With ice melting in the Arctic Ocean, which is bordered by countries including Canada, Russia and the United States, more sea-faring traffic will appear there and more nations with economic interest in the region will arrive to exploit the resources there, said a panel of security experts during a forum.
“[Our] area of responsibility is evolving and changing,” said Maj. Gen. Francis G. Mahon, J5, U.S. Northern Command. “The Arctic is receding … the northern coast is about to become a real coast; maybe not today, maybe not this year, but in a short time. We need to start thinking about that.”
Mahon was featured during a panel discussion regarding North American security, during the 2012 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.
Mahon said development in the Arctic “is going to happen.”
Shell Oil, for instance, has been there conducting test drilling operations, and Conoco, he said, will be there next summer.
Increased economic interest in the region, which is bordered by Alaska, means more security concerns, potential conflict over rights to resources there, such as fishing and mineral rights, and more opportunity for the kinds of disasters that the United States might be called on to assist with.
John Stanton, director, Joint Operations Directorate, Customs and Border Protection, also sat on the panel. He said that the northern ice cap has been receding more on the Russian side than on the Canadian side.