The warming Arctic is likely to be a new arena of conflict between Russia and the USA.
But unlike in current conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, there will be no question of democracy or a fight against terrorism to cloud the central issue—control of oil and gas resources and transportation routes.
The infrographic by the South China Morning Post provides a good snapshot of the situation. The potential conflict in the Arctic is even more dangerous than existing conflicts, because of its potential for direct confrontation between the USA and Russia.
The other nations with the greatest physical presence in the Arctic are Canada and Denmark (which controls Greenland). It will be interesting to see whether they will follow the lead of the United States or try to steer an independent course.
The irony of the situation is that the Arctic is being opened up by global warming, which causes the Arctic ice cap to shrink over time, and that the warming is caused mainly by burning of fossil fuels, but the new oil and gas supplied from the Arctic will make it easier and cheaper to keep on burning fossil fuels.
The best outcome would be for the Arctic powers to agree on sharing and conserving the region’s resources. That doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.