The Arctic Sea Competition (Part Three)
Europe’s Key Challenges
By Caroline Mükusch
German Correspondent, Second Line of Defense
ESA’s CryoSat-2 is designed to collect new insights into the role of ice in the Earth system. The April 20th mission plan was to underfly the satellite over the Arctic Sea Ice. Credit photo: http://earthsky.org
2010-12-09 – The ownership of natural resources – the right to discover, exploit and trade oil and gas – combined with the control of the Arctic region – missile defense, strategic deterrence and maritime security operations – set the agenda for the 21st century Arctic power game. In respect to these fundamental security and energy issues, the Arctic region is of strategically importance for Europe:
- Boundaries: The territories of three EU member states extend to the Arctic region: (1) Denmark with Greenland; (2) Finland and (3) Sweden. Norway and Iceland – two other Arctic neighbors – are members of the European Economic Area.
- Energy: Two of Europe’s top energy suppliers – Norway and Russia – were struggling for some 40 years about the contested borders beneath the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean.
- Allies: Three strategic partners to the European Union, the United States, Canada and Russia, are claiming – if needed armed – territorial rights on the continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean: Two of them are NATO members; Russia is Europe’s major energy supplier.
This environment affects Europe’s strategic regional interests such as economic development and energy security; protection of sea lines of communication, especially for trade and energy flows; environmental impacts; military activism of allies (Russia and the United States); and Arctic policies of member states and allies. Although the EU has developed guidelines regarding the future of EU Arctic policy, it is far away from an Arctic policy strategy reflecting Europe’s geopolitically and strategically reality in a comprehensive way.
A comprehensive Arctic policy encompasses:
- Maritime knowledge regarding mobility, safety, and security.
- National defense and international security.
- Environmental knowledge regarding resources conservation.
The 2009 adopted conclusions of the Council of the EU are just a basis for the EU’s position on Arctic issues. The European Union should more clearly define its role in Arctic cooperation.
Additionally, the EU needs tools to deal simultaneously with environmental change, protection the law of the sea, environmentally hazardous chemicals, research, shipping, cooperation with indigenous peoples, and cooperation with existing forums and structures.
Even without the threat of a potential armed conflict over the Arctic between the “old” and “new” superpowers the economic and environmental trends alone justify that Europe should develop a concerted Arctic policy for the years ahead. European nations need to agree among themselves on policy, border issues of member states and allies, European security architecture, and the protection of transit routes as well as Europe’s energy security future.
The German ships MV Beluga Fraternity and MV Beluga Foresight traveled through the Northeast Passage without incident. The ships began their journey from South Korea in late July. Credit photo: Beluga Shipping via Associated Press, http://www.boston.com
Europe also needs to build up appropriate defense and security capabilities, especially capabilities to inter-operate. A comprehensive approach would first enhance Europe’s ability to realize political interests and goals and secondly Europe’s role as global player as well as its reliability to member states and allies.
In order to enforce and ensure European Arctic policy the EU has to take the following steps:
- Formulating European Arctic interests and goals.
- Generate an overview (strategically picture) of capabilities, resources and capacity in member states.
- Formulate a comprehensive European Arctic policy.
- Develope a flexible long-term program of action.
- Improve the decision-making process on Arctic issues.
- Enhance scientific and enforcement capabilities, to support both member states and allies.
- Engage in Arctic cooperation structures, processes, and training.
- Support an international framework for rules of engagement, especially regarding shipping and military exercising.
The window of opportunity is short. Europe has to build up at least three domains:
- Framework for cooperation: Establishing the infrastructure within and without the European Union for (1) common concept development, (2) information sharing, (3) permanent command and training staff, and (4) a comprehensive politically decision making process.
- Network architecture: Enforcing (1) operational infrastructure – C4ISR (command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) – (2) situational maritime awareness, (3) an operating picture including regularly updated real-time situational images as well as available equipment and personnel, (4) an operational decision making process, (5) crisis management, and (6) management and coordination tools.
- Effects based capabilities: Providing (1) bases for air surveillance capabilities, (2) monitoring and early warning systems, (3) appropriate time response plans and forces, especially coast guards, and (4) emergency preparedness capacity for large-scale natural disasters, maritime rescue services, search and rescue, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear response in the Arctic sea.
Single European countries are unable to deal with large-scale, complex and special operations. Because of large and steadily increasing costs associated with the procurement of modern security and defense technology. Inter-operability and pooling are the key enablers for appropriate capabilities to meet Arctic challenges of the 21st century.