The US Army wants an additional brigade dedicated to strengthening presence in the Arctic, Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said amid reports of increasing Russian presence in the polar region.
McConville made his comments while acknowledging the changing situation in the region as melting sea ice raises prospects of competition over natural resources and commercial shipping routes.
“It starts with recognizing where our national interests are and we certainly have national interests in the Arctic,” McConville said earlier this week. “As the situation changes up there and there is more freedom of movement, we certainly want to make sure that we protect our interests.”
The army wants to ramp up forces in the region, which includes transforming an existing two-star command into an operational headquarters and building a “multi-domain task force” for the region.
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US Navy’s Arctic Strategy
McConville’s comments echo the recently released US Navy and Marine Corps new Arctic strategy that the armed forces need to extend focus on day-to-day competition with Russia and China into the Arctic.
“In the face of increasingly aggressive activity in the High North from both Russia, which is an Arctic nation, and China, which claims to be a near-Arctic nation, we in the United States must maintain a favorable balance of power in this region for ourselves and for our allies,” Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite told reporters following the January 5 strategy launch.
Focus Shifting North
The demand for increased US forces in the Arctic predates the strategy.
Last year, Major General Peter Andrysiak, commanding general of US Army Alaska, said the US Army has made the Arctic a “significant pivot and investment,” adding the time has come to refocus from other regions of the world to the High North.
“For a couple of decades we’ve been meeting significant demands around the world, to a degree, it’s taken its toll. There is a realization that we’ve got to slow things down and refocus…on the Arctic,” he stated during the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention.
“While we do conduct operations in the Arctic there is a lot of work that needs to be done and there is recognition of that. The Army, during the time with the global war on terror, has largely made units much the same and we don’t have the unique capabilities anymore,” Andrysiak added, highlighting the need to bolster the US Army’s strength in the region, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Meanwhile, Russia has recently restored a Soviet-era laboratory to test weapons in simulated extreme Arctic conditions amid a push by Moscow to bolster presence in the resource-rich polar region.