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The Case for U.S. Coast Guard Cutters in American Samoa

By Ridge Alkonis

Regardless of prognostications of future conflict it is clear that the history of the 21st century will be written in the Indo-Pacific. Accordingly, as the United States steams into in an increasingly turbulent maritime security environment, it should not discount harvesting “easy wins” in the region. Compared to the marquee U.S. military installations at Diego Garcia, Yokosuka, or Guam, American Samoa is a U.S. territory that evokes images of idyllic island life rather than strategic competition. However, by considering American Samoa through the lens of strategic competition, a military installation manned by the U.S. Coast Guard is an easy step to demonstrate commitment in the region that makes imminent sense for several reasons. Due to the sheer distances involved in the Pacific — the closest Coast Guard installations are from Hawaii (2,260 nautical miles) and Guam (3,120 nautical miles) — current sustained operations in region are necessarily expeditionary.

Establishing a Coast Guard installation in American Samoa would lengthen the reach of the Coast Guard’s highly capable Sentinel class cutters, galvanizing partnerships throughout the Southern Pacific. With increasing concerns surrounding illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUUF), the law enforcement presence and know-how of the U.S. Coast Guard will be a boon to safeguarding erosion of geographic and economic sovereignty of island nations in the Southern Pacific. This approach dovetails with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, which calls for “Build[ing] Connections Within and Beyond the Region.” Notably, the U.S. Coast Guard is one of the few government agencies called out by name in the strategy. One of the  great contributions and strengths of the Coast Guard are the multitude of unique service and agency relationships and bi-lateral agreements it shares with international partners. . Expanding Coast Guard presence in the Southern Pacific has the potential to enhance dozens of bilateral and multi-lateral relationships for the United States while bolstering maritime security in the region.

Regional Consequences

The state of play in the region which necessitates U.S. Coast Guard presence in the South Pacific is best viewed through the prism of climate change and IUU fishing. U.S. stakeholders and defense watchers may express significant and well-founded concern with Chinese expansion in the region, as evidenced by the recent Solomon Islands security agreement, while regional leaders find themselves more concerned with immediate threats like climate change and IUU fishing.

IUU fishing is among the greatest threats to ocean health and is a significant cause of global overfishing. This contributes to the collapse or decline of fisheries that are critical to the economic growth, food systems, and ecosystems of numerous countries around the world. The deleterious effects of IUU fishing manifest around the world due to the reach of largely Chinese owned and operated, distance water fishing fleets (DWF). They engage in industrial scale commercial fishing operations, many times illegally, in the waters of other states. Wholesale, it is not an exaggeration to say that IUU fishing is a singular threat to both the economic and geographic sovereignty of nations around the world. Relatedly, the downstream effects of IUU fishing exacerbate the environmental and socioeconomic effects of climate change. These specific problems are aggravated in a remote region such as the South Pacific where maritime domain awareness — broadly defined as the knowledge and awareness of the maritime activities within a given states’ jurisdiction — is generally lower and enforcement mechanisms are weaker.

President Biden is considering expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument (PRIMNM). A major concern of the initiative (besides that it harshly impedes indigenous fishers), is it may allow foreign illegal fishing to take stronger hold inside U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones. Western Pacific Fishery Management Council member McGrew Rice warns, “We need to consider that the Pacific Remote Islands monument is surrounded by more than 3,000 foreign vessels that fish in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.”* If President Biden expands the PRIMNM, the region would require a significant increase in maritime security forces to ensure illegal fishing does not imperil U.S. resources and render the PRIMNM impotent.

Added pressure from illegal foreign fishing fleets would have devastating consequences to the local American Samoa economy. A capable patrol force to oversee the surrounding fisheries is necessary to protect against (largely Chinese) distance water fishing fleets, whose blue water fishing fleet numbers some 12,490 vessels, a number that dwarfs the number of fishing vessels flagged or charted by South Pacific nations. The South Pacific’s tuna fishery is already under significant pressure from unregulated fishing, with 1 in 5 fish being caught illegally. Chinese fishing vessels also provide auxiliary support to People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) forces in the South China Sea. An increase in Chinese distance water fleets and influence in the South Pacific creates the opportunity for similar tactics in and around the islands of the South Pacific. The specter of an Indo-Pacific conflict could see a proliferation of Chinese distance water fishing fleets throughout the South Pacific pose an asymmetric threat to U.S. forces.

Climate change poses a serious threat the South Pacific, with several countries in the region ranking in the most vulnerable in the world. In fact, the leaders of many Pacific nations cite climate change as their number one existential threat, vice a host of security-related, Sino-centric concerns Western audiences often project onto the region. In conjunction with rising sea levels, an increased number of extreme weather events threaten critical infrastructure and highlight the need for a quick response humanitarian and disaster relief capability in the region. For example, recent calamities caused significant damage to Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa, with estimates of the damage amounting to over 60 percent of GDP in some cases. A dedicated “quick reaction” disaster relief force would act as a safety net for the region, able to respond to both large scale calamities and smaller scale but critically urgent situations. For example, recently Kiribati’s Kiritimati atoll ran out of freshwater. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry was the first on scene, using its reverse osmosis machine to create fresh water and pump it into tanks waiting on shore for the 5500 residents of Kiritimati atoll.

Given this state of play, it is clear that the U.S. Coast Guard is an ideal fit to address U.S. specific security and economic concerns that align with those of the region more broadly. Critically, permanently stationing Coast Guard cutters in American Samoa would skirt well-founded concerns of militarizing the Indo-Pacific. Compared to a U.S. Naval installation, a Coast Guard outpost would be perceived as more genuine and less bellicose given the unique contributions the service can make to the region.

Location of American Somoa in the Pacific (Graphic via Wikimedia Commons)

The Sentinel Class Cutter

A significant body of work exists that extols the virtues of the Coast Guard’s Sentinel class cutters, praising the cutter’s multi-mission utility. The Sentinel class is a highly capable platform already operating in OCONUS locations like U.S. 5th fleet in Manama, Bahrain, Honolulu, HI, and the newly minted Coast Guard Patrol Forces Micronesia in Guam. Despite the acclaim for the platform, feedback from recent expeditionary patrols has been measured, with one operational commander noting, “We’ve been lucky because we’ve done really good operational planning, and we put a lot of attention on the success of this mission. But we’re exceeding the design and operational intent of what this asset was created to do.”

Sentinel-class cutter characteristics. Click to expand. (USCG graphic)

Operating in a surface action group (SAG) with larger seagoing buoy tenders, the Sentinel class cutter Joseph Gerczak recently completed “proof of concept” transits from Hawaii to Tahiti and American Samoa respectively, operating well outside its five-day, 2,500 nautical mile endurance limits. Ever “Semper Paratus,” the cutter reported utilizing after-market freezers and coolers on the ship’s weather decks to house enough provisions for the voyage. The cutter also had to meticulously monitor their fuel load to have enough fuel to complete missions in Tahitian and Samoan waters — made complicated by the fact that the turbo-charged marine diesel engines are meant to be run at high speeds which are not conducive to fuel conservation. This plucky resourcefulness underscores the risks that would be eliminated by placing cutters in American Samoa. Operating out of a central location would intensify the positive impact of having several capable assets able to saturate a given area.


Despite their lack of a flight deck, Sentinel class cutters are the top-choice for an expeditionary squadron, due to their shallow draft. Despite the range of larger Coast Guard cutters, their deeper draft makes some remote South Pacific locations inaccessible. Accessibility raises important questions about the practicality and logistics associated with several Sentinel class cutters operating out of Pago Pago Harbor. If the state of American Samoan critical infrastructure is any indication, then plans for a Coast Guard presence will require significant funds and creative planning. In 2019 the Army Corps of Engineers found the Lyndon B. Johnson tropical medical center to be in a state of failure, “due to age, environmental exposure, and lack of preventative maintenance. Extensive repair and/or replacement of facility sections is required to ensure compliance with hospital accreditation standards and to ensure the life, health, and safety of staff, patients, and visitors.”

 Given this state of affairs and the limited budget of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is unlikely to spearhead the service’s expansion into the region. The Coast Guard presence in Guam enjoys use of U.S. Navy built and owned facilities. Despite protestations about militarizing the region, a practical way forward could be utilizing U.S. Navy funds to stand up a small naval installation for primary use by the Coast Guard. Naval personnel, like a detachment of Seabees, as the Secretary of the Navy has suggested to assist with climate resilient infrastructure in the region, could use facilities on American Samoa as a central operating location.

The permutations of such a base are large, but in principle should include pier, maintenance, and shoreside facilities. Such a facility could pave the way for a long-heralded U.S. Coast Guard Forces Indo-Pacific, with cutters synchronizing operations out of Guam and American Samoa. Further, if the Navy adopts the Sentinel class cutter as a small surface combatant, an installation in American Samoa would increase interoperability between the sea services while carrying out missions on the low end of the competition spectrum. This model is attractive because it frees up larger capital U.S. Navy and Coast Guard assets for equally critical, but more technically demanding missions, such as freedom of navigation exercises, counter-narcotics, or responding to emergent crises such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Critically, following the results of a Trump administration era feasibility study, local government leaders support the stationing of U.S. Coast Guard assets in American Samoa given the need to both strengthen and diversify the economy while combating Chinese influence in the region. The U.S. Congresswoman from Samoa, Uifa’atali Amata affirmed, “We in American Samoa welcome talk in Washington of home porting a squadron of U.S. Coast Guard cutters in Pago Pago Harbor.”

The American Samoa economy relies heavily on tuna fishing. Fourteen percent of the American Samoa workforce comes from the tuna canning industry, an amount large enough to affect many facets of life on the island. Affordable energy, transportation, and retail all benefit from the presence of the lone tuna processing plant on American Samoa. A U.S. military presence of any form would not only transform maritime governance in the region, but galvanize and diversify economic growth on American Samoa.


It is clear there are manifold benefits of a U.S. Coast Guard presence in American Samoa, and the Sentinel class cutter is well suited for the role. The Coast Guard’s contributions to maritime governance, through both training and enforcement, should help stabilize a region lacking maritime domain awareness and enforcement mechanisms. The soft power of the U.S. Coast Guard presence in American Samoa will assuage fears about over-militarizing the Indo-Pacific region, yet, if a large-scale conflict were to materialize, ready-made infrastructure in American Samoa could prove crucial for maintaining U.S. and allied sea lines of communication. One thing is for certain, with the eyes of the world on the Indo-Pacific, solutions for keeping strategic competition within reasonable parameters should not be overlooked.

Sentinel class cutters operating out of Pago Pago harbor represent a powerful, permanent deterrent to IUU fishing in the vast stretches of the Southern Pacific Ocean and would be optimally postured for acting as a timely humanitarian and disaster relief force. Despite some practical details surrounding the base itself, such a presence would represent a transformational shift in maritime governance in the region, expanded bilateral relations with Pacific nations, and an economic boon for American Samoa.

LT Ridge H. Alkonis is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently serving as the Weapons Officer in USS Benfold (DDG 65) stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. Originally from Claremont, California, he is a 2012 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, with a B.S. in Oceanography and the Naval Postgraduate School where he earned a M.S. in Acoustics Engineering.

*This quote has been updated following a clarification from the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.



Featured Image: The Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour arrives in San Pedro, California, Aug. 11, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class DaVonte’ Marrow.)

Beyond the Gulf: U.S. Maritime Security Operations in the MENA Region

By Jeffrey Payne

Despite rumors to the contrary, the United States is not interested in disengaging from the Middle East. The Indo-Pacific is the new focal point of U.S. foreign policy, but the Middle East remains essential for U.S. interests. However, current patterns of interaction between the United States and its Middle Eastern partners are tied to routines that were hardened during the Global War on Terror. While these routines have proven difficult to escape and a source of political divergence at times, the reality today is that U.S. priorities are more disparate globally—and U.S. presence in the region should not remain locked within previous formulas.

The perception of a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East is partially due to the absence of refined U.S. priorities in the region. Among the myriad of elements defining U.S. engagement in the Middle East, U.S. naval presence in the Gulf remains essential not only for U.S. interests but also the interests of its regional partners. However, the Red and Arabian Seas are becoming more challenging security environments, and the larger Indian Ocean region provides the logic for why these waters should become the focus of U.S. maritime operations and security cooperation in the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

From the Hormuz to the Bab-al-Mandeb

Middle Eastern waters feature two of the world’s critical maritime chokepoints: the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab-al-Mandeb. One-third of the world’s oil and other resources are transported through the Strait of Hormuz and continue on through the Bab-al-Mandeb if bound for Europe or beyond. Security of both chokepoints is critical for global commerce, of which the U.S. is a key provider. Yet, among U.S. policymakers, the Strait of Hormuz has taken priority. As a result, much of U.S. naval presence and forward basing is focused there.

U.S. presence in the Gulf developed primarily for economic reasons. A reliance on the Middle East’s natural resources for domestic consumption encouraged the United States to ensure regional stability to the greatest extent possible. This led to closer relationships with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Gulf States, in addition to strong ties with other regional powers, such as Egypt and Israel. The asymmetric elements of Iran’s foreign policy, intent on spreading its influence and destabilizing the larger region, reinforced the need for U.S. presence in the Gulf.

Today, different variables are present. U.S. reliance on the region’s natural resources is diminished, regional partners have enjoyed decades of security assistance and technical training assistance in shaping their militaries, and, most importantly, the security challenges in the Red and Arabian Seas are expanding. The increased number and sophistication of non-state illicit actors in the waters surrounding the Bab al-Mandeb, and the increased involvement of prominent competitors in the region, means that the United States should no longer prioritize the Gulf above other regional concerns.

To be clear, Gulf security remains a priority of U.S. foreign policy, and the continuation of lines of communication out of the Strait of Hormuz still matter a great deal. However, the concentration of U.S. naval attention should shift further southwest to the Red and Arabian Seas. The Bab-al-Mandeb in particular requires greater attention as the connecting waterway between these two seas.

A Focus on the Bab-al-Mandeb Region

Due to the sheer scale of our oceans and maritime spaces, and the rules, norms, and international laws that govern the activities of both commercial and military vessels, there is no actor with enough influence, power, or vision to provide maritime security alone. Maritime security is a cooperative endeavor, premised on the legacy of responding to another vessel in distress when at sea. The more actors with eyes glancing toward the horizon and sharing what they see with each other, the more likely that threats can be recognized and confronted.

An increasing number of competitors are operating in the Bab-al-Mandeb region. China’s economic interests in Africa, which have exploded in scale and depth over the past fifteen years, precipitated the deployment of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels to the Arabian Sea. For 14 years, PLAN vessels have protected Chinese-flagged vessels sailing through the Indian Ocean, gaining operational familiarity with the region’s waters and bypassing existing international cooperative efforts. The completion of China’s first overseas base, a dual-use facility located in Djibouti, signals China’s interests in these waters.

In addition to China, Russia, despite its warmongering in Ukraine, is intent on maintaining, if not increasing, its naval presence in the Red Sea. Moscow does not have the naval depth to match U.S. or even Chinese presence, but it still desires the capacity to reach these waters if for no other reason than to serve as a spoiler for efforts deemed divergent from Moscow’s interests. Smaller regional powers are also keenly invested in deepening their familiarity with, and deploying their own forces to, the Red and Arabian Seas. These regional players include obvious actors, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but also the UAE, Iran, and Turkey.

Piracy ushered in a period where regional waters facilitated the expansion of transnational crime. The Bab-al-Mandeb is now increasingly congested, and bad actors sail amidst the crowd routinely. The Red and Arabian Seas feature some of the most complex smuggling and illicit operations in the world. Instability on both shores of the Red Sea has enabled these operators. From illicitly-traded legal commodities to narcotics, arms, and human beings, these waters shroud substantial criminality. When illegal fishing and violent extremist organizations are added to this criminal patchwork, the scale of the problem becomes enormous.

The above points highlight why U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) should direct greater attention towards the Red and Arabian Seas, as should regionally-stationed U.S. Coast Guard assets. The trends point to these waters becoming far more critical in the years to come. U.S. Fifth Fleet has immense local knowledge, learned in partnership with regional navies and coast guards, which it can bring to the forefront. The U.S. Navy’s technical expertise and hands-on experience building naval partnerships can assist littoral states in building the connective tissue necessary to respond to everything from hostile state actors to criminal cartels.

A focus away from the Gulf itself would inflict political hurdles, but diplomatic outreach would assist in leaping them. NAVCENT would have to further coordinate with United States Naval Forces Europe-Africa, but that would prove advantageous in the long run despite any initial bureaucratic friction. The U.S. Navy would also have to redefine operational routines away from a traditional/non-traditional binary, as the set of challenges in these waters do not conform to such thinking. In doing so, the United States would start a new chapter of engagement and security cooperation in the region.


The perception that the United States is moving away from the Middle East is false, but part of the reason for this perception is that U.S. engagement in the region has not yet visibly evolved beyond the Global War on Terror and its emphasis on Gulf security. The United States should refine its priorities in the broader MENA region, diversifying its maritime operations and security cooperation beyond the Gulf to the Red and Arabian Seas. While NAVCENT is already enhancing its presence in these waters, more remains to be done. The waters near the Bab-al-Mandeb in particular feature some of the most complex maritime challenges, and the U.S. Navy must face them head on.

Jeffrey Payne is an Assistant Professor at the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, DC. The views expressed in this article are his alone and do not represent the official policy or position of the NESA Center, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Featured Image: The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge sails in front of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier on May 17, 2019, in the Arabian Sea (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

Germany in the Arctic-North Atlantic: Reassessing “Forgotten Waters,” Part 2

Read Part One here.

By Michael Paul and Göran Swistek

Germany is heavily involved in­ issues related to the­ Arctic, from the consequences of climate change to maritime security and the preservation of the Arctic as an area of cooperation. However, the Arctic has lost its exceptional character as a place of­ peaceful cooperation and stability. In addition to Russia’s militarization, persistent territorial and resource disputes are now emerging in the Arctic and sub-Arctic region, most recently around the Svalbard archipelago administered by Norway.1

Geo-strategically, Germany lies at the interface between the High North, the Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, and the European mainland. Important maritime and land­ connections in terms of foreign trade and security policy run either through Germany or along its territory. As a member of the EU and the Council of the Baltic Sea States as well as an observer on the Arctic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Berlin has numerous issues on its agenda relating to the Arctic. It has summarized these in the guidelines­ for German Arctic policy.2

From a security policy perspective, Germany’s interest in the region must be seen above all in the context of NATO. For this reason, the main area of operation for the German Navy and the focus for its future capability development will be related to NATO’s northern flank—the maritime space between the Arctic region, the GIUK gap, the North-Atlantic and the North Sea as well as the Baltic Sea region.3 The aim is to defend Europe against possible threats while keeping the main trans­port and connecting lines open. Part of the NATO context is also Germany’s function as a hub for Allied logistics. As the host country for Allied troop and materiel movements, the German armed forces have additional tasks in the areas of support, logistics, and security. German military airfields can also serve as bases for Allied aircraft, from helicopters to maritime patrol aircraft and jets. From Germany, they can reach most areas of operation, including the Arctic-North Atlantic region.

Germany depends on secure sea lines of communication and freedom of navigation. However, these are being called into question by the growing­ rivalry between the United States, China, and Russia, which is also taking effect in the High North. As potential peer competitors of NATO, China and Russia view their security ­policy and economic interests ­not in a regionally limited but in a broader geo-strategic ­context.

It is in Germany’s interest to counteract existing geopolitical tensions in the region and prevent conflicts of interest and potential crises in the Arctic in accordance with the guidelines of German Arctic policy. Ensuring freedom of navigation, Germany feels compelled to react to Russian activities and contain the potential for further destabilization.

The German Navy in the Arctic-North Atlantic Region

Against the backdrop of a possible arms race and escalation spiral, Germany must also fulfil its NATO obligations in the Arctic-North Atlantic region. The participation of the German Armed Forces in drills and exercises in the Arctic or sub-Arctic region should be understood as an expression of reliability to the Alliance, reassurance, and a signal of deterrence. On the land side, these exercises included the participation of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in the major NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2018 in northern Norway4 and the participation of the naval sea battalion in Arctic training with Dutch marines in 2019. The latter served to prepare a joint German-Dutch amphibious task group.

On the naval side, the sub-Arctic area in the North Atlantic and the northern Baltic Sea is one of the standard maritime areas in which the German Navy operates. It does so in standing NATO maritime task groups and in bilateral cooperation, especially with Norway. Within the framework of NATO’s Baltic Maritime Coordination Function (BMCF), the German Navy intends to assume responsibility for the entire Baltic Sea in the ­future. In the conceptual capstone paper of May 2021 for the German Armed Forces of the future,­ the Baltic Maritime Coordination Function was even listed as a priority in the reform project.5 The assumption of a geographical responsibility and coordination function for NATO by the armed forces of a member country outside of the NATO command and force structure is a security policy novelty in the Alliance. Poland and Germany have separately applied to take on the BMCF. After the inauguration of a new government in Germany in December 2021, Minister of Defense, Christine Lambrecht, has put all reform projects related to the capstone paper currently on hold. But the German application for the BCMF has already been passed to NATO for approval in autumn 2020.6 The decision about the function has been postponed several times, due to frictions about the content and details with Poland.

Against the background of the increased confrontation between NATO and Russia in the region, a closer coordination appears not just to be necessary in peace time, even more in times of crisis and conflict. Therefore, a permanent adaptation of NATO’s structural footprint in the region with more regional ownership would generate more flexibility and contribute to an enhanced deterrence posture as well as a required pre-condition if deterrence fails.

In the Baltic and the North Sea, Germany’s responsibility for the protection of its coastal waters, adjacent sea ­areas, and sea lanes is obvious. However, NATO’s northern flank consists not only of the sea area between Denmark and the Baltic, but also extends across the European North ­Sea to the North ­Pole. Due to Russia’s increased military activities, the security ­and resilience of the countries in this area must be increased. One of the simplest ways to increase both deterrence and ­defense capability ­is to have as complete a picture of the situation as possible. The aim is not only to identify aggressive behavior, but also to be able to prove it. By doing so, NATO could send a clear signal to Russia where the limits of destabilizing­ ­military activity­ in the region lie.

Germany’s Reconnaissance Problem

Knowledge about the activities, interrelationships,­ and developments in a security-relevant area makes it­ possible to move from a reactive to an active security policy. For this reason, it is essential to have an encompassing as possible picture of the situation­ in the area, preferably in real time. This requires certain key capabilities. It is precisely with these key ­capabilities for the High North, such as maritime reconnaissance, submarine hunting capabilities, and submarines, that Germany has repeatedly experienced difficulties. Of the German Navy’s former eight P-3 C Orion maritime ­­reconnaissance aircraft, only four are still in operation.7 The overall availability of this aircraft type for operational purposes is assessed by around fifty percent.

Originally, this type of aircraft was not to be replaced until 2035 by the Franco-German­ Maritime Airborne Weapon System (MAWS) project. The regular use, wear, and the escalating costs of maintaining the P-3C Orion have led to the decision to withdraw the weapon system completely from service as early as 2025.8 Even now, the operational availability of this aircraft is often uncertain, so that the German Armed Forces may ­no longer be able to meet its operational obligations with this model. For this reason, Berlin has agreed on an interim solution (of an already available model in small numbers) to fulfil the tasks already ­stated in the context of Allied operations and permanent contributions in the medium term and to bridge the period until the MAWS is available.

In its last session before the summer break in 2021, the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag approved the acquisition of five P-8A Poseidon aircraft for 1.43 billion euros.9 This aircraft meets all the high technical and operational requirements currently ­placed on a maritime patrol aircraft. Norway has also opted for this model for reconnaissance in the High North.10

As an interim solution, the P-8A could remain in service with the German Armed Forces well beyond 2035 should the MAWS project be delayed or encounter problems. ­However, there are press reports that France is annoyed about Germany’s ­decision in favor of the P-8A interim solution and may therefore want to cancel the MAWS project.11

Operationally, the P-8A Poseidon can be deployed across the entire­ geographic spectrum of NATO territory or beyond. Technically, it is designed for both modern anti-submarine warfare and surface ­reconnaissance, and it should be compatible with most Allied systems ­without ­problems. In a more long term perspective, the F126 frigate with modern sensor technology for underwater distance­ detection will complement the German Navy’s anti-submarine capabilities.12 These, in turn, could­ make a significant contribution to the existing Standing NATO Maritime Groups (SNMGs) or a possible NATO ­Expanded Task Force (NETF) ­, which was tested during Trident Juncture ­2018. The assumed area of operation of the NETF would be the Arctic-North­ Atlantic region. It would be flanked­ by NATO’s SNMGs in the Mediterranean and the Baltic and North Seas.

Given the availability, maintenance cycles, and concurrent mission loads of current German MPAs, the acquisition of five P8 aircraft appears only makeshift to meet requirements. A timely addition of another five models would provide the flexibility needed to augment contributions within the alliance.

Submarines and Cooperation with Norway

The best submarine hunter is still the submarine itself. With its sensor technology, it operates in the same medium as the unit to be searched for and can quickly penetrate the most diverse water layers, which influence sound transmission through temperature and salinity. At the same time, a searching submarine faces the same challenges as the submarine for which it is searching. It does not want to be discovered. Accordingly, it must incorporate the same tactical considerations, geography, and environmental influences as well as the limits of technical possibilities into its planning. The boundaries between hunter and hunted blur seamlessly. However, given the Alliance’s large geographical area of responsibility or the maritime space alone, from the Arctic to the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, NATO has only a few operational submarines. The German ­Navy currently has six Type 212 submarines, which are ideally suited for deployment in the maritime regions of the High North due to their small size and quiet, hydrogen fuel cell propulsion. Most of the time, however, only half of the boats are ready for deployment.13 This is due to­ staffing problems­ in the German Armed Forces and technical difficulties, to include failures and planned maintenance.

It is foreseeable that the German Navy will receive new units of the type U212 CD (Common Design). This acquisition was also approved by the Budget Committee before the summer break.14 The U212 CD was developed jointly by Germany and Norway. The requirements of the German and Norwegian navies for their missions were taken into account.15 On the basis of a common list of requirements, the two countries have ordered six largely equal ­submarines from the Kiel shipyard ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS). Four of them are to be delivered to Norway, two to Germany. The former type U212A’s high signature requirements are combined with greater range, speed and sea endurance. The boat can also defend itself with missiles against flying opponents. Thanks to the identical boats, interoperability ­between the navies of the two countries is to be improved. However, it is already becoming ­apparent that both the German and Norwegian special requests for equipment, armament and systems will in fact result in two different submarine types. In the period 2029-2035, they are expected to provide the Norwegian­ a smooth transformation from the former Ula-Class submarine to the new Type 212CD. The first boat is to be delivered to Norway in 2029. This is at least the first step in the effort to close or at least reduce ­military capability gaps.

European vs. Indo-Pacific Priorities

Against the backdrop of China’s power politics in the Indo-Pacific region, however, the United States is increasingly challenged outside Europe and its ­periphery, although the U.S. Navy has strengthened its presence in the North Atlantic, reactivating U.S. Second Fleet in July 2018 to do so. However, many of the U.S. Navy’s specialized capabilities will be ­deployed in areas where a confrontation with China can no longer be ruled out. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, has stated that the Arctic may well have a significant geo-strategic role for the United States in the future. At present, however, he said, there are other priorities in terms of capabilities and their funding. The escalation dynamics in the Indo-Pacific are assessed as more pressing.16 No reduction or shift of American capabilities in the North Atlantic has yet been observed. Nevertheless, this remains an option for action by U.S. forces in the event that the situation in the Indo-Pacific intensifies.

It is in Germany’s interest for the United States to face up to the challenges in the Indo-Pacific. However, Washington has a legitimate expectation that European countries will address the immediate challenges­ to Europe’s security, including in the High North, more independently and credibly. Beyond command and control or coordination tasks, this requires strengthening military capabilities­, increasing readiness, closing specific capability gaps, and making more appropriate deployments available. All of this feeds directly into any defense planning and deterrence maintenance by NATO. Germany still has considerable deficits here. While Germany is often highlighted as a likeminded security ally, in a recent study, none of the four Nordic states—Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish—identified Germany as the key European security and defense partner.17

Germany will therefore have to make a far more substantial contribution to the effectiveness of European­ diplomacy and the Alliance’s defense capabilities in the Arctic-North Atlantic region. To this end, the capabilities of the German Armed Forces and the German Navy must be further improved. Berlin must be made fit for a cold response.

Dr. Michael Paul is a Senior Fellow in the International Security Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin and Project Director of SWP´s Armed Forces Dialogue (in cooperation with the German Ministry of Defence) and SWPs Maritime Security Dialogue. He has published extensively about the Arctic region, Asia-Pacific, China, Russia, arms control, international security, maritime security, and nuclear strategy; i.a. with Göran Swistek, Russia in the Arctic. Development Plans, Military Capability, and Crises Prevention (Berlin: SWP, 2021) and most recently a book about the Arctic, Climate Change and Geopolitics (Der Kampf um den Nordpol. Die Arktis, der Klimawandel und die Geopolitik der Großmächte, Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 2022). Recent publications:

Commander Goeran Swistek, German Navy, is a Visiting Fellow in the International Security Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). He was previously advisor to the Chief and Deputy Chief of the German Navy and Assistant Chief of Staff N3 (Current Operations) on the German Maritime Forces Staff (DEU MARFOR). He holds a master’s degree in International Security Studies. His areas of expertise include the German Armed Forces, International Security and Defense Policy, Maritime Forces and Navies, Maritime Security, NATO and Defense Planning, and Security Policy in the Baltic Sea Region. Recent publications:


[1] Nilsen, Thomas, “Russia complains of Norwegian navy’s visit to Svalbard,” Arctic Today, 2021,

[2] Federal German Government, Policy Guidelines for the Arctic,

[3] See also: Kaack, Jan Christian, Chief of German Navy, Absicht 2022 (Intent 2022),

[4] Wiegold, Thomas, Trident Juncture: Es geht nicht nur um den Kampf um die Brücke von Telneset – Augen geradeaus!,

[5] German Ministry of Defence, BMVg, Eckpunkte für die Bundeswehr der Zukunft, Berlin: BMVg, 18 May 2021, S. 12,

[6] Swistek, Goeran, Abschreckung und Verteidigung im Ostseeraum, Berlin: SWP, 15 December 2020 (SWP-Aktuell 2020/A 100),

[7] Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/28697,­286/­1928697.pdf.

[8] Wiegold, Thomas, “Chancen der Marine auf P-8 Poseidon als neuer Seefernaufklärer steigen,” 2021,

[9] Wiegold, Thomas, “Bundestag gibt fast 20 Mrd Euro für Rüstungsprojekte frei – Auflagen unter anderem für FCAS und Puma-Schützenpanzer,” Augen geradeaus!, 23 June 2021,

[10] Nilsen, Thomas, “Norway’s new ‘eyes and ears’ in the north performs maiden flight,” The Barents Observer,

[11] Otto, Adelbert, La Tribune sagt, Paris wird das deutsch-französische MAWS-Verteidigungsprogramm aufgeben (‚Paris will abandon the MAWS project), Technik-Smartphone-News, 11 July 2021,

[12] Publication of the German Parliament, Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/28697,

[13] Wiegold, Thomas, Kein einziges deutsches U-Boot fährt mehr, 2017,

[14] Wiegold, Thomas, Bundestag gibt fast 20 Mrd Euro für Rüstungsprojekte frei – Auflagen unter anderem für FCAS und Puma-Schützenpanzer, Augen geradeaus!, 23 June 2021,

[15] Bredick, Marcus, Startschuss für U 212 CD, Marineforum, 23 March 2021,

[16] Everstine, Bryan W., “DOD Leaders Want More Arctic Funding, But Not Right Now,” Air Force Magazine, 2021,

[17] Kristin Haugevik et al, Nordic partnership choices in a fierier security environment: Towards more alignment, 2012,

Featured image: NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 14, 2022) The German Sachsen-class air-defense frigate FGS Sachsen (F 219) transits the North Atlantic Ocean in support of exercise Northern Viking 22. (Courtesy photo by German Navy)

Germany in the Arctic-North Atlantic: Reassessing “Forgotten Waters,” Part 1

By Michael Paul and Göran Swistek

Since the end of the Cold War, little attention has been paid to the Arctic-North Atlantic area and the so-called “GIUK gap”  the maritime space between Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. The GIUK gap borders the Arctic region and creates a maritime bottleneck between the Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, it features a unique underwater topography with isothermal temperatures and hosts critical undersea infrastructure.Russia´s aggressive policies and military invasion of Ukraine has increased the relevance of this maritime space. It is therefore useful to remember a report published by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) a few years ago, after completing a series of table-top exercises called “Forgotten Waters.”2 The exercises focused on the current condition, role, and importance of the GIUK gap. In the report, the authors concluded that the exercises revealed a lack of familiarity among both European and American participants with this maritime space.

For all these reasons, the GIUK gap constitutes an important chokepoint today just as did during the Cold War, where the maritime capabilities of the Soviet Union had to pass NATO surveillance and tripwires. The first part of this two-part series will examine the importance of the GIUK gap and the wider Arctic-North Atlantic region in which it is located; the second part will focus on Germany’s strategic role in the region as a European leader and NATO member.

The Geo-Strategic Situation3

The West’s relationship with Russia is the worst it has been in several decades. This is evident not only in the Black Sea region, where the Russian war in Ukraine is ongoing, but also in the Arctic-North Atlantic region. There, the NATO state of Norway has a short but direct land border and a long maritime border with Russia. In the same ­region, the non-NATO states of Finland and Sweden­ are adjusting their security policy course vis-à-vis Moscow.4 As a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine, public approval for NATO membership has reached a majority of more than half of the population in both states. Helsinki and Stockholm submitted NATO membership requests on 18 May, putting the topic on the agenda of the upcoming NATO Summit in June.5 If accepted, their membership would change not just NATO’s strategic geography but also further enhance its force and capability contribution. At the same time, it might be portrayed as a further escalatory step in Russia’s threat perception towards NATO.

From a geo-strategic perspective, an Arctic-North Atlantic area can be defined. In the past few years, NATO has revived the description northern flank for this area, as a complement to the nearly analogous term High North. The expression northern flank is a verbal construct of the Cold War that has now been brought back into use, not just within NATO but also by many observers and analysts. In the 1980s especially, NATO protected the maritime dimension of its northern flank as a counter to the Soviet Union’s Bastion concept.6 At that time, the northern flank referred to the area formed by Norway, Denmark, and parts of the North German Plain; it was under the responsibility of Headquarters Allied Forces Northern Europe.7 Today, the expression is used as a collective term in a variety of contexts. Within NATO, the narrow interpretation counts Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, and the UK as northern flank states.8 A more comprehensive version adds the Baltic States and NATO’s Baltic rim.9

Geo-strategically, the European continent is an extension of the Eurasian land mass in the shape of a peninsula. However, most of Europe’s Atlantic coastline is freely accessible. For Russia, the shortest access route to the Atlantic is via the Baltic Sea or the Arctic. Important maritime and military capabilities have been relocated there; however, their freedom of movement is limited. Three of the Russian Federation Navy’s four basing areas — for the Baltic Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Pacific Fleet, respectively — are anchored in waters that are separated from the high seas. Russian warships can therefore only reach the open sea through maritime canals or bottlenecks, making them easy to detect and track.10 In the Arctic, the situation initially appears to be more convenient for Russia’s naval forces. However, limiting factors there include rough weather conditions, the temporary presence of ice, and military-operational bottlenecks, namely between the GIUK gap and the area from mainland Norway via Bear Island to Svalbard (the Bear gap). Russian foreign and security doctrine is dominated by geo-strategic areas and their interlinking with geo-economic advantages.

Russia’s Arctic policy, both economic and security-related, is also a part of its strategy for expanding its political and economic influence in Europe. For Russia, the joint and coordinated collaboration of its Northern and Baltic Fleets is therefore increasingly important both for preserving its geo-strategic and geo-economic interests and defending its territory. Whether from Russia or NATO’s perspective, the High North is not a clearly definable geographic area. Instead, it closely interacts — as does the Arctic — with the adjacent geographical and geo-strategic areas of the Atlantic, the Baltic and Black Seas, and their military, political, and economic uses. In its center are the forgotten waters, particularly the GIUK gap. This maritime bottleneck plays a key role in NATO’s military operational planning and is therefore once again in focus of Allied surveillance.

Russia’s military expansion and cooperation with China

All Arctic states are interested in a peaceful and stable situation in the Arctic­ region. However, Moscow’s military policy is based on the assertion­ that the United States and NATO are threatening Russia. In Russia’s National Security­ Strategy of July 2021, the United States and NATO, which are perceived as already engaged in far-reaching hostile activities vis-à-vis Russia, are­ labelled as the greatest military threat to Russia.11 In the Arctic region, Moscow has been steadily extending its military sphere of influence further and further beyond Russian territory. The Russian government has justified military modernization in the Arctic, including the reactivation of Cold War bases, by claiming these were necessary steps to protect its national interest. After all, it is one of the most crucial tasks of the armed forces to safeguard Russia’s interests in the region.12 But this also involves ensuring that fossil energy resources, which are vital as exports and a source of state royalties and tolls, can be transported safely by ship. Recently, indications have intensified that Russia plans to establish a separate Arctic Fleet.13 This fleet would be focused on securing the Russian Arctic front and the Northern Sea Route, relieving the assets of the Northern and Pacific Fleets that are currently fulfilling these tasks.

Developing and exploiting Arctic resources while simultaneously expanding the infrastructure of a main maritime transport route requires great expenditure. Russia cannot afford it on its own. Its dependence on fossil fuels as the geo-economic foundation of its national power and on China as a geostrategic partner leaves it in a fragile position. Chinese and Russian­ geo-economic interests in the Northern Sea Route as part of a future larger Polar Silk Road are not identical, but they are essential for Russia’s use of the Arctic as a national resource base and for its own role as a future trade hub­.

The desired ­strengthening of Russia’s great power ­status finds its military expression in the fact that Moscow is promoting the joint and coordinated interaction between Russia’s Northern and Baltic Fleets. This is intended to safeguard geo-strategic and geo-economic ­­interests and to ensure the defense of Russian territory. In addition, the melting sea ice will make it ­possible to send fleets­ across the North Sea to the Atlantic ­or the Pacific. As a result, despite efforts by Arctic states to preserve peace and stability, military activities in the Arctic-North Atlantic region will further increase, eventually strengthening its maritime partnership with China.14

Allied activities in the High North

Uncertainty is rising about the increasing militarization of the Arctic-North Atlantic region and the growing presence of Russian but also Allied naval units in its waters. Recently, NATO has been communicating its military determination and readiness in the region, most notably via the execution of the largest Allied maneuvers since the end of the Cold War. With the participation of 50,000 soldiers, 250 aircraft, and 65 ships, Trident Juncture 2018 not only involved the relocation of the then German-led land VJTF, but also the recapture of an occupied part of Norway and integration of an American carrier strike group to control the sea area between Iceland, Greenland, and Norway.15 In response, Russia conducted Ocean Shield 2019, involving a strategic scenario stretching from the Arctic and the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea.16 In May 2020, the U.S.-led destroyer task group, comprising USS Donald Cook, USS Roosevelt, USS Porter, USNS Supply, and British destroyer HMS Kent, patrolled the Barents Sea for the first time since the end of the Cold War.17 Soon afterwards, in September 2020, HMS Sutherland, RFA Tidespring, and USS Ross repeated the patrol.18

In July 2021, Irish media reported the presence of a Russian reconnaissance ship not far from its territorial waters.19 Its position matched remarkably with the layout of the inner European and transatlantic undersea cables leaving Ireland.20 The use of unmanned, underwater drones was also observed. The Irish Armed Forces intelligence service then launched an official investigation into the incident.21 In early January 2022, one of the two existing underwater cables that connect the SvalSat park on Svalbard with the Norwegian mainland had been cut through human involvement, resulting in the loss of backup satellite connections for several days.22 The mechanical disruption took place half way in-between Norway and Svalbard at a water depth of around 2,700 meters. The sabotage has still not been attributed, but not many actors have the technical capabilities to execute such a sophisticated and covert manipulation of maritime infrastructure.

In August 2021, parallel to the implementation of the Russian large-scale exercise Zapad 2021, a small contingent of Russian warships and auxiliary ships was dispatched to the waters around Iceland,23 where it stayed for several days. Overall, the Zapad 2021 exercise was declared a priority for the Russian Northern Fleet,24 although in retrospect activities in the maritime domain by Russian naval units were equally noticeable from the Black and Baltic Seas to the Arctic-North Atlantic area.

This increase in Russian naval activity has triggered structural responses in the United States. Since July 2021, NATO’s newest joint force command (JFC) in Norfolk, Virginia has acted as the headquarters for the Atlantic and the maritime space of the Arctic and subarctic region. In the future, it is to lead regional activities within its sphere of responsibility. U.S. Second Fleet has also been re-established and assigned to JFC Norfolk, led by a dual-hatted U.S. commander, which promises to bring a noticeable increase in capabilities and more flexibility to NATO. Since its re-establishment, U.S. Second Fleet has already conducted an Arctic exercise, involving the use of emptied or long-time unused military bases in Iceland.25 The United States continues to provide reliable ­security­ for a stable northern ­flank of NATO, enabling the trinity of deterrence­, defense, and dialogue to be maintained undiminished for a decade­.

Only a few years ago, Norway still regarded the Arctic region as a region of cooperation. Traditionally, Oslo has tried to pursue a ­balanced policy ­between deterrence and ­cooperation. After 2014, this approach has become more difficult due to the changed security situation. In the last ­version of its Long-Term Defence­­ 2020, Norway acknowledged that the High North has become an arena of great power rivalry and therefore increasing instability.26 Norway sees itself as the eyes and ears of NATO and therefore invests considerable sums in reconnaissance. ­Starting from Evenes Airport, the Norwegian Air Force is currently testing its first Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft.27 Five of these maritime reconnaissance aircraft were ordered in 2017 and are to be ­gradually transferred into active service by 2022. The Norwegian Armed Forces intend to completely replace their aging fleet of Lockheed P-3C/N and Dassault Falcon 20 maritime patrol ­aircraft by the end of 2023.28

In the overall ­network of NATO defense planning, Norway plays a leading role in the region. Alone, it does not see itself directly threatened by Russia­. As a member of NATO, however, it is noticing the increasing­ deterioration of security relations and considers a shift of tensions to the High North as a real danger.29 Russia fosters such perception through an increase in exercises such as Ocean Shield 2019, which took place with around 70 warships and 58 aircraft in the vicinity of Norwegian territorial waters. In October 2019, ten Russian submarines passed through the North Sea on their way to the North Atlantic, the largest such deployment since the Cold War. The Norwegian Armed Forces are renewing their capabilities to monitor such activities. With the planned deployment of new maritime patrol aircraft in the­ High North, the distances to possible areas of operation will be minimized.30 Since the Arctic-North Atlantic region is an extensive sea area in which submarines can move almost unrestrictedly, the corresponding reconnaissance requirements must in principle be deployed everywhere and flexibly.

However, Norway’s five new maritime patrol aircraft are not alone sufficient to provide NATO with a comprehensive and virtually gapless picture of the vast maritime area in the Arctic-North Atlantic region. To this end, other NATO members must make contributions, especially those with appropriate capabilities and a geo-strategic connection to the area. Germany is one of these states, along with the United States, Iceland — with Keflavik as an important air base for the deployment of Allied P-8 aircraft — Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Part 2 of this article will focus on Germany.

Read Part Two.

Dr. Michael Paul is a Senior Fellow in the International Security Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin and Project Director of SWP´s Armed Forces Dialogue (in cooperation with the German Ministry of Defence) and SWP’s Maritime Security Dialogue. He has published extensively about the Arctic region, Asia-Pacific, China, Russia, arms control, international security, maritime security, and nuclear strategy; i.a. with Göran Swistek, Russia in the Arctic. Development Plans, Military Capability, and Crises Prevention (Berlin: SWP, 2021) and most recently a book about the Arctic, Climate Change and Geopolitics (Der Kampf um den Nordpol. Die Arktis, der Klimawandel und die Geopolitik der Großmächte, Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 2022). Recent publications:

Commander Goeran Swistek, German Navy, is a Visiting Fellow in the International Security Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). He was previously advisor to the Chief and Deputy Chief of the German Navy and Assistant Chief of Staff N3 (Current Operations) on the German Maritime Forces Staff (DEU MARFOR). He holds a master’s degree in International Security Studies. His areas of expertise include the German Armed Forces, International Security and Defense Policy, Maritime Forces and Navies, Maritime Security, NATO and Defense Planning, and Security Policy in the Baltic Sea Region. Recent publications:


[1] Smith, Julianne & Hendrix, Jerry, Forgotten Waters. Minding the GIUK Gap. A Tabletop Exercise, Washington, DC: CNAS, May 2017,

[2] Ibid

[3] This section is a revised and updated version of Paul, Michael &  Swistek, Goeran, Russia in the Arctic. Development Plans, Military Capability, and Crises Prevention, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), 2022/SWP Research Paper,

[4] Paul, Michael & Ålander, Minna, Moscow Threatens the Balance in the High North. In Light of Russia’s War in Ukraine, Finland and Sweden Are Moving Closer to NATO,” Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), March 2022 (SWP Comments).

[5] NPR News, Finland and Sweden formally submit NATO membership applications, 18 May 2022,

[6] Russia has deployed submarines in the Russian Arctic with weapons that guarantee about two-thirds of the country’s maritime nuclear second-strike capability. The Soviet-era concept of the bastion, now revived, stipulates a protective zone for these submarines that stretches across the Barents Sea to Greenland.

[7] Milton, T. Ross, “The Northern Flank,” Air Force Magazine, 1 April 1988, flank/.

[8] Lorenz, Wojciech, “Defence Priorities for NATO’s Northern Flank,” Warsaw: Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), 8 May 2019.

[9] See, e.g., “Maritimes Symposium über die ‘Renaissance der Nordflanke’”, bundeswehr-journal, 17 November 2016,

[10] English, Robert David & Gardner, Morgan Grant, “Phantom Peril in the Arctic. Russia Doesn’t Threaten the United States in the High North – but Climate Change Does,” Foreign Affairs, 29 September 2020.

[11] Dyner, Anna Maria, Russia’s National Security Strategy, 2021,

[12] Paul, Michael & Swistek, Goeran, “Russia in the Arctic,” Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), 2022,

[13] Daly, John C.K., “Russia Considers Developing a New Fleet in the Arctic, Jamestown, 2022,

[14] Paul, Michael, “Partnership on the High Seas” China and Russia’s Joint Naval Manoeuvres,” SWP Comment, 2019,

[15] Argano, Maria Elena, “Trident Juncture 18 ‘From the largest ship to the smallest drone:’ the implications of the largest NATO exercise,” EU-Logos Athéna, 05 December 2018,

[16] Tømmerbakke, Siri Gulliksen, “Russia to Test Missiles Off the North Norwegian Coast This Week,” High North News, 04 February 2020,

[17] USNI News, “U.S., U.K. Surface Warships Patrol Barents Sea For First Time Since the 1980s,” 2020,

[18] Ibid

[19] H. I. Sutton, “Russian Spy Ship Yantar Loitering Near Trans-Atlantic Internet Cables,” Naval News (online), 19 August 2021,

[20] Details of the undersea cables can be found here: “Submarine Cable Map,” 23 September 2021,

[21] Mooney, John, “Navy called in as Russians suspected of targeting undersea internet cable,” The Sunday Times (online), 15 August 2021,

[22] Staalesen, Atle, “‘Human activity’ behind Svalbard cable disruption,”

[23], “Coastguard tracked Russian naval ships” (online), 31 August 2021,

[24] The Independent Barents Observer, “Northern Fleet Commander says Zapad-2021 will be next year’s main effort,” 28 September 2021,

[25] USNI News, “U.S. 2nd Fleet Flexes Arctic Operational Muscle,”

[26] Norwegian Ministry of Defence, Long Term Defence Plan 2020: Capability and Readiness,—english-summary.pdf.

[27] O’dwyer, Gerard, “Norway sets timeline to deploy sub-hunting aircraft in the Arctic,” Defense News, 27 August 2021,

[28] Dr. Åtland, Kristian, The Building up of Russia’s Military Potential in the Arctic Region and Possible Elements of its Deterrence, Centre for Russian Studies.

[29] Norwegian Ministry of Defence, Long Term Defense Plan 2016: Capable and Sustainable,

[30] O’dwyer, Gerard, “Norway sets timeline to deploy sub-hunting aircraft in the Arctic,” Defense News, 27 August 2021,

Featured image: The U.S. Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE-8) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), right, and the German Navy frigate Hessen (F221) in the Atlantic Ocean on 28 February 2018. (Credit: U.S. Navy)