The United States continues to send mixed signals about its anticipated level of engagement and capabilities in the Arctic. The Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz, cautioned on Tuesday that the new Polar Security Cutter (PSC) icebreaker would primarily be used for scientific missions to Antarctica. “Until that second or third (polar) security cutter, we won’t really have much of a game up there, in terms of presence,” Schultz told a U.S. House Transportation subcommittee. This would mean that the U.S. will not be able to increase its surface vessel presence in the region until at least 2025 or even 2027 when the second and third new icebreakers, yet to be funded, are scheduled to be commissioned.
Just a day later U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton made contradictory remarks about the country’s capabilities during a speech at the Coast Guard Academy. “With the new PSC, the Coast Guard will lead the way in reasserting American leadership in the Arctic, which has been neglected far too long. These new and innovative tools will enable the Coast Guard to have a year-round U.S. presence in the polar region.”
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