Here’s an excerpt from my new piece on the Arctic — the new frontier — published in Foreign Policy. We have some work to do in the High North:

(From “High North or High Tension? How to head off war in the last frontier on Earth” )

… “While the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty establishes certain legal norms, there is not universal agreement on borders and there has been some difficulty resolving such disputes. Russia and Norway did settle one long-standing conflict recently, but there are other disputes involving Russia, Canada, and Denmark. The potential to eventually mine the deep seabed in the High North, along with oil and gas finds, will undoubtedly create further disagreements and disputes. All of this will affect indigenous communities in the various Arctic “front line” states. While the nascent Arctic Council is a good beginning as an international organization, its membership is under some dispute as other nations that don’t have any “real estate” in the Arctic itself, such as China, clamor for a seat at the table.

The recent rise in tension in Russia’s relationship with the other Arctic front-line states — all of which happen to be in NATO — doesn’t help. The United States, Canada, Norway, Denmark/Greenland, and Iceland are not seeing eye-to-eye with Russia at the moment on a basket of issues, from the occupation of Georgia, to NATO missile defense systems, to how to handle Syria. That has a tendency to bleed over into dealings in other zones, reducing the propensity to cooperate.

So how can the United States chart a course toward what the Canadians like to call a policy of “High North, Low Tension”?

high north high tension foreign policy

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits near the beginning of the ice edge in the Chukchi Sea north of Wainwright, Alaska, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Mooers)

First, the United States needs to be better prepared to operate up north. We have only two Coast Guard icebreakers, Healy and Polar Star, neither in first-class shape. Other nations are doing a far better job building the ships and associated aircraft and systems to operate in extreme conditions — Russia alone has dozens of icebreakers, and the Chinese have more than we do. We should invest more in such ships so that we can conduct year-round search and rescue, navigational charting, research and development, and environmental response. While these ships are expensive at $860 million, their utility is unquestionable given increasing ice openings. This is laid out in the U.S. Coast Guard’s recently published Arctic strategy. In addition, the U.S. government must encourage interagency teamwork in the High North — increased capabilities will require far more than just the Coast Guard’s limited resources and attention.”

Second …

Read the entire article in here.

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