Arctic Smorgasbord

USCGC Healy and CCGC Louis S St-Laurent  (Photo by Jessica Robertson, US Geological Survey)

Defense News’ Early Bird Brief has, for some reason, provided us with a whole series of stories related to the Arctic. For Convience I have linked them below.

Frozen Pathways
The US Navy returns to an increasingly militarized Arctic
(Defense News) The U.S. Navy’s Barents Sea patrol is the latest sojourn into an increasingly militarized Arctic, where questions of international law are becoming proliferating.
Failure to communicate: US Navy seeks faster data transfers amid Arctic ice
(Defense News) Research in the Arctic Ocean is no small feat. The area can prove inaccessible at times, and sensors can fail to communicate data from under the ice or get crushed by slabs of ice.
Sen. Sullivan of Alaska talks military strength and strategy in the Arctic
(Defense News) When it comes to boosting the U.S. Defense Department’s role in the frigid Arctic, nobody in Congress seems hotter under the collar than Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.
SpaceX could fill the US military’s Arctic communications gap by the end of this year
(C4ISRNET) The U.S. Defense Department relies on a mixture of military and commercial satellites to connect its war fighters all over the world. And while users can complain that terminals are too bulky or that they should have the roaming capability exhibited in commercial cellphone technology, the system largely works.
China’s strategic interest in the Arctic goes beyond economics
(Defense News) In its Arctic policy published in 2018, China proclaimed itself as a “near-Arctic state,” a label that has since invited controversy.
A view from Finland: Security and defense in the Arctic
(Defense News) Just by looking at the map, it is evident why the Arctic region matters so much to Finland.
Sweden adjusts to rising tensions in the High North
(Defense News) When I look at the map, it is obvious that the North Atlantic, the Artic and the Baltic regions are strategically connected — and of considerable importance to trans-Atlantic security.
NATO’s Camille Grand on the alliance’s Arctic tack
(Defense News) Though the Arctic falls outside the Western military alliance’s traditional focus, NATO officials have begun paying closer attention to the region.
Gallery: Great power competition in the Arctic
(Defense News) Reports of increasing temperatures around the world are proliferating. But amid the heat, great military powers are eyeing the Arctic Circle, where in July 2019 at Canadian military post CFS Alert, the temperature hit 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Davie to become Canada’s third National Shipbuilding Strategy strategic partner” –Marine Log

To no one’s surprise MarineLog reports that Davie Shipbuilding, Lauzon, Quebec, Canada’s largest shipyard, has been selected as the third shipyard partner in Canada’s “National Shipbuilding Strategy” and will build six icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.

“China Can’t Be Trusted in the Arctic –USNI

A picture taken on November 16, 2011 from a South Korean helicopter shows Chinese fishermen wielding sticks to stop an attack by South Korean coastguard commandoes armed with clubs aboard rubber boats during a crackdown on alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea off the southwestern coast county of Buan. South Korea’s coastguard mobilised 12 ships, four helicopters and commandoes for a special three-day crackdown on illegal fishing by Chinese boats this week. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT AFP PHOTO / DONG-A ILBO (Photo credit should read DONG-A ILBO/AFP/Getty Images)

The US Naval Institute Proceedings has a post by Commander William Woityra, U.S. Coast Guard

China’s failure to enforce treaties and sanctions and lack of corporate accountability should serve as a warning for the international community when it comes to Chinese participation in international agreements and instruments. Of recent interest is their 2018 signature of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The signatory parties committed to curbing high seas commercial fishing in the Arctic until the ecosystem is better understood, no sooner than 2034. Beijing’s participation in the negotiations, and signing of the fisheries moratorium, helps bolster its long-term narrative of China’s identity as a “near-Arctic state” with a legitimate right to involve itself in decisions about the future of the region.

Lately I have come to suspect that China’s lax attitude toward Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Fishing is not due to poor enforcement or even corruption, but that it is actually state policy and a part of a strategy to impoverish third world countries dependent on fishing, so that, encouraged by bribery, they will turn to China for loans for poor investment, that will default and ultimately allow the Chinese to take over their assets. Overfishing is perhaps an element in a new form of economic colonialism.

“The United States Needs a Deep-water Arctic Port” –USNI

Nome, Alaska location. Adapted from Wikipedia’s AK borough maps by en:User:Seth Ilys.

The US Naval Institute Proceedings for Sept has a short article by By Captain Lawson Brigham, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) advocating development of a deep-water port in Nome, Alaska.

Interest in a deep draft port in northern Alaska has been expressed in Congress, by the Secretary of the Navy, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Earlier we talked about the possibility of locating this facility at Port Clarence.

Port Clarence actually seems the larger natural harbor and has some infrastructure, including a runway, left over from when there was a Coast Guard LORAN station there. Nome (terminus for the Iditarod dog sled race) has a much larger population (about 3800 vs 24) and would require less supporting infrastructure development.

Aerial view from the West of Nome, Alaska, in July 2006, by ra64

In any case it seems likely that the ability to control the Bering Strait will become strategically important some time in the future. Both are within 160 miles of the Russian side of the Strait, with Port Clarence being about 50 miles closer.

Alaska and the Bering Strait

Until that time, it seems likely that the Coast Guard may establish a seasonal air station.

Full disclosure, Captain Brigham and I attended the same Naval War College class. 

“The United States Ratifies Central Arctic Ocean Fisheries Agreement” –DOS

The Arctic, note the US includes the Aleutians and the Bearing Sea as part of the Arctic

Department of State announced ratification of an agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (I am assuming this means in the areas outside the Arctic nations’ EEZ). This may mean, at some point, the CG will be conducting fisheries enforcement in the central Arctic Ocean. The State Department announcement is reproduced below. (Thanks to Bryant’s Maritime Consulting Blog for bringing this to my attention.)

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The United States is the fourth party to ratify the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean after Canada, the Russian Federation, and the European Union. The Agreement will enter into force once all ten Signatories ratify.

There are currently no commercial fisheries in the Arctic high seas, with most of the region covered by ice year round. However, with an ever-increasing ice-free area in the summer for an increasingly lengthy portion of the year, parties anticipate that commercial fishing will be possible in the foreseeable future. This Agreement is the first multilateral agreement of its kind to take a legally-binding, precautionary approach to protect an area from commercial fishing before that fishing has even begun.

Signed in Greenland on October 3, 2018, there were ten participants in the negotiation of the Agreement: Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Iceland, Japan, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. The Agreement has two principal objectives: the prevention of unregulated fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean and the facilitation of joint scientific research and monitoring.