“A Stable USA is Not Only Important for NATO, but Also for Russia and China”

Silhouette of the Washington Monument at sunset. Photo: Logan Roush at Unsplash. Photo of Professor Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen, right upper corner: Michael Morreau

A USA in crisis is affecting the whole world, including the northern regions and the Arctic. Professor Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen at the University of Tromsø tells High North News that the Arctic NATO countries will have to deal with a less predictable and less reliable United States in the future.

The USA is now experiencing several serious crises simultaneously; virus crisis, economic crisis, social crisis and a democratic crisis. At the same time, the country has a far less predictable president than before. A superpower in crisis affects the whole world, including the northern regions.

Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen inne på Franklin Roosevelt-suiten, Adams House, Harvard University. Foto: Jed Willard
Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen inside the Franklin Roosevelt Suite, Adams House, Harvard University. Photo: Jed Willard

Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen, Professor of Northern Studies at the University of Tromsø says to High North News that the world is deeply dependent on a competent American political system that works.

Is this a crisis that Russia and China will try to exploit?

“In the short term, this may create some opportunities that Russia and China can exploit. But in the bigger picture, this is not something that will serve them either in the long run.”

“Foreign and security policy is an extremely complex area. And the United States' execution of it has enormous consequences for every country in the world.”

“This is not about whether you agree with their policy or not. A stable USA is not only important for NATO. It is also important for Russia and China that the US foreign policy system works and is competent.”

In early May, a group of American and British warships sailed into the Barents Sea for the first time since the mid-1980s. Bertelsen thinks this was destabilizing for the region, as they brought a destroyer with missile defense capabilities. This threatens Russian retaliation, and it was perceived as a deliberate provocation by Russia.

Russia recently responded by announcing a new naval exercise in the Norwegian Sea, an exercise which will take place between June and July.

“When it comes to the issue of nuclear weapons, mutual deterrence, and strategic stability, these are very technical security policy issues. Handling these issues in a safe and sound manner requires highly qualified and stable systems on both sides. Failure to do so on both sides will be dangerous.”

“Maintaining secure strategic stability in the Arctic is not the same as being the host of “The Apprentice”.”

The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis without American leadership, something that has not been seen in modern times.

How does a USA on fire affect its Arctic security policy?

“On the one hand you have the superpower USA with enormous competence and capacity, and on the other you have the chaos that is going on at the top of the government apparatus. This, of course, affects the country's security and foreign policy, including in the Arctic.”

Maintaining secure strategic stability in the Arctic is not the same as being the host of “The Apprentice”

“What is going on in the USA now, is a social and a democratic crisis, which is reflected in the election of Donald Trump as president. This is further reflected in the way his government works. When there is chaos at the top of the US government, this affects the entire political system as well as society.”

In the longer term, how will a US crisis affect the Arctic security policy?

“For Russia and China, the United States will still be a powerful opponent, but the US has also become a less competent and less predictable opponent”, he says.

Bertelsen believes the chaos that Trump has brought into the government apparatus and US society is going to get worse. He says that for Norway, Denmark (with the Faroe Islands / Greenland) and Iceland as NATO countries in the Arctic, the USA will still be a powerful ally and partner, but also a less predictable and less reliable ally than before.

“I think there is a significant likelihood of Trump being re-elected. The social and democratic crisis that got him elected in the first place has not been solved”.

“This means that the United States will continue to reinforce this schism even more; on the one hand, to be a highly competent and innovative country, and on the other: to be ruled by a chaotic government apparatus.”, he says. 


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