ST. MARY’S CITY, Md. – Speaking to a packed auditorium of defense leaders at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), Walter A. Berbrick, director of the Arctic Regional Studies Group at U.S. Naval War College, stressed the need for strong American leadership in a rapidly-thawing multipolar world during a keynote address at the 12th annual Patuxet Defense Forum, Dec. 12.
Co-hosted by The Patuxent Partnership and the Center for the Study of Democracy at SMCM, the event brought together academics, senior military officers, and policy analysts in government and business to discuss challenges in the Arctic domain.
Berbrick kicked off his address by challenging current and future leaders to reexamine their attitudes toward climate change, the Arctic region, and Russia.
“We are in the early stages of a long struggle for supremacy of the Arctic, and America is years behind,” said Berbrick. “Most troubling is that most of our leaders and our citizens don’t even realize it.”
He had a stark warning to those in attendance, as he advised them about the domestic and international implications of climate change.
“The trends are disturbing, and real – like in my hometown of Miami, Florida, where the seas are swallowing our streets and eating away our beaches.”
He went on to say that no nation is safe, and that no one nation can rise and adapt on their own.
“The United States cannot test every assumption, rebuild every sinking city, patrol every receding coastline, or accept every immigrant by itself – nor should we,” said Berbrick. “This is not just about our security. It’s about the security of our global commons.”
Turning to the focal point of his address, Berbrick struck an optimistic tone as he laid out a new vision for United States in the Arctic.
“If we expect to be the leader of other nations, then we can expect to compete aggressively in the emerging Arctic international economic order,” said Berbrick. “As a great power, we must look toward the Blue Arctic.
“By the end of the next decade, this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal of building a new maritime trade route.”
He described the practical actions that the United States can take to strengthen its intelligence and military capacity.
“Our forces, along with the forces of seven other Arctic nations, are on the frontlines of defense,” said Berbrick. “Side by side, they are a source of strength to us all.”
Berbrick encouraged leaders to take the “long view” on U.S. relations with Russia.
“When you look to forums like the Arctic Council or talk to Russians one-on-one, as people, there’s a lot more that unites than divides us,” said Berbrick. “None is stronger than our mutual interests in a safe, stable and prosperous Arctic region.
“Only together, will we rise with the tide, break through the ice, and win the Arctic.”