Opinion: NATO needs a strategy to address Russia’s Arctic expansion

By David Babikian, Atlantic Council, Julia Nesheiwat, Atlantic Council - July 10, 2024
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FILE PHOTO: The logo of NATO is seen at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in the NATO defence ministers’ session together with Sweden as the invitee, at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 15, 2024. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/File Photo

NATO’s seventy-fifth anniversary summit in Washington, DC, will give the Alliance an opportunity to develop a strategy to address Russia’s growing presence in the Arctic, David Babikian and Julia Nesheiwat write in a blog on the Atlantic Council’s website.

  • The summit will address Russia’s growing Arctic presence, a concern linked to Moscow’s cooperation with China and new sea lanes opening due to accelerated ice melting. The Arctic’s strategic importance is underscored by Russia’s extensive military infrastructure, with Russia operating one-third more military bases in the Arctic Circle than NATO members combined.
  • Russia’s strategic use of the Northern Sea Route, heavily supported by Chinese investments, allows it to transport energy and mineral commodities more efficiently. Climate change is making the route more viable, enhancing the Arctic’s strategic importance, with conventional tankers now navigating the region due to reduced ice.
  • NATO’s Arctic states like the U.S., Canada, and the Nordic countries are increasing their military presence and infrastructure investments in the Arctic.
  • Despite international sanctions hindering Russia’s Arctic projects, NATO’s expansion with Finland and Sweden’s accession strengthens its Arctic footprint, making the Washington summit an opportune moment to enhance NATO’s Arctic security strategies.