- - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

President Reagan’s strategy for defeating Communism during the Cold War — “We win, they lose” — is the approach we should be using to regain our economic advantage and neutralize Russian expansion in a part of the world rich with yet-to-be-tapped oil and gas reserves and major geopolitical consequences — the Arctic.

In fact, a recent analysis by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory council to the U.S. Department of Energy, found that the United States should provide access to Arctic exploration right away if the nation is to keep domestic production high and imports low. The report added that it takes between 10 and 30 years of preparation and drilling to bring oil to market — a startling length of time given how the demand for oil is projected to rise in the coming decades, even with further advancements in alternative energy.

Making better use of our resources in the Arctic and enacting policies that expand production would ensure that the United States, not OPEC, continues setting the price of global crude oil.

Thanks to state-of-the-art technology and innovative, safe fracking methods, the United States has catapulted to No. 1 in global oil production, saturating the world market with so much oil that it has shaken Russia’s economic stability. The potential of Canada and Mexico joining with us to form a North American Energy Alliance only expedites this advantage.

Unfortunately, President Obama continues to do everything in his power to stifle American energy security, even as American motorists continue to enjoy the luxury of low gas prices. Indeed, he recently vetoed Keystone XL pipeline legislation, closed areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development and restricted access to resources off Alaska’s coasts.

These actions demonstrate to OPEC and Russia that the United States is not serious about its energy future. It suggests that if oil oligarchs wait a bit, our energy independence will wane, allowing them to reassume control of global oil prices and America’s pocketbook.

As former commander of the Alaskan Command, I am shocked to see that the president would risk our national security with these actions.

As an Arctic nation, the United States — via Alaska — sits in the middle of an increasingly precarious, and important, region. The Arctic is emerging as the next epicenter of geopolitical power struggles, not only for nations that sit within the Arctic Circle, but also for other global powers such as China. New, efficient shipping routes and unparalleled reserves of untapped oil and natural gas have nations across the region — especially our former Cold War adversary — clamoring to establish a stronger footprint in the Arctic.

That is, everyone except the United States.

Because of America’s lackluster response, Russia has reopened many of its former military bases in the Arctic, including one base that is 300 miles from Alaskan territory and 420 miles from Alaska’s mainland.

Moreover, Russia, whose economy is on the brink because of low global oil prices, is now involved in territorial disputes with Canada. Russia’s resolution has not been to go to the United Nations — as Canada has done — but to beef up its forces via a military budget that is up 33 percent from last year.

The proximity and assertiveness of Russia’s military presence harkens back to the Cold War, and the chilliness of this latest round of U.S.-Russian aggression should be taken just as seriously.

Rather than use America’s new leadership of the Arctic Council to limit energy development and counter climate change, Mr. Obama should strive to bolster his country’s long-term energy security by supporting policies to expand U.S. access to resources off the Atlantic and Alaska coasts, and on public lands in the West.

While the Arctic is a world away for most Americans, its importance reaches all the way to our front doors in various, under-the-radar ways. That is why must take bold action to utilize our resources in this region to counter Russia and maximize our energy potential. If we do so, we will ensure that “We win, they lose” in this global energy contest.

Thomas McInerney is a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general.

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