Some Indigenous nations tell stories of the northern lights as torches guiding warriors to victory. Today experts say the Arctic is increasingly becoming a theatre of conflict again. Ex-Pentagon official Jim Townsend recalls travelling north after the Cold War to dismantle many of the Allies’ military bases and air defence systems there. “Now we’re going back,” he says. “Things are heating up again.”
In more ways than one. The shockwaves from the war in Ukraine have been felt around the world, but particularly in the Arctic where climate change is wreaking its most dramatic changes yet – warping roads, unearthing ancient corpses and toppling whole mountains of ice. As the frozen wilderness melts, new access for shipping and resource extraction is opening too – along with new avenues of attack. Among states now looking to the high north is China, with serious ambitions to build a Polar Silk Road (and icebreaker fleet) of its own.
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