Natural Security Series: Russia in the Arctic – Aggressive but Not an Aggressor

By Caitlyn Antrim

Caitlyn Antrim is the Executive Director of the Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans. She represented the US Department of Commerce at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, served as Repair Officer and Damage Control Assistant on the USS Schofield (FFG-3) and earned the professional degree of Engineer from theDepartment of Ocean Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The shrinking ice cap in the Arctic has opened up new opportunities and security challenges for the nations surrounding the region.  Arctic policy debates in Washington usually revolve around three issues: a race for Arctic resources, the need for new icebreakers, and a resurgent and aggressive Russia. In Moscow, policy discussions focus on tangible actions to exploit its Arctic resource base and defend its territory and resources from intrusion and interference.

In the past four years, Russia has steadily renewed its icebreaker fleet, added new ice-hardened commercial ships, reorganized its defense establishment in the Arctic, rebuilt bases on its northern periphery, opened a major oil field in the Barents Sea with two oil and gas fields coming on line south of the Kara Sea in 2017, and revised its submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for an extended continental shelf in the Arctic.

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