TOWARD AN ARCTIC STRATEGY
By Lieutenant Colonel Alan L. Kollien
February 17, 2009
Rising temperatures and a corresponding icepack melt in the
…This paper aims to spark American strategists to build and codify an already “late to need” comprehensive Arctic strategy. It examines two factual cause and effect trends that illustrate the urgent need for this strategy. First, Arctic ice retreat measurements point to increased regional accessibility faster than scientific models predicted earlier this decade. That trend, in turn, encourages previously unforeseen economic, scientific and other activities on
… Arctic Legal Regime
The most pressing challenge the United States faces is choosing a way to legally stake and enforce its Arctic territorial claims in order to meet national security, homeland security and economic objectives as stated in the policy. (p. 5).
To achieve a common international legal regime, NSPD-66/HSPD-25 urges the Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).23 However, an opposition group, including recently re-elected Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), believes ratification of the current convention gains little, but costs too much. Before determining legal regime options, strategists should carefully examine arguments from both sides of the UNCLOS issue to develop the necessary political consensus on complex national security issues.
Ratification foes for accepting the current UNCLOS treaty provide the following reasons, many with implications beyond the
28 Kogan, “UNCLOS Alchemy.”
Energy companies currently operating on Alaska’s North Slope and in the Beaufort Sea who advocate UNCLOS ratification want to extend their drilling fields and exclusively secure the resources along, and eventually beyond, the continental shelf. Exemplifying their enthusiasm, Chukchi Sea leases fetched a record $2.6 billion at a February 2008 auction.35 UNCLOS provisions allow a nation to claim exclusive seabed mineral rights up to 350 nautical miles from its shoreline if its continental shelf extends beyond the current 200-nautical-mile EEZ (depicted for the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia by the bold line in Figure 3). (p. 11). Nations must submit claims for co ntinental shelf rights beyond the 200-nautical-mile limit to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).36 Such claims must be submitted within ten years of treaty ratification. They may also apply for licenses to claim mineral resources beyond national limits in the deep seabed through the International Seabed Authority (ISA). (pp. 11-12).
However, the 2008 USGS data suggest ratification may not be necessary to secure the vast majority of U.S. energy interests. The majority of undiscovered oil and natural gas resources likely lie along the continen tal shelf, within nations’ current EEZs, rendering claims to the CLCS and ISA unnecessary to harvest those resources.38 T he Arctic Alaska province contains 30 BBO and 221 TCF of natural gas, all within the U.S. EEZ. The province also likely contains an undiscovered 5.9 billion barrels of natural gas. .liquids (BNGL). (p.12)
All total, the estimated sum of undiscovered energy in the province equals 72.77 billion barrels of oil and oil-equivalent natural gas (BOE).39 Claims submitted under UNCLOS provisions could increase the U.S. stake for resources in only one area, the Amerasian Basin province, to a limited degree. The USGS study indicates that 9.7 BBO, 56.89 TCF of natural gas, and 0.54 BNGL lie undiscovered in the province. However, the highest concentrations of these resources likely exist along the Canadian and U.S. (Alaskan) continental shelves. Compared to the 72.77 BOE suspected to lie within the Arctic Alaska province, 19.75 BOE likely lies within the Amerasian Basin. The vast majority of that 19.75 BOE lies within the Canadian and U.S. EEZs, therefore little remains available for the United States to claim.40 A U.S. claim submission to the CLCS to extend economic rights could increase total U.S. energy reserves, but only by a miniscule amount according to the most current USGS appraisal. Additionally, under UNCLOS, a claim beyond the current U.S. EEZ would require a license fee, making the scant amount of additional resources even less economically attractive.41 (pp. 12-13).
Canada, meanwhile, invokes U.N. rulings in other parts of the world to justify claiming portions of the Northwest Passage as internal waters.43 In this light, building the legal regime strategy block requires a cautious balancing act to maximize achievement of all U.S. interests.44. (pp. 13-14).
If the team’s proposed adjustments, approved by appropriate U.S. authorities, prove acceptable to the United Nations, then the U.S. Senate should ratify the modified UNCLOS and the United States recognize all provisions as treaty law. This provides a common legal regime for all Arctic nations to stake claims and enforce the rule of law in this rapidly emerging region of importance. This option, though the most time consuming and potentially difficult to achieve, provides a path to minimum conflict and maximum international legitimacy. Fundamentally, it fully achieves all related U.S. Arctic policy objectives to the maximum extent possible. (pp. 14-15)
This option potentially casts the United States as a “unilateralist” nation since it does not achieve the common legal regime championed by the United Nations and those nations who have already ratified the measure. It could reinforce a negative image among certain governments and anti-U.S. groups. For example, these actors may disparage the United States in the same manner they do regarding the Kyoto protocols. (p. 16)
While Option 3 does not create a common international legal regime, it does clarify America’s view and buys time to pursue Option 1. This transparency could alleviate potential conflicts regarding territorial and resource claims in the Arctic and naval freedoms throughout the world. At least other nations would know the United States’ position regarding every UNCLOS provision. Option 3 provides flexibility since it may represent the United States’ final position regarding UNCLOS or just fill the gap until achieving Option 1 in the future. It could be a steppingstone while seeking a politically acceptable option that better achieves a common legal regime. (pp. 16-17)
Option 3 (Codification) nearly maximizes U.S. energy objectives while maintaining sovereignty, but fails to provide a truly common legal regime. In the interim, however, Option 3 could possibly be used to minimize potential conflicts while pursuing Option 1.
Finally, Option 2 (Ratification) maximizes U.S. energy interests and legal regime compatibility, but the expense of ceding sovereignty makes it politically unpopular and strategically inferior. It clearly provides the least favorable solution. In fact, Option 2 would likely hinder achieving some of the global objectives explained in NSPD-66/HSPD-25. (p. 17)
...This paper provides the foundation for strategy makers to move toward an Arctic strategy. It examines the major regional stakes primarily related to economic opportunities created by climate change. Using the newly approved Arctic objectives identified in NSPD-66/HSPD-25, it analyzes three legal regime options and two. combatant command options. It then recommends modifying UNCLOS to achieve a common international legal regime and modifying the UCP to incorporate a circumpolar perspective for maximizing unity of effort throughout this emerging region of importance. In total, this paper aims to spawn vigorous efforts to rapidly design and codify a comprehensive strategy to achieve U.S. Arctic objectives. (pp. 23-24)