According to analysts, Russia's growing military operations in the Arctic region signal a new "ice curtain" era. The western countries are feeling threaten, especially in the wake of Moscow's aggression in Ukraine. Observers are also alarmed by Russia's recent claim to 463,000 square miles of the Arctic and label it as an aggressive "land grab" attempt of the former soviet superpower that tries to revive its past glory.
The global warming and the increasing pace of glaciers melting create new opportunities for nations to explore the Arctic region and take advantage of its transit routes, territorial waters, and, in particular, its promising natural resources. This situation creates a new rivalry over the warming waters of the Arctic. Many analysts already call this a new Cold War.
In this context, President Obama's visit to Alaska becomes the first presidential visit above the Arctic Circle while in office. According to analysts, the president intends to focus attention on the effects of global warming on the Arctic region. Some government officials and lawmakers in Congress are worried that the U.S. may lag behind other nations and especially Russia in preparing for the new geopolitical, economic and environmental realities facing the Arctic region.
According to the Coast Guard's commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, the United States has been already for some time in the difficult situation of lacking the ability to sustain any meaningful presence in the Arctic region.
Meanwhile, Russian vessels appear often on the radars of the American patrol ships. The increased Russian military presence and activity in the Arctic is obvious in the waters of the Chukchi Sea. North of the Arctic Circle, close to the western edge of Alaska, Russian vessels appear often on the radars of the American patrol ships. Convoys of military vessels protecting container ships are traversing the route that Russia is hoping to transform soon in a new Suez Canal, and all this is happening just Across America's maritime border
For now, America's only asset anywhere nearby to respond to an eventual incursion into its territory or exclusive economic zone in the Arctic is Alex Haley, just a former Navy salvage vessel dating nearly five decades ago. The Coast Guard needs to divert ships like the old cutter Alex Haley from other core missions, in order to deal with the growing number of foreign vessels in the region, traveling through the Bering Strait.
The U.S. has just two icebreakers, the Coast Guard's fleet is aging and the Navy rarely operates in the Arctic. According to analysts, all these shortcomings require some immediate investments that are unlikely to happen in the present conjuncture of bureaucracy, political gridlock and budget constraints.