The Arctic Circle is 7,700,000 square miles of mostly-unexplored, uncharted territory. The average temperature each year is 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, though in the winter, it can plunge down to -60 degrees. It truly is the last unexplored frontier on Earth.
Yet, the Arctic is still home to over four million people.
Russians, Norwegians, Americans, Canadians, Greenlanders – People have been surviving in close-knit communities, co-existing with the unforgiving climate for centuries. The Greenlandic Inuits have been speaking Kalaallisut while eating whale skin and dried cod since the 11th century. Great Russian explorers have been exploring their Arctic regions since the 12th century, nearly 850 years before the United States would purchase Alaska to become an Arctic power.
The Arctic is a New Frontier for the World’s Superpowers
While much of the world is focusing on the Middle East and the proxy wars occurring there, many are ignoring the danger of a new Cold War in the Arctic region.
Russia is rebuilding its Cold War-era military bases on their northernmost coast, the Chinese are investing more in icebreaking ships than any other country despite its capital, Beijing, being 1,844 miles from the Arctic Circle, and three countries (Canada, Russia, and Denmark) have submitted overlapping UNCLOS claims that may cover large oil deposits under the Arctic ice.
Not only is the Arctic under threat of becoming a disputed territory among the globe’s superpowers, but modernization and climate change are destroying the fabric of the Arctic people, lifestyle, and culture.
The Arctic Lifestyle is in Danger of Dying Out
So what should the United States do to help the 4 million Arctic people (19,000 of which are Americans living in Alaska) in danger of our evolving geopolitical landscape?
The United States should double-down on what it does best: Being an ideological leader and role model for freedom and democracy abroad. We should engage other superpowers on a ban of nuclear weapons in the Arctic, encourage private sector investment into infrastructure like roads, bridges, and high-speed internet, support free, independent, and sovereign democracies that seek to play a part in Arctic policy, and diligently work towards preserving and maintaining the culture and lifestyle of indigenous and native peoples of the Arctic.
That’s why I launched The Wallace Institute for Arctic Security. To advocate for a prosperous and secure future for the people of the Arctic region and the world at-large. We need a sharp course-correction as it relates to foreign policy, and The Wallace Institute aims to completely change the discussion we’re having about America’s position in the High North.