Everyone wants a piece of the Arctic.

In the latest sign that the world powers are manoeuvring to exploit the resources and strategic importance of the far north of world, the US will open its northernmost diplomatic station in the Norwegian Arctic town of Tromsoe.

“To deepen our own engagement in the high north… the United States will be opening an American presence post in Tromsoe,” Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, told reporters after a two-day meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Oslo.

“For us, the presence post in Tromsoe is really an ability to have a diplomatic footprint above the Arctic Circle,” he said.

The region is becoming strategically more important as a shrinking ice cap opens up new sea lanes and attracts other nations seeking its largely untapped natural resources.

Blinken’s announcement comes three weeks after Norway took over from Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a forum created in 1996 to discuss issues affecting the polar region.

The council comprises the eight Arctic states of Russia, the United States, Canada, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark, although co-operation between the western Arctic states and Moscow on the Arctic body has been frozen since the invasion of Ukraine.

Norwegian F-35 Lightning fighter jets fly during the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) near Orland Main Air station, Norway on June 1, 2023. Aircraft from Norway, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, The Netherlands and the USA are based at Orland during the exercise. Around 150 aircraft from 14 countries as well as NATO are participating and are flying from four bases, two in Finland, one in Sweden and Orland in Norway. (Photo by Cornelius Poppe / NTB / AFP) / Norway OUT (Photo by CORNELIUS POPPE/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)
Norwegian F-35 Lightning fighter jets fly during the Arctic Challenge Exercise near Orland Main Air station, Norway on 1 June, 2023. Aircraft from Norway, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands and USA are based at Orland during the exercise (Photo: Cornelius Poppe/NTB/AFP)

Interest in the far north of the world has only increased in the past decade, however,.

Melts in the Arctic have opened up the region to new shipping, resource extraction, and other economic activity. In 2013, in recognition of the building interest, the council added six new observer states: China, Japan, India, Italy, Singapore, and South Korea.

As fish stocks decline in the South China Sea and southern Pacific Ocean due to climate change and overfishing, China and other countries may turn their attention to the central Arctic Ocean — to where fish are likely to migrate.

Chinese interest, in particular, is the cause of much debate and even concern, with some analysts suggesting that Beijing hopes to gain access to the Russian Arctic and even its own ports there in exchange for its tacit support of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Patricia Lewis, director of Chatham House’s international security programme, is one observer who thinks China “will exact a price” from Russia over Ukraine.

Russia has all sorts of geography that China is interested in,” she told i. “And that includes Arctic territory. I think Russia is selling itself down the river.”

If China’s declaration in 2018 that it was a “near-Arctic state” wasn’t revealing enough, its interest in the region was underlined by reports in February that Canada’s military had found and retrieved Chinese monitoring buoys in Arctic waters.

The buoys were spotted by the Canadian armed forces as part of Operation Limpid, a continuing effort to provide early detection of threats to Canada’s security

Canadian military experts suggested the buoys were probably intended to monitor US nuclear submarine traffic in the Arctic, and for mapping seabeds and ice thickness.

As a nexus point for world powers, including the US, Nato (with new Arctic member Finland) and Russia, the Arctic’s strategic and military importance is only likely to increase.

In its 2022 National Security Strategy, the US upgraded the Arctic to a priority area.

And Russia’s military, despite the drain on its resources from the Ukraine war, has maintained a significant presence in the Arctic circle.

By admin