Thursday, September 24, 2015


"The U.S. military is expanding its presence – and firepower – in one of the coldest regions on earth, the Arctic, as a counterweight to increasing presence of Russian and Chinese forces, the Los Angeles Timesreported.
The primary purpose for the expanding footprints of the Russian and Chinese militaries is the long-time presence of, and growing accessibility to, natural resources. But the added presence is forcing American intelligence agencies to pour more resources into studying potential emerging threat in the Arctic for the first time since the Cold War, marking a rise in the region’s strategic importance.Besides relying on U.S. spy satellites overhead and U.S. Navy sensors buried deep in frigid waters, analysts process raw intelligence from a recently overhauled Canadian listening post located near the North Pole, as well as a Norwegian surveillance ship called the Marjata, now undergoing an upgrade at the Navy’s shipyard in southern Virginia.The Times reports that, over the past 14 months, many of the U.S. intelligence community’s 16 agencies have tasked analysts to work full-time on the Arctic – its expanse, ecosystems, and especially its strategic importance and value. Recently, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, led by DNI James Clapper, convened a “strategy board” that brought together the analysts so they could share and discuss findings.
The Obama administration’s renewed strategic interest in the Arctic was highlighted recently after the Pentagon confirmed it was tracking five Chinese warships in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia – the first time that has happened. Defense officials said the Chinese ships were in international waters steaming towards the Aleutian Islands but otherwise posed no threat.
The Times reported that the growing U.S. focus on the region is mirrored by other nation states with polar interests, setting off a scramble for mostly untapped mineral reserves and deposits of oil and natural gas as ice caps thin and recede. Besides the U.S., Russia and China, other Western powers included Canada, Denmark and Norway are also pursuing interests.
In the U.S., the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has spent the past two years devising new maps and charts of water passages and territories in the vast Arctic. NGA Director Robert Cardillo, in a statement, said that the agency intends to “broaden and accelerate” that mapping work, while other intelligence agencies work to chart the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas..."

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