Naval special warfare personnel perform a high-altitude, low-opening jump during Arctic Edge 2022, a U.S. Northern Command drill designed to demonstrate and exercise the ability to rapidly deploy and operate in the Arctic. (MC2 Trey Hutcheson/U.S. Navy).

The 2022 National Defense Strategy outlines defending the homeland as priority No. 1. To ensure homeland defense, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command require credible capability to deter strategic competitor actions across the whole of our area of operations and responsibility, including the Arctic. While some may challenge the importance of the Arctic to U.S. national security, Russia and the People’s Republic of China have clearly made long-term Arctic investments in the region.

Increasing access to the Arctic due to warming conditions will likely result in more frequent economic and military competition with these nations, which will have homeland defense ramifications. To deter malign activities in the region, ensure the defense of North America, and realize a stable and secure Arctic, we must demonstrate a commensurate commitment to the region.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that competitors, such as Russia and the People’s Republic of China, desire to influence international norms and alter the behaviors of allies, partners and Arctic-focused countries for the benefit of these competitor nations. Russia and the PRC have made their intentions for the region clear through the promulgation of strategic documents that underline their commitment to the Arctic.

The Arctic is a top priority for Russia. Russia is aggressively militarizing the region while proclaiming intent to infringe upon freedom of navigation in the Northern Sea Route. Russia will likely continue enhancing its military capabilities and developing the region’s resources and infrastructure. These enhancements will strengthen Russian air and coastal defense capabilities, expand its nuclear deterrent credibility, and increase its ability to place North America at risk.

Russia’s geographic proximity to North America makes it the most acute security concern to U.S. interests in the Arctic; however, Russia’s irresponsible behavior in Ukraine highlights reasons why all Arctic nations should be concerned with Russian activities.

As a self-declared “near-Arctic nation,” the PRC is endeavoring to establish a foothold in the northern latitudes. The PRC has consistently increased its scientific, economic and military activities in the Arctic over the last five years, working toward increasing influence through economic exploitation to gain access to vital natural resources. The PRC is applying all instruments of national power to enhance its Arctic influence, including expanding initiatives such as the Polar Silk Road…more of this article.