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The next NATO summit will be held in Warsaw, Poland, in July 2016. One area that has been largely ignored by the alliance is the Arctic.
NATO is a collective security organization designed to defend the territorial integrity of its members – which includes Arctic territory. Five NATO members (Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and the US) are Arctic countries. In addition, two closely allied nations (Finland and Sweden) also have Arctic territory.
NATO has no agreed common position on its role in the Arctic region. Although NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept was praised for acknowledging new security challenges for the alliance – such as cyber and energy security – Arctic security was not included. In fact, the word “Arctic” does not appear in the 2010 Strategic Concept, the 2010 Lisbon NATO summit declaration, the 2012 Chicago NATO summit declaration, or the 2014 Wales NATO summit declaration.
It is time for NATO to develop a comprehensive Arctic policy to address security challenges in the region. The US should use the next summit to get the Arctic on NATO’s agenda and ensure that the alliance agrees on a common policy toward the region’s security.
In April 2014, the US took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Canada. The chairmanship of the Arctic Council is not a necessarily powerful position. However, the country holding the chair is offered the opportunity to set the council’s agenda.
The US should focus its chairmanship on promoting economic freedom in the Arctic, raising awareness in the US about the region and the Arctic Council, working to promote the needs of all Alaskans, and blocking the EU Commission’s application for observer status.
The US should also start working closely with Finland, which will take over the chairmanship from the US in early 2017.