This is serious.
In a speech Wednesday, the commandant of the United States Coast Guard said American icebreakers may need to be armed in the future to counter potential threats from armed Russian icebreakers in the Arctic, National Defense reported.
Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft made the remarks before the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington.
“We know Russia is probably going to launch two ice-breaking corvettes with cruise missiles on them over the course of the next several years,” Zukunft said. “We’re not building anything in the Navy’s surface fleet to counteract that.
“So what might an icebreaker of the 21st century need to do?” he asked.
The Arctic has become a critical region for naval superiority, and Zukunft noted that Russia had significant superiority in that department. The Russians currently have 12 ice-breaking vessels operational, compared to only one for the U.S. Coast Guard.
“They’ve made a strategic statement and they’ve got all their chess pieces on the board right now,” Zukunft said. “Right now we’ve got maybe a pawn and maybe a rook … If you look at this Arctic game of chess if you will, they’ve got us at checkmate.”
The Washington Examiner also noted that in addition to armed icebreakers, Russia also recently opened a new military base in the region, which features surface-to-air missile installations and can house special forces troops. According to NBC, the country is engaged in the “biggest military build-up in the Arctic since the fall of the USSR.”
Zukunft said the Trump administration appreciates the importance of the icebreaker fleet.
“They understand that it’s good that you have a U.S. Coast Guard that is a military service,” Zukunft said.
And he added that Congress does as well, saying the service has “tremendous bipartisan support to recapitalize our icebreaking fleet.”
“There’s $150 million (in the 2017 budget) to really get the show on the road.”
It’s apparent that American military strength has waned in recent years under the Obama administration. Arctic superiority is key, too, considering Russia’s recent moves.
Thankfully, we have a president who understands that — and that makes all the difference in the world.
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