New hotspot: the Arctic

Launch of Russian icebreaker Arktika in St. Petersburg
June 16, 2016: Russia’s Arctic buildup is symbolized by the Arktika, lead ship in a new class of nuclear icebreakers. The United States has nothing comparable (source: dpa)
  • Cheap energy has undermined the model of East-West cooperation in the Arctic
  • The oil industry’s prominence in a Trump administration may portend a new deal
  • More likely is a continuance of the current military buildup in the region
  • Confrontation in the Arctic is high-risk because it threatens Russia’s nuclear forces

During his election campaign, Donald Trump made it clear he was in favor of improving relations with Russia. He suggested that the United States should treat Russia as an ally with Syria, which would mean abandoning the long-held goal of deposing President Bashar al-Assad and recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which would mean selling Ukraine down the river.

These policies could be set in motion with Mr. Trump’s inauguration next month. A deal on Syria would at minimum create a common front against Daesh and could possibly initiate a broader strategic rebalancing in the Middle East. Including Crimea (and thus Ukraine) in such a package deal would go a long way toward defusing East-West tensions. Yet another region – important for commercial as well as security reasons – is seldom considered as part of an emerging geopolitical reset between Moscow and Washington. This region is the Arctic.

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