The polar ice cap is melting. As the Arctic ice thins, littoral countries are beginning a race to claim the region’s heretofore inaccessible resources. A navigable Arctic also holds out the promise of new trade routes, with much shorter travel times between Asia and Europe. An “open Arctic” has important strategic dimensions that demand the attention of national security planners.
Arctic ice is shrinking at a rate of 9 percent per decade. Scientists fear the Arctic is warming at a rate twice that of the rest of the planet. Two years ago, the annual summer melt was the worst in history, and the famous Northwest Passage was free of ice. This year was not that bad, but the melt was still the third-worst in history; 2008 was the second. There is speculation that the region will be “ice-free” year round by 2030.
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