The Pentagon will send a Navy warship to sail through the Arctic region in yet another freedom of navigation operation, but will it be enough to challenge Russia?
The USA has long since set its sights upon the Arctic, which it openly sees as a potential new arena for a geopolitical standoff.
As the planet’s changing climate gradually turns ice-bound waterways into a passable shipping lane, Washington is clearly intending to get its piece of the economic action in a region that might well become a major sea trade lane very soon.
The US Navy already conducted similar hostile missions in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims there.
So far, the intervention has led to nothing but heightened tensions between the USA and China but Washington is apparently eager to use the same approach in another region.
Washington’s plans are not just limited to the freedom of navigation mission but also involve deploying troops to the abandoned base of Adak.
Located at the end of the Aleutian Islands not far from the Russian border, this base was used between 1942 and 1997. Now, the US military plans to send some surface ships and a P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft over there.
The Navy mission is still “in the early stages” and it has not yet been decided what ship will be used for it and which ports it would visit. The old Adak base also will not be re-activated just yet.
The Pentagon aim of matching Russia’s influence in the Arctic region might, in fact, be hard to achieve. Russia wields a massive icebreaker fleet, consisting of five nuclear-powered and about 30 diesel icebreakers.
Additionally, three new nuclear-powered icebreakers, which are set to become “the largest and the most powerful” in the world, are expected to join Russia’s fleet in the coming years.
Apart from that, Russia is also building new, ice-rated Arctic multipurpose patrol ships. The first of these is expected to be handed over to the Russian Navy in 2020.
China, another imperialist rival that has also set its sights on the Arctic recently, has already built its first domestically produced icebreaker.
Meanwhile, Washington still possesses only one heavy icebreaker. However, its own crew members call the ship, commissioned in 1976, a “rust bucket.”
The USA is apparently concerned that Russia might start full-scale commercial use of its Northern Sea Route, which it sees as detrimental to American economic interests.
Meanwhile, Russia has updated its navigation rules for other nations’ warships attempting to sail along the Northern Sea Route.
Starting from 2019, such passage would require prior notification sent to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, so the USA might yet alter its intervention plans.
The US military would now try to show that this shipping lane is “not safe,”
Sott.net / ABC Flash Point Arctic News 2019.