In mid-October 2023, the US adopted the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for the Arctic Region (NSARIP).
In comparison with previous steps, this document assigns lead and supporting agencies responsible for advancing American strategic interests in the Arctic region, potential external partners to establish new forms of cooperation, detailed objectives, estimated time for completion, and indicators to measure progress.
So, in quantitative terms, NSARIP mentions Russia 8 times whereas almost simultaneously released Report on the Arctic Capabilities of the US Armed Forces mentions Russia 194 times.
What’s new about Russia?
Despite existing formal institutions, rules and norms are seriously taken into consideration, the US tends to downplay Russia’s role in the development and adherence of all these fundamentals in the Arctic, pointing to the need to revise them involving the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Military Services. It mainly concerns CAO Fisheries Agreement, IMO’s Polar Code, and Agreement on Enhancing International Science Cooperation.
Russia’s increasing investments in dual-use military infrastructure, ice-capable assets, and military exercises is identified as greater challenge to U.S. interests in the Arctic. It is probably the first time when disputes over sovereign rights in the Arctic waters, including rights over NSR, clearly fell by the wayside. The US confirms that Russia possesses considerable knowledge of operating in varying sea ice conditions, so the opportunity to operate alongside allies and partners, using their resources and infrastructure, is of value to the US.
In parallel, despite all Russian knowledge and investments, its numerous but aging Arctic air assets and icebreaking fleet offer advantage for the allies to enhance interoperability and information sharing within joint military exercises, existing U.S. inventories or funded plans. It’s emphasized that the Arctic should very much be considered a "home game", given Alaskan maritime border which connects North America to Asia and Europe, and since this is the only region in which the US faces presence and collaboration of its two primary competitors, meaning Russia and China.
In addition to "physical" efforts through agreements, exercises and infrastructure development, the US suggests using some soft tools to deter Russia, currently supporting Norway’s Chairship in the Arctic Council and developing bilateral cooperation with the Arctic 7, holding the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, via International Maritime Organization, and also commercially.
The editorial board of The Arctic Century