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U.S. slow to protect arctic interests

Jan. 10, 2011 at 12:21 PM   |   Comments

Scrambling for the Arctic
Scrambling for the Arctic
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. reaction to the opening of arctic sea lanes and access to seabed resources as global warming reduces ice in the region is slow and inadequate, experts say.

The U.S. arctic is melting quickly because of accelerated climate change and the opening of the region has nations jockeying for position, while U.S. government and military officials worry the United States is not moving quickly enough to secure American interests in the region, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The Obama administration considers the arctic an area of key strategic interest, and the U.S. military expects the arctic will become "ice-free" for several weeks each summer, possibly as early as 2013.

However, military and civilian resources needed to successfully operate there are lacking and there are few indications of any significant changes coming.

The Government Accountability Office, in a September report, said the Coast Guard lacks adequate infrastructure or equipment in the arctic.

Many in the Coast Guard operating in the region agree.

"We definitely don't have the infrastructure available to operate for an extended period of time in the arctic in the summer, much less in the winter when it's more critical for logistical purposes," Lt. Cmdr. Nahshon Almandmoss said.

The arctic nations of Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States are preparing to claim larger pieces of territory under a clause in the treaty that governs the world's waters.

Under the treaty, a nation that can prove its continental shelf extends past the current boundary of 200 miles from its coastline can claim up to 150 additional miles of seabed.

"With 20 percent of the yet-to-be-discovered oil, gas and minerals remaining in the world in the arctic, the United States can't risk losing it," Rear Adm. Christopher C. Colvin, commander of Alaska's 17th Coast Guard District, said.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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