1 December, 2023
The House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee has published ‘Our Friends in the North: UK Strategy Towards the Arctic’ report. The inquiry sought to identify defense and security challenges the UK faces in the Arctic region, as well as examine wider issues such as environmental changes and resource extraction, and the UK government’s response to them. HSC Deputy Director Dr Rowan Allport was invited to give expert testimony in front of the committee.
The HSC’s evidence referenced in the report included Russia’s ongoing reconstruction of its Arctic military footprint, much of which was abandoned following the end of the Cold War. Rowan also highlighted the importance of Russian military capabilities based in the Arctic for missions such as disruption of NATO sea lines of communication and precision strike.
Amongst the inquiry’s recommendations were that:
- Britain should maintain an adequate military capability to operate in the region
- The UK and its allies should prepare contingences to respond to Russian ‘grey-zone’ provocation and make them publicly known when they occur
- Cooperation between the state and private sector is needed to protect undersea infrastructure
- The UK should continue to engage with China in areas such as scientific cooperation in the Arctic whilst monitoring for the emergence of ‘dual-use’ civilian-military research activities
- Attention must be paid to China-Russia joint activities in the Arctic
- The UK must work internationally to secure sustainable fishing practices in the Arctic
- The UK Government should plan to invest in additional search-and-rescue capabilities in response to the likely rise in Arctic sea traffic that will pass close to the UK
- The UK Government should consider establishing programmes to support the Arctic’s indigenous population