Arctic Strategy and Operations
CNA has been at the forefront of Arctic operations, strategy, and policy analysis since its founding. Today, CNA executes complex analyses for the Department of Defense as the region grows in strategic importance, as a space of cooperation and coordination among Arctic nations, as well as a zone of competition between great powers.
Our analysts are in the field—at sea and ashore in the Arctic, providing real-time analysis to commanders on operations and exercises. CNA analysts embed with US Navy and Marine Corps afloat and ashore commands to provide insights about operational and strategic challenges in the Arctic. For example:
- Training, readiness, and logistics during Exercise Cold Response in Norway: In 2020, CNA sent an analyst to observe Marines operating in the Norwegian Arctic as part of Exercise Cold Response.
- Arctic command and control: In 2019, CNA analysts mobilized to document lessons learned in support of the United States’ expeditionary maritime operations center in Iceland and the Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise in Adak, Alaska.
- Cyber security and interoperability during Exercise Northern Edge: In 2019, CNA analysts deployed with Carrier Strike Group Nine in the Gulf of Alaska during Exercise Northern Edge.
- Alliance management and aircraft carrier operations in the High North: In 2018, CNA embedded an analyst with the carrier strike group staff of USS Harry S. Truman for the first carrier deployment north of the Arctic Circle in nearly three decades.
- Navy-USMC integration during Trident Juncture: In 2018, CNA analysts embedded with Marines in Norway during Trident Juncture to observe the state of Marine Corps training, and the capability of Marine forces to deploy to and redeploy from Norway.
In addition to formal research and field exercises, CNA’s Arctic experts are frequent commentators on evolving issues in the region, and the creators of "Polar Politics," an original CNA podcast series.
News and Features
- Defense One: The Arctic Is No Substitute for Suez. We Should Keep It That Way.: Joshua Tallis, April 7, 2021.
- Lawfare: Could A Kiwi Sailor's Northwest Passage Transit Break the Legal Ice Between Canada and the U.S.?: Cornell Overfield, September 25, 2020
- Seapower: Admiral Cool to Notion of Separate Arctic Fleet: Richard R. Burgess, August 4, 2020. Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander 2nd fleet, responds to a question about a July 17 article posted on Seapower’s website concerning an idea proposed by an Arctic expert [at a recent discussion convened by CNA].
- DefenseNews: NATO is the right forum for security dialogue in the High North: Joshua Tallis, July 28, 2020
- Business Insider: China's First Homemade Icebreaker Heads to the Arctic as Trump Looks for 10 more of Them from 'A Certain Place’: Christopher Woody, July 22, 2020. ‘“Chinese experts recognize that Russia will never accept China as an equal partner in the Arctic, because if you had a partnership in the Arctic, the question would be who would be the number one partner," Elizabeth Wishnick, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at Montclair State University, said at a recent event hosted by the research group CNA.”
- Seapower: Navy Arctic Expert Suggests a Fleet to Encompass Arctic Domain: Richard R. Burgess, July 17, 2020: ”Dr. Walter Berbrick, associate professor at the Naval War College and director of its Arctic Studies Group, was speaking July 16 during a webinar, Arctic East vs West: US Strategy in the Atlantic and Pacific Arctic, sponsored by CNA, a think tank in Arlington.”
- USNI Proceedings: Lessons for Space from the Oceans and Poles: Joshua Tallis, June 2020
- InDepth: Antarctica is the New Arctic: Security and Strategy in the Southern Ocean: Ralph Espach and Nilanthi Samaranayake, March 17, 2020
- Defense One: As 'Arctic Exceptionalism' Melts Away, the U.S. Isn't Sure What It Wants Next: Joshua Tallis, January 22, 2020.
- The National Interest: Will China Freeze America Out of the Arctic?: Mark Rosen, August 14, 2019
- The Hill: China is Seizing the Geopolitical Opportunities of the Melting Arctic: Mark E. Rosen and David Slayton, October 30, 2017
- The National Interest: The Arctic is the First Stop in the United States Reset with Russia: Mark Rosen, November 15, 2016
Russia’s Military Build-up in the Arctic: To What End?
Katarzyna Zysk, September 2020
Dr. Katarzyna Zysk, a noted expert on Russia's strategy in the Arctic, examines the evolution of Russia's military posture in the Arctic, including current investments, training and exercises, and explores what the development trends over time can ultimately tell us about the end objectives for the revamped Russian military presence in the region.
A CNA Event Note: Basing Rights and Contested Sovereignty in Greenland and Diego Garcia, The Impact of Decolonization on US and Allied Access in the Era of Great Power Competition
Rapporteur: Cornell Overfield, August 2019
On August 21, 2019, CNA’s Strategy and Policy Analysis program hosted an on-the-record event to discuss how recent developments in sovereignty politics could affect US military basing rights around the world, particularly in Greenland and Diego Garcia. Both are currently part of US allies’ territories—the former as a constituent within the Kingdom of Denmark and the latter as the largest island in the British Indian Ocean Territory—but the status of either one (or both) could change.
Unconstrained Foreign Direct Investment: An Emerging Challenge to Arctic Security
Mark E. Rosen, Cara B. Thuringer, November 2017
The Arctic Ocean is a vast maritime region which is bordered by six states that are now coming to appreciate their enormous hydrocarbon, mineral, and other natural resource potentials. Other states outside of the Arctic have also taken note of the Arctic’s vast and unexploited deposits, especially China. The Arctic is essentially a closed-sea and all human activity, even environmental accidents on land, can have serious environmental impacts on the other littoral countries because of ocean currents and climactic conditions. This fact is compounded by the aggressive pace of climate change in the Arctic.