U.S. Military Strategy in the Middle East

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) injected the Arctic into an Oct. 27 Armed Services Committee hearing about military challenges in the Middle East.


The witnesses at the hearing were Ashton B. Carter, Secretary of Defense, and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Information and video about the hearing can be found here.


Sen. Sullivan said another area in the world where U.S. inaction appears to invite more Russian aggression is the Arctic, where Russian actions are changing the facts on the ground.


Sen. Sullivan asked Sec. Carter about his comments during his confirmation hearing where he said the Arctic will be a major area of strategic and economic importance to the U.S. in the future. Sen. Sullivan said it is fair to say that the U.S. is late in its recognition of this while the Russia is not late in recognizing Arctic importance.


Sen. Sullivan clarified what Sec. Carter had noted about recent Russian military development in the Arctic:

  • A new Arctic military command
  • Four new Arctic brigade combat teams
  • 14 new operational air fields in the Russian Arctic
  • Announcements about up to 50 new air fields by 2020
  • A 30 percent increase in Russian special forces units in the Artic
  • 40 icebreakers
  • Huge new continental shelf submerged land claims
  • Increased long range air patrols
  • A major military exercise in March involving 45,000 troops, over 3,000 military vehicles, 41 naval ships, 15 submarines, and 110 military aircraft


A lot of the committee’s concerns were addressed in the new National Defense Authorization Act, which the President vetoed. By unanimous agreement, the committee had included a provision requiring the preparation of a military Arctic operations plan. .


Sen. Sullivan asked both witnesses if they would work with the committee to counter Russian aggressions in the Arctic and keep their options open for maintaining U.S. credibility in that part of the world.


Sec. Carter agreed, saying he will discuss this with Sen. Sullivan later in the week in Alaska. Gen. Dunford also agreed.