As the Arctic becomes increasingly navigable, the spike in shipping and ecotourism through these Arctic transit corridors will require robust monitoring systems to improve maritime safety and security. The most significant threats involve nonstate actors such as drug smugglers, gunrunners, illegal immigrants or even terrorists who might take advantage of ice-free Arctic waters to move contraband or people between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans or into North America or Europe. -Heather Conley, “A New Security Architecture for the Arctic

Piracy Redux

In the next ten to twenty years, as the Arctic Ocean opens up to maritime trade, it will bring with it a host of issues which plague oceans in the rest of the world, including that age old scourge of the sea: piracy. When examining the issue of piracy in the Arctic we will also have to adjust how we conventionally think about this issue. It is highly unlikely that there will be speed boats filled with RPG-wielding bandits in the Arctic anytime in the foreseeable future. Instead, the potential for piracy will come about if Russia is unsuccessful at enforcing the rule of law within Russian territory and waters.

Reportedly, it is common for American businessmen in Alaska to enter into business agreements with Russians and quickly have that business arrangement become very coercive. The Russian mafia does have a presence in the region, despite the Arctic itself being sparsely populated. Around any maritime trade route, especially at choke points, cities develop around maritime activity such as Colombo in Sri Lanka, or Singapore. Small towns and villages exist in Northern Russia and they are likely to grow as maritime activity increases.