Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies Monthly Bulletin - March 2024


NATO’s welcome enlargement in the North

The ceremonial raising of Sweden’s flag at NATO Headquarters March 11 marked the culmination of a dramatic two-year process. Sweden’s and Finland’s accessions bring all Arctic states minus Russia into the Alliance and boost deterrence and defense across NATO’s Northern Flank. Their entries are rightful cause for celebration, but fully achieving “day after” benefits also means addressing potential challenges.

It is first worth recalling the swiftness of these countries’ shift toward membership. Sweden had been officially neutral or militarily non-aligned since the early nineteenth century, as had Finland since the late 1940s. Both had still become active NATO partners, but Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 crystalized the benefit of full collective defense. Public opinion swung from as little as one-quarter to as much as four-fifths in favor of accession, and the two governments submitted applications in May the same year. Finland completed accession in April 2023, but reservations from Turkey and Hungary pushed Sweden’s finalization to this month.

As others have pointed out, these new Allies will be immediate providers as well as consumers of security. Simply by geography, they consolidate NATO presence across the Baltic and High North. Their militaries possess advanced fighter jets and submarines as well as substantial numbers of active-duty and reserve troops with cold-weather training and equipment. Experience with “total defense” resilience, support for effective NATO-EU cooperation, and ability to bridge East-West gaps in security perspective within the Alliance present additional intangible contributions.

The paired enlargement brings strong value both to the countries themselves and the Alliance as a whole, but risks should also be recognized. President Vladimir Putin dismissed the accessions as “meaningless” in the days following Sweden’s entry, but elsewhere he and other Russian officials have threatened “military-technical” counter-measures. The bulk of Russian ground forces remain committed to the war against Ukraine, but air and naval assets in the Kola peninsula and Barents Sea regions east of Scandinavia remain largely in place. Despite Russia’s heavy losses of men and materiel, NATO experts assess it could “reconstitute” its military within three to five years.

Nuclear saber-rattling remains another Russian tactic. As part of failed efforts to dissuade accession, in spring 2023 Russia’s ambassador in Stockholm warned that NATO membership would make Sweden a “legitimate target.” Later that summer, prominent scholar Sergei Karaganov, honorary chair of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, published a widely-discussed article suggesting preemptive nuclear strikes against countries in Europe to “restore” deterrence and block further aid to Ukraine.

Additional hybrid threats have appeared in the meantime. Finland has blamed Russia for damage to its undersea Balticconnector natural gas pipeline with Estonia in October 2023 as well as for orchestrated waves of would-be migrants from the Middle East across the Russian-Finnish border. Russia-based hackers also seem behind disruptive ransomware attacks against public and private targets in Sweden since January.

Such challenges, which are not limited to Russia, are cause for neither panic nor complacence. Versions of many predate 2022, and a chief benefit of joining NATO is greater overall security against them. As part of the ongoing adaptation that has furthered the Alliance’s longevity, NATO leaders recently looked deeply at such issues through the NATO 2030 reflection process and new Strategic Concept. Along with continued unity, effective implementation and resourcing of resulting plans will be most important going forward.

The large-scale Nordic Response NATO exercise in Norway, Sweden, and Finland that coincided with Sweden’s NATO entry the first half of March presented a good example. It tested Alliance defensive action above the Arctic Circle across those countries’ northern reaches. NATO’s seventy-fifth anniversary in April and Washington summit in July offer similarly suitable opportunities for decisions on issues from the next NATO Secretary General to details of regional defense plans and further support to Ukraine that can help cement accession success.

TSC launches Women, Peace, and Security program

March is Women’s History Month. The Department of Defense theme for the observance is, “Women Who Have Made Great Achievements,” in recognition of the countless contributions women have made towards creating a positive opportunity for a brighter future.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies is launching its Women, Peace, and Security program. The TSC WPS program recognizes the diverse roles women play as agents of change in preventing and resolving conflict in the Arctic region.

“We celebrate the tremendous contributions of women across the Arctic, making it a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous region,” said Randy “Church” Kee, director of the Ted Stevens Center. “The Women, Peace, and Security program will highlight these stories in order to advance women’s and girls’ civic and political leadership across the Arctic region.”

The 2023 U.S. National Strategy on WPS includes five lines of effort: Participation; Protection; Relief, Response, and Recovery; Integration and Institutionalization; and Partnerships.

The TSC mission provides unique engagement opportunities to operationalize the National Strategy by strengthening institutional relationships with our allies and partners through collective efforts that reinforce women’s empowerment across each of these LOEs.

“We have important work to do throughout the Department of Defense and within our center to ensure that we exemplify a diverse organization that invests in our people and promotes the meaningful participation of women across the development, management and employment of the organization,” said Kee.

By institutionalizing WPS across the defense and security sectors, we reinforce the rules-based international order by committing to an internationally recognized resolution alongside our allies and partners. Advancing WPS objectives strengthens institutional resilience, comprehensive campaigning, and operational success.

While March marks the official launch of the WPS program, the center has already made significant progress towards promoting partnerships to build capacity and elevate the WPS agenda throughout our foreign policy and security cooperation efforts.

All TSC courses and workshops strive for a minimum of 33% or one third female participation to create critical mass for more inclusive dialogue on broader security concerns. The School of Arctic and Climate Security Studies was proud to progress towards an average of 25% female participation in courses, closing in on 83% execution of that goal.

“An important component of the TSC Women, Peace, and Security program is intersectionality. We must be inclusive of Arctic Indigenous perspectives to enable a more comprehensive, equitable, and context-driven understanding of security in the Arctic,” explained Kee. “The TSC is well position to seamlessly link climate security, Indigenous perspectives, and Women, Peace, and Security.”

The TSC Women, Peace, and Security program will be a center-wide effort with contributions from each of the four divisions. In the coming year, interested participants can expect webinars, research, and articles dedicated to Women, Peace, and Security in the Arctic region.

Observances like Women’s History Month provide an important platform to amplify the stories of women across the Arctic. The TSC WPS program will make this a permanent and ongoing effort: to recognize, promote, and facilitate the contributions of women to the enduring peace and security of the Arctic region.

Forging Arctic collaboration: Ted Stevens Center makes debut at ICE CAMP 2024

In a bold stride towards Arctic collaboration, the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies ventured into uncharted territory as its staff embarked on an inaugural journey to Operation Ice Camp (ICE CAMP) 2024, located a brisk 200 nautical miles north/northeast of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, March 19-20. This significant move not only marked a historic milestone for the TSC but also heralded a new era of cooperation in the frigid expanses of the Arctic.

ICE CAMP 2024, a rigorous three-week operation aimed at testing and evaluating operational capabilities in the Arctic, saw a convergence of military personnel and research teams from across the globe. This year’s exercise served as a proving ground for the resilience and adaptability of all involved, amidst temperatures ranging from -5 to -15 Fahrenheit, with wind chills plummeting to -45.

Matthew Hickey, the associate director of the Strategic Engagement Division, and Courtney Guinan, an event coordinator at TSC, spearheaded the center's maiden voyage into ICE CAMP. Their presence not only bolstered the logistical framework but also epitomized the TSC’s commitment to fostering security cooperation efforts with Arctic allies and partners. Reflecting on their experience amidst the icy expanse, Guinan remarked, "Participating in ICE CAMP 2024 was an unparalleled opportunity to witness firsthand the dedication and ingenuity of all involved. Our engagement not only strengthens our bonds with Arctic allies but also sets the stage for future collaboration in this critical region."

The challenges posed by the Arctic environment were met head-on by the TSC team, as they braved blowing snow and winds of up to 35 knots, which led to flight cancellations and limited helicopter operations. Undeterred by the adversity, the team lent a helping hand to MIT Lincoln Laboratories in retrieving equipment for studying digital wave responses to ice sheet movements.

Hickey ventured into the icy depths, digging through two meters of ice to deploy buoys for University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory. Meanwhile, Guinan assisted MIT with a groundbreaking underwater camera prototype, showcasing the TSC’s versatility and adaptability in the face of extreme conditions.

ICE CAMP 2024, formerly known as Ice Exercise (ICEX), has evolved into a cornerstone of Arctic operations, aligning with the Navy’s priority to maintain an enhanced Arctic presence and strengthen alliances and partnerships. The Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), serving as the epicenter of Arctic research and coordination, facilitated the seamless integration of over 200 participants from five nations.

“It was really great to see ICE CAMP and to work with the researchers and our allies and partners,” explained Guinan. “Next time we hope to integrate our School of Arctic and Climate Security Studies and members from our Research and Analysis Division to help further international security cooperation.”

As ICE CAMP 2024 concluded, the Ted Stevens Center emerged as a beacon of collaboration in the Arctic, paving the way for future engagements aimed at bolstering security cooperation efforts and fortifying alliances in one of the most challenging environments on Earth.

knowledge and experience while engaging on a wide-range of Arctic security topics and issues.

The Arctic Fellowship program, developed in alignment with U.S. National Security and DoD strategic objectives, offers participants a comprehensive educational experience. Through engagement with the Ted Stevens Center and the University of Alaska, fellows gain expertise in areas crucial to the DoD mission(s) in the Arctic.

"Developing the future Arctic leaders through professional engagements, professional development, travel, research, and education is crucially important," explained Capt. Grant Thomas, U.S. Coast Guard Liaison and Arctic Fellows coordinator. He highlighted the program's significance in addressing critical issues outlined in national defense and security strategies, citing the Arctic's strategic importance in global geopolitics.

"Establishing relationships and understanding the various intersection of issues impacting the Arctic is crucial," Thomas remarked.

He emphasized the program's role in fostering trust and collaboration through interactions with civilian educators, government agencies, and international partners. " The essence of security cooperation is building trust and relationships," he stated." This program is designed to do just that."

"The majority of Americans probably do not see the U.S. as an Arctic nation," Thomas noted. "We collectively need to change that narrative, and this program is a very important piece in doing so." This program helps grow and shape future DoD leaders with the Arctic knowledge, networks of subject matter experts, and critical development in this rapidly changing region.

The program's objective is clear: to develop leaders with a deep understanding of the Arctic's role in international security and civil-military affairs. By providing participants with opportunities for research, education, and engagement, the fellowship equips the participants to be knowledgeable regarding U.S., allied, and DoD Arctic security priorities effectively in their future roles.

As the program looks toward the future, efforts are underway to expand its reach to the Army and Marine Corps, in addition to the Space Force and Navy. The program's continued refinement aims to strike the right balance between civilian education and firsthand Arctic experiences as part of the Ted Stevens Center’s Arctic Fellows program, ensuring that future leaders are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of the region.

"This program is a phenomenal opportunity for all of the service components," remarked Captain Thomas." It addresses a myriad of critical issues highlighted in our National Defense, National Strategy for the Arctic, and Security Strategies, underscoring the strategic importance of the Arctic in global geopolitics."

As the program moves forward, it will continue to evolve to meet the specific needs of each service branch. With a commitment to refinement and growth, the TSC's Arctic Fellowship program is poised to become an indispensable resource for developing future Arctic leaders across the military spectrum.

TSC welcomes first National Guard liaison to center

Ryan Richard was appointed to the Ted Stevens Center as the National Guard liaison beginning in February 2024 and continues to serve as the intelligence officer for the Alaska National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Richard is a native of Pennsylvania and in August of 2001 was commissioned in the Army National Guard. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Penn State University and a M.A. from the University of Alaska in Public Administration.

In 1995, after graduation from Penn State University, Richard accepted a position in Washington DC. working for Senator Ted Stevens for several years. In 2003, Richard became the protocol officer at Fort Greely, Alaska helping to reestablish the installation as it returned from Base Realignment and Closure status and became the home of the National Missile Defense System. As part of the Alaska National Guard joint staff, Richard maintains Arctic strategy as part of his portfolio and he continues to lead the National Guard Arctic Interest Council, a collaboration of National Guard States with Arctic and cold weather expertise.

Richard has over 24 years of experience as a Signal Corps and Air Defense officer with intelligence and operations experience.

Deputy director Craig Fleener: a career of Arctic service

Born and raised eight miles north of the Arctic Circle in Fort Yukon, Alaska, Criag Fleener has dedicated his entire career to enhancing Arctic security at the local, tribal, state, federal, and international levels. Fleener’s extensive career across the Arctic demonstrates a passion for service and leadership, spanning from Alaska Air National Guard intelligence officer to wildlife biologist.

When asked about why Fleener joined the Stevens Center, he explained, “The Stevens Center is the perfect melding of all the things I’ve done. Whether it’s my work in tribal government and how the Ted Stevens Center has such an important focus on Indigenous people of the Arctic and how we want them to be a real part of our organization, that’s a big deal. It isn’t just lip service, its actual involvement.”

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