Media Tip Sheet: Climate Change Heats Up Competition in the Arctic

June 1, 2023

Ship in a sea full of ice

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Oslo today, where he announced the U.S. will open its northernmost diplomatic station in the Norwegian Arctic town of Tromsoe. The announcement comes amid heightened focus on the region. Climate change is expediting the rate at which polar ice melts and in turn, heating up competition in the Arctic. According to The New York Times,  it’s “opening the region to greater commercial and strategic jostling just at a moment when Russia, China and the West are all seeking to expand their military presence there.”

GW's Robert Orttung

Robert Orttung is a research professor of international affairs at the George Washington University and the director of research at Sustainable GW.  He is an expert on comparative politics, Russia, Ukraine, energy security, federalism, and democracy. He can discuss Russian politics, Russian-Ukrainian relations and all issues related to urban politics in Eurasia. Orttung’s research interests also include ways to promote sustainable development, both internationally and in the United States. In particular, his current areas of research focus on developing an index of urban sustainability for the Arctic and other extreme climates.

“Russia's launch of a full-scale war against Ukraine in February of 2022 upended the traditional cooperation that existed in the Arctic, significantly changing traditional practices. China's limited but crucial support for Russia is important given China's interest in Arctic resources and possible trade routes,” Orttung says. “The expansion of NATO, in response to these threats, will permanently change the nature of Arctic relations, making explicit a military dimension that had always been there, but now is increasingly prominent.” 

If you would like to speak with Prof. Orttung, please contact GW Media Relations Specialist Cate Douglass at [email protected].