SORTLAND, Norway – More than 50 representatives from 11 countries met above the Arctic Circle in northern Norway this week to discuss the future of security operations in the Arctic.
The annual event, called the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable (ASFR), is designed to further broaden partnerships and cooperative efforts among nations with strategic interests and responsibilities in the Arctic. The participating countries included Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Unites States.
During the event participants discussed an array of topics; to include the impact of climate change, trade and economic issues, search and rescue challenges, disaster relief operations, and other security related matters.
“This gathering of professionals is a great opportunity for the defense agencies of the participating nations to find ways to provide support to civil authorities, to share ideas and collaborate, to talk about lessons learned and focus on how we can work together with the future challenges in the Arctic,” said Maj. Gen. Randy Kee, the EUCOM Director of Policy, Strategy, Partnering and Capabilities.
The primary challenges the arctic is facing are climate change and the increase in human activity. As arctic ice melts there more are opportunities for people to visit and conduct business, as well as for new and more frequent security issues.
“The Arctic has always been there, but interest is rising, we are seeing an increase in tourism and commercial entities seeing if they can do business in the Arctic” said Maj. Gen. Odin Johannessen, Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations Division in the Defense Staff Norway, “and this increase in human activity means in higher risk for accidents. As responsible nations we need to come together now to develop ways to respond and work together in this environment.”
The event included presentations, discussions, and working groups that involved brainstorming and collaboration in order to take information back to the delegate’s respective defense agencies to begin to implement actions and policy changes that will achieve greater security and partnering in the Arctic.
“This is a great forum for sharing lessons learned amongst the Arctic nations,” said a U.S. Army Capt. Cody Grimm, a delegate from U.S. Alaska Command, “it’s great to come together to work through common issues and find ways to bridge the strategic political gap in order to fund global exercises in the future.”
In addition to meetings and working groups delegates were invited to tour and ride the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Harstad, as well as tour the Coast Guard Headquarters and see firsthand some of the equipment and personnel who work in the Arctic on a daily basis.
The ASFR has been held since 2011 and rotates in location. Next year’s event is scheduled to be hosted by Iceland.