- The Washington Times
Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The U.S. Army will stand up a new headquarters in the Arctic, better prepare military units to carry out long-term missions in the icy region, and invest heavily to improve the quality of life for soldiers stationed in Alaska and beyond, the Pentagon said Tuesday in a sweeping new strategy that aims to recapture “Arctic dominance” from Russia.

The Armyblueprint — a companion to the Defense Department’s broader Arctic strategy released in 2019 — maps out a future in which the U.S. must contend with an increasingly brazen Russia and an ambitious China, both of which see the Arctic as vital to their long-term national security and economic goals.

“While most Arctic nations are U.S. allies, America’s great power competitors — Russia and China — have developed Arctic strategies with geopolitical goals contrary to U.S. interests,” the strategy reads in part. “Russia seeks to consolidate sovereign claims and control access to the region. China aims to gain access to Arctic resources and sea routes to secure and bolster its military, economic and scientific rise.”

“China’s increased physical presence in the Arctic, combined with Russia’s growing economic and military ambitions in the region, highlight how both nations have long-term strategic designs for the Arctic,” the report says.

As a member of the eight-nation Arctic Council, Russia is recognized by the U.S. as an Arctic nation. China, on the other hand, merely has “observer status” in the council, and its territorial and economic claims to the region have been rejected by Washington.

But both Russia and China are moving quickly to establish new military assets, energy programs and shipping routes in the region.

To regain America’s edge, the Army has laid out a new list of key priorities, including a promise to “generate Arctic-capable forces ready to win in extended operation in extreme cold weather, snow, and mountainous environments.”

Specifically, the Army will invest in a new “multi-domain task force enabled division headquarters” with specially trained combat brigades tasked with recapturing Arctic dominance. The Army says it will aim to “project power across the Arctic,” and will be capable of defending any threats to U.S. national security emanating from the region.

The Army will invest in new clothing and medical systems needed for operations in the harsh Arctic conditions, along with the development of heavy equipment better able to function in extreme temperatures.

Military leaders also said they will dedicate money to improving the quality of life for soldiers and their families stationed in the region — a recognition that the U.S. will have a much larger human footprint in the Arctic in the decades to come.

The Army document also envisions closer cooperation with Arctic allies and a greater reliance on “the knowledge of indigenous populations” that can offer insights on the terrain and wildlife in the area.

Despite the host of challenges, Army leaders say they also see promise in the Arctic.

“The Arctic is an opportunity to rapidly employ the speed, range and convergence of cutting-edge technologies being developed for multi-domain operations to strengthen our deterrence capabilities in the region,” said Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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