NEWPORT, R.I. – Scholars and navy representatives from nations with Arctic territory gathered at the U.S. Naval War College on Tuesday to discuss security and defense in the region.
The Newport Arctic Scholars Initiative convened in Newport, Rhode Island. The United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland sent representatives to the three-day event. Sweden also is participating.
Walter Berbrick, an associate professor at the war college, said he hopes Russia can participate, but it isn't currently because of strained relations with the U.S.
Berbrick said it is the first multinational, collaborative research forum focusing on Arctic security and defense. Other forums for Arctic nations focus on environmental conservation, sustainable development and safety issues, he said.
Each country is challenged by China's attempts to gain more influence in the Arctic, which has vast natural resources and could provide shorter trade routes between some nations, Berbrick said. The participants will collaborate during the next year on research about ensuring access and promoting security.
"No one person, no one navy or no one nation has all the knowledge and all the capability to fully anticipate and adapt to an opening Arctic," Berbrick said.
They'll present their findings to their respective navies in one year.
Valur Ingimundarson, a history professor at the University of Iceland, said it's a good venue to see how Arctic states are thinking about the growing presence of militaries in the Arctic. Johannes Nordby, a commander in the Royal Danish Navy who works at the Royal Danish Defence College, said he wants the group to address the question of China's role in the Arctic.
Berbrick, director of the college's Arctic Studies Group, organized the seminar with retired Rear Adm. Lars Saunes, former chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy.
Saunes said navies need more knowledge to guide national decision making and ensure a peaceful and prosperous developing of the region. He also said Russia's future participation will be crucial to the initiative's success, given its large physical presence in the Arctic.
All Arctic states share in the responsibility to take care of the Arctic in the future, Saunes said.
"What's happening in the Arctic has global consequences," he said. "The Arctic must not become another highway of war. I hope this work will create the conditions for an avenue of peace."