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Stavridis: Arctic Presents Opportunities, Risks, Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2012 – The melting of the arctic ice cap opens new opportunities -- as well as risks and challenges -- that will require increasing cooperation among regional nations, said Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

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Navy Adm. James Stavridis, (L) commander U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, at the Northern Europe Chiefs of Defense Conference in Helsinki, Finland, Oct. 18, 2012. NATO photo by British Army Staff Sgt. Ian Houlding

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The future of the one of the world’s last remote frontiers was a major agenda item during the Northern European Chiefs of Defense meeting held last week in Helsinki, Stavridis reported in a blog to his command.

That remoteness is fading with the ice cap, with the opening of new shipping lanes that bring both positives and negatives to once-closed areas, he recognized.

“We’ll see more commercial traffic and scientific exploration missions, non-state actors trafficking illegal goods or other illicit cargo, or even just adventurous tourists,” Stavridis predicted. “Bottom line: the increase in Arctic shipping traffic and the movement of humans north elevate the potential for manmade disasters like oil spills and ship accidents and the consequent need for appropriate response and rescue capabilities.”

Warning against “militarizing” the region, he emphasized the importance of leveraging interagency and international partnerships to address the risks, concerns and opportunities associated with Arctic activities.

“We need to ensure this open space becomes a zone of cooperation, not a zone of confrontation as it was during the Cold War,” he said. “Cooperation in the Arctic today, through organizations like the Arctic Council, can help build trust and focus our efforts in areas of mutual interest to maintain regional security.”

Stavridis cited steps already being taken to build those capabilities.

Eight Arctic states came together last month for the Arctic Council’s Search and Rescue Exercise 2012, led by Denmark’s Greenland Command in a remote area of Greenland’s east coast. Personnel, authorities, aircraft, helicopters and ships from Canada, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States operated together in stormy weather and high seas as they evaluated their individual and collective Arctic search-and-rescue capabilities.

In late August, Exercise Northern Eagle brought together U.S., Russian and Norwegian ships, aircraft and helicopters in the Barents Sea to prepare for rescue and anti-piracy missions, Stavridis noted.

The final stage of that exercise, conducted under Russian command, includes the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Farragut, the Russian Northern Fleet’s destroyer Admiral Chabaneko and the Norwegian coast guard vessel KV Andenes.

Stavridis emphasized the United States’ long-term interest in and commitment to the Arctic.

“As an Arctic nation with significant coastline ‘up north,’ the U.S. will remain engaged,” he said.


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Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis

Related Sites:
U.S. European Command
Eucom web special

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