The strategic environment of the Arctic has traditionally been dictated by its isolation and its extremely difficult climate: it was, quite simply, an extremely cold, distant, and generally desolate place for humans to operate in.
Global climate change, however, has begun to alter this general point of view. In particular, the extent and thickness of sea ice have declined significantly; in recent years, the extent of summer sea ice has been some 50 percent smaller than the preceding 30 years, a loss of ice-pack roughly equal to one-third of the landmass of the United States.
While still no tropical paradise, the Arctic has become much more accessible. Consequently, the reduction of Arctic ice has increased economic interests in the region. The first of these is the region’s reportedly abundant reserves of oil and natural gas.