In recent years, the Russian government has capitalized on both melting sea ice and American inaction in the Arctic to dramatically expand its military footprint throughout the region. As Putin himself has put it, new shipping lanes opening in the Arctic may represent the future for the struggling Russian economy, but their presence in the region doesn’t only spell economic trouble for the United States, it also represents a threat to national security.

Now, American defense officials are beginning to sound off about the growing capability gap between the United States and Russia in the Arctic. Moreover, they’re also shining a light on how another global competitor—China—is poised to outmaneuver the United States in the frigid north.

“[China and Russia] both have…established a noticeably stronger foothold in the Arctic along the northern approaches to the United States and Canada,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and America’s Northern Command (NORTHCOM) told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “As a result, the strategic value of the Arctic as our first line of defense has re-emerged and USNORTHCOM and NORAD are taking active measures to ensure our ability to detect, detract and defeat potential threats in this region.”

Russian Ministry of Defense

According to Maj. Gen. Laurie Hummel, who previously served as the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, Russia has built more than a dozen new airfields and 16 other military facilities throughout the Arctic in recent years. Those facilities include deep-water ports, dedicated training centers, and a number of paratrooper and electronic warfare units. These assets complement Russia’s fleet of more than 40 polar icebreakers, some of which are the only nuclear-powered icebreakers on the planet (at least for now).