Arctic’s thaw brings security risks for NATO

 

DAVID STRINGER | Associated Press

NATO will need a military presence in the Arctic as global warming melts frozen sea routes and major powers rush to lay claim to lucrative energy reserves, the military bloc’s chief said Thursday.

NATO commanders and lawmakers meeting in Iceland‘s capital said the Arctic thaw is bringing the prospect of new standoffs between powerful nations.

“I would be the last one to expect military conflict — but there will be a military presence,” NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters. “It should be a military presence that is not overdone, and there is a need for political cooperation and economic cooperation.”

The opening up of Arctic sea routes once navigable only by icebreakers threatens to complicate delicate relations between countries with competing claims to Arctic territory — particularly as exploration for oil and natural gas becomes possible in once inaccessible areas.

De Hoop Scheffer said negotiations involving Russia, NATO and other nations will be key to preventing a future conflict. The NATO chief is expected to meet Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov next week for talks.

The United States, Russia and Canada are among the countries attempting to claim jurisdiction over Arctic territory alongside Nordic nations. Analysts say China is also likely to join a rush to capture energy reserves.

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