Stoltenberg: NATO eyes Arctic militarily, economically as ice melts
NATO Secretary General says the alliance is interested in military and economic activity in the Arctic, noting NATO is concerned about Russia's activity in the region.
In a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that climate change is making the High North, the Arctic region, militarily and economically more attractive for the alliance.
"Climate change is making the High North more important because the ice melting and it becomes more accessible both for economic activity and for military activity," Stoltenberg said.
He noted that NATO is concerned about Moscow's activity in the region and that the new strategy of the bloc "identifies Russia's capabilities in the high North as a strategic challenge for the whole Alliance." At the same time, Stoltenberg said that when Finland and Sweden join NATO, "seven out of eight Arctic nations will be NATO members."
Stoltenberg wrote on Thursday for the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail about the cooperation between China and Russia in the Arctic posing a strategic challenge to the values and interests of the alliance, adding that Moscow "has significantly increased its military activity in recent years" in the region. He added that China is also expanding in the region, calling itself a "near-Arctic state" and planning to create a "Polar Silk Road" that links it to Europe through the Arctic.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu previously said that the official participation of Helsinki and Stockholm in NATO strategic planning and the possible provision of the territory of these states for the deployment of strike weapons would change the security conditions in the Baltic region and the Arctic, and would require a revision of approaches to the defense of Russian territory.
Read: Arctic region int'l theater of military operations: Russian official
The Arctic region covers the territories of the eight Arctic states: Canada, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the Russian Federation, and the United States. In 1996, the said states established the Arctic Council to tackle issues related to the region.
In recent years, ice melting caused the debate on the strategic application of the region and risks for the security of Russia and NATO countries to increase, which led both Moscow and NATO to strengthen their northern fleets.
Both parties are also highly interested in developing new trade and shipping routes. For Russia, it is the Northern Sea Route that connects China and Europe and runs along the Russian Arctic coast from the Kara Sea, along Siberia, to the Bering Strait.
For the US and Canada, it is the Northwest Passage that runs along North America's northern coast via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago to Europe.