“Arctic sea ice that used to cover around 9m sq km of ocean at the end of summer has, after 30 years, reduced at such a rate that the Arctic Ocean seems likely to be ice-free in summer by the middle of this century.”
Obviously, this exponential rise in Arctic temperatures has all sorts of global implications (not the least of which directly involve the polar bears, though fans of these Arctic beauties may want to remain ignorant on this particular issue). However, as a recent AP article on the subject reports, militaries of the eight main Arctic powers (U.S., Canada, Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland) are already scrambling to run test simulations and assemble capable troops for when the ice does melt (say around 2050, if we assume that we will proceed in the interim years more or less “business as usual”) and sea routes open up across this vast Northern expanse and, along with them, a “treasure trove of resources” becomes available. The United States Geological Survey recently estimated that 13% of the world’s untapped oil resources and 30% of untapped natural gas are tied up in this currently-blocked Arctic region.
The majority of the U.S.’s military power is currently being applied elsewhere, and though our Navy does have the most sophisticated arsenal of nuclear submarines and a mostly-up-to-date Arctic Road map put together in 2009, we lack in other vehicular support, as well as Arctic facilities and communication options in this region. As such, Russia is poised to take the lead as the dominant power in the Arctic of the near-future. Though as the AP points out, “the most immediate challenge may not be war – both military and commercial assets are sparse enough to give all countries elbow room for a while – but whether militaries can respond to a disaster.”