The Arctic Security Dialogues, hosted in December by the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute and Arctic Domain Awareness Center, addressed a broad spectrum of security issues.
Focusing on national security, homeland security, and the many components of civil security, the online event, “Toward a U.S. Army Arctic Strategy” also considered the inaugural discussion on the U.S. Air Force Arctic Strategy. The U.S. Army has yet to publish an Arctic Strategy, though one is currently in development and expected within the coming weeks.
The panel of retired U.S. Army General Officers and security experts contributed perspectives and suggestions on policy, planning and/or operations for drafters to consider in the development of the U.S. Army’s Arctic Strategy.
Colonel J.P. Clark said the changing Arctic potentially offers new paths for enemies to attack the United States. “Obviously as we talk about great power competition in relation to the 2018 National Defense Strategy and whatever might come next out of the next administration, we anticipate that there will probably be, you know, a similar recognition that we are dealing with adversaries who can pose a threat to the homeland, which is something we haven’t had to deal with for quite a while.”
Lieutenant General William B. Garrett III echoed the sentiment. “We don’t get to pick our context. We have to deal with the world as it is. And that means preparing for great power competition with China, and to a lesser extent, with Russia. The Arctic region is an extension of that competition, even as the security environment in the Arctic is being fundamentally altered by the impact of climate change. Point is, you don’t get to pick your context. That context is now unequivocally given to us, and we have to think and act accordingly.
“Given the Arctic’s vast distances and challenges to land operations, the ability to project power forward is primarily going to be air and naval power together with space and cyber. And, for the first time in decades, land will not be the most critical domain of warfare, and it may not even be the most decisive one. As a force organized, trained, and equipped for land warfare, the Army must adapt and change to be relevant in the Arctic.”
Meanwhile, Lieutenant General (Ret) Mike Shields said partnerships would be key to success in the Arctic. “We need to expand partnerships and interoperability with our regional mission partners … build collective expertise by, with, through our partners and take advantage of the joint and combined training offered by exercises such as Arctic Edge, Northern Edge … Arctic Warriors, Red Flag and so forth to build Arctic operational capability.”
Sherri Goodman warned of the destabilizing effects from climate change. “When we talk about the destabilizing forces in the Arctic, it’s both the fact that we have increased Russian, Chinese, and other presence and competition throughout the region, but it’s also the destabilizing changes in the climate. And that I think is important. We know that. But I think it’s going to become more important.
“We have yet to learn, I think, the full extent of infrastructure damage suffered in Russia throughout this summer of temperatures up to a hundred degrees. That’s going to have consequences across the whole of the Arctic. And as we think about how to increase and improve our capabilities to operate in the Arctic, we’re going to have to build in that all the conditions are less predictable than they’ve been in the past.”