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Washington concerned U.S. lagging behind Russia in Arctic

August 30, 2015, 8:23 UTC+3 NEW YORK
1 pages in this article

NEW YORK, August 30. /TASS/. There is increasing concern among U.S. politicians and experts that the United States was lagging behind other nations, primarily Russia, in exploiting the Arctic's natural resources amid changing climate conditions alongside expanding its military presence in the region, the New York Times said in an article published on Saturday.

"With warming seas creating new opportunities at the top of the world, nations are scrambling over the Arctic - its territorial waters, transit routes and especially its natural resources - in a rivalry some already call a new Cold War," the newspaper said.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is expected to travel to Alaska on Monday, becoming the first president to venture above the Arctic Circle while in office, "hopes to focus attention on the effects of climate change on the Arctic", the paper’s article said. "Some lawmakers in Congress, analysts, and even some government officials say the United States is lagging behind other nations, chief among them Russia, in preparing for the new environmental, economic and geopolitical realities facing the region," it said.

"We have been for some time clamoring about our nation’s lack of capacity to sustain any meaningful presence in the Arctic," the paper quoted Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, the U.S. Coast Guard’s commandant, as saying. "The United States really isn’t even in this game," Zukunft reportedly said at a conference in Washington this year, lamenting "the lack of urgency" on the issue in Washington and contrasting it with "the challenges of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union confronted each other in the Arctic and beyond".

The Times noted that the Coast Guard fleet in the Arctic was aging, "especially the nation’s only two icebreakers". Besides, "Alaska’s far north lacks deepwater port facilities to support increased maritime activity", it said.

"All these shortcomings require investments that political gridlock, budget constraints and bureaucracy have held up for years," the newspaper said.

"Russia, by contrast, is building 10 new search-and-rescue stations" at ports along half of the Arctic shoreline, the paper said, adding that the country "has also significantly increased its military presence, reopening bases abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union".

The Times recalled that earlier this month "Russia resubmitted a claim to the United Nations to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean - 463,000 square miles, about the size of South Africa - based on the geological extension of its continental shelf".

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