New strategy boosts UK military focus on Arctic
LONDON — Britain is urging the NATO alliance to be more proactive in the Arctic region, where Moscow is upping its game militarily.
The government set out its strategic thinking on how to respond to the growing importance of the Far North as melting ice opens up the region in a document released on March 29.
The release of the strategy document comes just days before the end of a major Norwegian-led exercise involving around 30,000 personnel from 27 NATO and partner nations that tested the military’s ability to reinforce local forces .
The British, who actually have no territory in the Arctic Circle, have been major contributors to exercise Cold Response 2022, including the deployment of HMS Prince of Wales, one of the two new aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement accompanying the strategy that his department would step up defense activities in the region.
“British Armed Forces will do more with our close allies and Arctic partners, across NATO, bilaterally and through other multilateral groupings such as the Joint Expeditionary Force. The Royal Navy, including including our dedicated Littoral Response Group (North), will periodically operate in the Far North alongside Allies and partners, the Army will expand its cold weather training and the RAF will deploy P8A maritime patrol aircraft to the region and continue to participate in the Icelandic Air Police,” he said.
Previously, Wallace had warned that the Arctic was becoming an area of increasing military competition whose security would directly affect Britain.
The strategy document, titled ‘UK Contribution to Defense in the High North’, urges the Alliance to increase activity in the region if necessary.
“The UK will advocate for NATO to take a more proactive approach to the High North,” he said. “NATO’s approach must be calibrated and proportionate, reflecting low levels of tension. But there must be a recognition of the importance of the region in a 360-degree approach to collective deterrence and defence, and a recognition of its critical importance in helping to enable reinforcement across the North Atlantic,” indicates the document.
Wallace justified the push for greater capabilities in the region by saying that while the Arctic has always been an area of low tensions, things are changing.
“The melting sea ice in the Arctic brings threats as well as opportunities: Russia is taking an increasingly militarized approach to the region; and China is supporting its Polar Silk Road project with a range of infrastructure and capabilities that have dual-use potential,” he warned.
“As the region becomes more accessible, threats from elsewhere in the world could spill over into the Arctic. We need to be able to respond appropriately to changing regional dynamics resulting from receding sea ice,” Wallace said.