When President Donald Trump recently proposed buying Greenland from Denmark, it was with a view to secure America’s future. The island is host to the Thule Air Base, a key military asset of the U.S. near the Arctic.
Thule Air Base
The base is located about 947 miles from the North Pole and provides 240 degrees of radar coverage that is projected over Russia’s northern coast and the Arctic Ocean. The most important facility in the region is J-site, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) radar station located about 60 miles from the Thule base. It is equipped with some of the most advanced missile warning systems on earth, including Raytheon’s AN/FPS-120 Solid State Phased Array Radar.
“In the event of a missile launch threatening North America, the site will provide warnings and missile defense assessment data of incoming Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). It is fully networked into the ecosystem of space-based, sea-based, and ground-based sensors that provide Strategic Command, and thus the National Command Authority, with critical information regarding an impending nuclear attack,” according to The Drive.
USAF Command’s 21st Space Wing uses the base to store its space sensors. They use a number of U.S. and international radar systems that offer information on various enemy activities in space. Thule base is also home to the Defense Department’s northernmost deep-water seaport and airport, which would prove to be critical if a military conflict were to break out in the Arctic.
Recognizing the importance of Greenland, China has been trying to secure a piece of the region. When a Chinese company tried to buy a former U.S. military base in 2016, the Danish government stepped in and vetoed the deal. In 2018, a Chinese state-owned company almost got a contract to build an airport in Greenland. However, Denmark‘s influence succeeded in making the island’s administration pick a different contractor.
Russian Arctic ambitions
Moscow recently held a military drill codenamed “Thunder 2019” over the Arctic skies as an exhibition of its claim in the region. It was personally directed by President Vladimir Putin. About 12,000 troops, 213 missile launchers, 105 aircraft, 15 surface warships, and 5 submarines were part of the drill. Russia claims around 500,000 square miles of the Arctic.
“Russia not only claims the right to fully control the so-called Northern Sea Route, which is a route going from eastern China, via the Bering Strait, along the northern coast of Eurasia, or the northern coast of the Russian Federation,… but Russia also lays claim to resources, to hydrocarbons, and to valuable non-ferrous metals under the seabed of the Arctic Ocean,” Dr. Leszek Sykulski, author and geopolitics expert, said to The Epoch Times.
According to an estimate, the Arctic holds almost 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil reserves. About 30 percent of the undiscovered conventional gas reserves are also locked in the region. In addition, valuable resources like manganese, gold, copper, nickel, silver, etc., are found in significant quantities. As such, it is no wonder that Russia is trying to get ahold of a big chunk of the Arctic.
Russia is said to be increasing its fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers. Underwater drones are also being developed. Moscow can make use of these assets in a time of war. The country apparently has an unwritten doctrine that seeks to deploy military capacity in the region equal to that of the combined military assets of the U.S., EU, and Canada.