China, Russia move into the Arctic — and put US at risk – by David Auerswald and Terry L. Anderson (The Hill – May 14, 2019)

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out Russian and Chinese activities and intentions in the Arctic, shocking his fellow foreign ministers at the biannual meeting of the Arctic Council, the premier regional forum for Arctic matters.

Pompeo disturbed a norm that had held since the council’s 1996 founding. For over 20 years Arctic states have attempted to compartmentalize Arctic cooperation on scientific research, environmental protection, fisheries management and search and rescue protocols — avoiding hard-power competition in military security and trade.

Pompeo’s speech peeled back the veneer of cooperation to expose the underlying great power competition that has been building for the past five years.

Though as early as 2015 Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende predicted the Arctic will not remain compartmentalized from broader geopolitical concerns, historians may remember Pompeo’s speech as the start of an emerging “great game” between and among the United States, Russia and China in the Arctic; perhaps even as the start of a new cold war (no pun intended).

Why would Pompeo do this and jeopardize the cooperative spirit among Arctic states? The answer is that the Trump administration — like the regime of Vladimir Putin in Russia and the Xi Jinping government in China — sees the world through realist, zero-sum glasses.

The Chinese need to sustain economic growth. One way to do that is to improve their access to natural resources, particularly energy, rare-earth minerals and sea-based protein. They also would like to develop an alternative shipping route from Europe to Asia that is not dependent on the Straits of Malacca or the Suez Canal, areas with a heavy U.S. naval presence.

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