant Research predicts that the global microgrid market will grow from $2.4 billion in 2014 to $5.8 billion in annual revenue by 2023, with a potential $10 billion share for microgrids in remote locations. Alaskan expertise can help guide this growth.

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  • As Arctic Council Chair, United States Will Stay the Course on Climate Change

    Despite the opposing positions on climate change adopted by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a senior US official has expressed confidence that the United States’ efforts to curb the effects of global warming over the course of its chairmanship of the Arctic Council will transcend the political transition in Washington.

    Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election on November 8, “the current and existing work programs [of the Arctic Council] will continue moving forward until we hand it over to Finland,” said Melanie Nakagawa, deputy assistant secretary for energy transformation at the State Department’s Bureau of Energy. Finland will assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council when the US tenure ends in the spring of 2017. Nakagawa noted that the US’ work on the Arctic Council “is an area that we have seen incredible bipartisan support for.”

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  • Arctic Science Moves to Center Stage

    Nothing that happens in the Arctic stays in the Arctic. As a consequence of global warming, this is not a play on words but a truism. Climate change can no longer be denied; it must be addressed. Global warming is opening up an entire region, once silent and perpetually frozen, to commerce, transport, mining, and all the other benefits and ills of modern life. In August, the Crystal Serenity, a giant cruise ship used to ply warm seas, sailed across the top of the world, just one example of a radical transformation bringing the Arctic to the center of the global future.

    The Arctic can no longer play second fiddle to other parts of the globe. It’s one of the world’s last major frontiers, and its value to every nation cannot be overstated. That includes the United States, a major Arctic nation with vital interests at stake.

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  • NATO Summit Special Series: Canada

    Because Canada is far away from the two biggest threats facing NATO, Russia and the Middle East, the concern in Ottawa is probably less focused on what NATO should do, but more on what NATO will ask of Canada.
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  • Shaping the US Arctic Agenda

    On February 3, the Atlantic Council hosted an off-the-record strategy session with Executive Director of the White House Arctic Executive Steering Committee Ambassador Mark Brzezinski on "Shaping the US Arctic Agenda."

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  • Norway's Defense Minister: It's Time to Boost NATO's Maritime Profile

    We need to raise NATO's profile in the maritime domain. This requires maritime power and presence.
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  • A Failed European Response to Migrant Crisis Will Hurt Transatlantic Ties, says Norwegian Defense Minister

    A failure to deal appropriately with the migrant crisis will cause rifts within Europe that will have serious implications for transatlantic unity, Norway’s Defense Minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, said at the Atlantic Council on September 24.

    “How we handle the ongoing refugee crisis will be a test for Europe,” Søreide said while describing the magnitude of the migrant crisis—the largest migration of people since World War II—as “staggering.”

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