Already criticized for what many call a weak response to Russian expansionism in Europe, President Obama may be losing a far more important battle with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin: the conquest of the Artic Circle and its huge deposits of strategic resources.
As the climate continues to warm in Siberia and other places, the melting waters and thawing land are opening up access to what many experts consider vast deposits of oil and other exploitable natural resources.
Many lawmakers, military leaders and analysts, according to The New York Times,
believe the United States is lagging in preparing for the new environmental, economic and geopolitical realities facing the region.
"We have been for some time clamoring about our nation’s lack of capacity to sustain any meaningful presence in the Arctic," Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s commandant, told the Times. The problem will be even more apparent this week as Obama becomes the first president to venture above the circle while still in office.
The United States Navy rarely operates in the circle, the Times reports, but Russia and other nations are establishing key strategic beachheads in a bid for control of territory.
Russia is building 10 new search-and-rescue stations, strung in what the Times describes
as a necklace of pearls at ports along half of the Arctic shoreline. It has also reopened bases abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union. China has sent a refurbished icebreaker, the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, into the region. It is also building a second icebreaker, giving it an icebreaking fleet equal to America’s. Russia, by far the largest Arctic nation, has 41 in all.
"The United States really isn’t even in this game," Admiral Zukunft said at a conference in Washington this year.
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