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Russia and the United States have a common interest in the safe and sustainable use of the Bering Strait region, as well as a long history of cooperation there. As the only passage between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans, the Bering Strait is a mere 47 nautical miles wide (87 km/54 US miles) and, at its narrowest point, separates the Russian Federation and the United States by about two nautical miles (3.7 km/2.3 US miles).

As vessel traffic increases in the Arctic, the Bering Strait requires vastly improved and updated charting as well as expanded search and rescue support to ensure maritime safety. Together, Russia and the United States have used multilateral forums like the International Maritime Organization and the Arctic Council to improve marine safety for the Bering Strait. Bilaterally, however, they are unable to address related common regional concerns in little more than a piecemeal fashion.

In the eighth edition of Polar Perspectives, Dr. Betsy Baker identifies what has made Russian-U.S. bilateral cooperation successful in the Bering Strait Region, draws attention to two lesser-known models for continued cooperation, and concludes that the two States can rely even more on expert-to-expert practical problem-solving at the operational level. Ultimately, successful cross-strait cooperation in the region depends upon shared objectives, continuously open communication channels, and trusted institutional foundations supported by the two coastal States and its Indigenous peoples, whose linguistic and cultural ties have spanned the region for millennia.

Download Polar Perspectives No. 8 - Beyond the Northern Sea Route