Securing U.S. Arctic Interests and the Role of UNCLOS

  • Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Reiley

The Arctic’s receding ice offers potentially great benefits to the U.S. resulting from access to Arctic natural resources and an expanded global commons. These economic opportunities however are not uncontested. Russia and other Arctic nations have parallel interests and have made resource claims under the auspices of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which the U.S. is not a signatory. This leaves the U.S. mute and on the sideline to influence the outcome of Arctic resource claims, particularly those of Russia who stands to gain the most if the U.S. is not engaged. In addition to securing resources, UNCLOS provides legal certainty for operations at sea that are vital to securing the global commons and assuring freedom of navigation. The U.S. should ratify UNCLOS as a critical component of policy to peacefully achieve U.S. interests while facing an assertive and regionally powerful Russia.