On June 9, President Trump released the “Memorandum on Safeguarding U.S. Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions.” The Memorandum flew mostly under the radar, yet it is indicative of increased U.S. interest in the polar regions and a response to the adverse power balance in the Arctic.
The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas. Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark (through Greenland), Iceland, Russia, Canada, and the U.S. (through Alaska) all possess Arctic territory.
The Arctic region had, until recent years, not been given particular attention in the U.S. This started to change with the melting of the Arctic icecap. The retreating ice has increased — and will further increase — the navigability of the Northwest Passage, the sea route passing along North America through the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific. The Northeast and Central Passages are expected to similarly become more navigable.
Thus, melting ice will make the heretofore unwelcoming Arctic trade routes more viable. It is also making the Arctic’s abundant energy resources, particularly natural gas, more easily accessible: Speaking to the wealth of Arctic’s energy resources, it is estimated that 20 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves are located in the Arctic. Therefore, both as a maritime passageway and resource reservoir, the Arctic’s importance is increasing.