The U.S. Army believes melting ice caps in the Arctic caused by climate change will create “new opportunities” for “digital societies”—including around natural resources used for building “advanced weapons.”
“Furthermore, decreased sea ice and glacial mass will open access to currently unclaimed natural resources,” reads a report published by the Department of Army on Tuesday titled Regaining Arctic Dominance. “Perhaps most important to digital societies around the world, the Arctic is also a source of rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, and praseodymium). These metals allow the miniaturization of components for aircraft engines and advanced weapons as well as televisions, smart phones, laptops, cars, and cancer treatment drugs.”
Natural resources in the Arctic include “13% of the world’s oil, or 90 billion barrels” along with vast deposits of base metals, precious metals, and uranium. As the Arctic ice caps recede to “record levels,” the U.S. Army is interested in extracting these resources, while exploring new trade and fishing routes.
“The region north of the Arctic Circle is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, opening up new opportunities for natural resource extraction, shipping routes, and commercial fishing,” reads the report. “The loss of sea ice index opens up new waterways that can allow increased access to and transit through the region.”
The Army notes that the United States must invest heavier in the region due to continued geopolitical threats from Russia and China—the latter of which is “making a case to preserve its sovereign rights to the region by means of discovery, continual presence, and influence.” To combat these threats, the Army plans to establish a headquarters in the region with specially trained combat brigades, while investing further in cyber-security.
The U.S. military has long recognized the Arctic’s geopolitical significance. Speaking before the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in 2019, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recognized new trade opportunities arising from melting ice caps.
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo told the room. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could [become] the 21s century Suez and Panama Canals.”