United States Arctic Policy: The Reluctant Arctic Power

  • Rob Huebert University of Calgary


Although the United States is an Arctic nation, the Arctic has seldom figured prominently in US policy. In January 2009 the US released its new Arctic policy. Arctic Region Policy signals that the US is beginning to understand that the Arctic is changing in a manner that concerns its vital national interests. The core Arctic issues facing the US are resource development and international circumpolar relations. The development of oil and gas reserves in Alaska is discussed in the context of sustainable development and US domestic energy security, which are often at odds with each other.  In regards to circumpolar relation, the US has traditionally been a reluctant Arctic power. It has been unwilling to take the initiative in the area of international Arctic policy. Now, the United States also must act to improve its participation in the main Arctic institutions in order to strengthen cooperation among the Arctic nations. But at the same time, the US must now face a geo-political environment that is becoming more complicated and possibly dangerous than was the case in the last decade. Thus their new policy also emphasizes the priority the US places on security by maintaining a strong military presence in the Arctic. All of these actions are already having an impact on their Arctic neighbors including Canada. This will continue to be the case as American activity increase in the region. Now that the Arctic is transforming due to climate change, resource development, globalization, and geopolitical factors,the United States can no longer ignore the Arctic.
Briefing Papers