US to appoint Arctic envoy for 1st time amid Russia, China’s growing activities in region

US to appoint Arctic envoy for 1st time amid Russia, China’s growing activities in region

In the midst of the heightened Russian military activities in the Arctic, US announced that it will choose the Ambassador-at-Large for the region

In the wake of the heightened activities by Russia and China in the Arctic, the United States on Friday, August 26, announced that it will appoint an ambassador for the region. According to the statement from the US Department of State deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, US President Joe Biden intends to “elevate the Arctic Coordinator position by appointing an Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic Region, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate”, in order to advance American interests and collaboration with partners and allies in the region.

Patel further added that following comprehensive consultations with Congress members, local as well as federal government officials, and external stakeholders, the decision has been taken.

Describing the ambassador’s responsibility, Patel said that the Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic Region would enhance US policy in the region, interact with counterparts in the Arctic and non-Arctic countries as well as Indigenous groups, and collaborate closely with domestic stakeholders that will comprise state, local, and tribal administrations, businesses, academic institutions, non-profit organisations, other federal government agencies, and Congress.

US has long been committed to defending its national security interests in the Arctic

According to the statement, the deputy spokesperson said, “An Arctic region that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative is of critical strategic importance to the United States and a priority for Secretary Blinken.” He further highlighted the fact that the US, one of eight Arctic countries, has long been committed to defending its economic and national security interests in the region, fighting climate change, boosting sustainable development, encouraging sustainable investment, and facilitating collaboration with other Arctic nations, allies, and partners.

In addition to this, Patel noted that the US Arctic Ambassador will collaborate closely with the “US Senior Arctic Official, the federal Arctic science community, and the Arctic Executive Steering Committee.” The United States is still dedicated to encouraging collaboration in the Arctic, particularly through the Arctic Council, he added.

Furthermore, the new US Arctic Ambassador will communicate with the other seven Arctic countries, including Russia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway. The ambassador will shortly be announced by Blinken; however, the Senate must first approve the nomination.

NATO concerned over China, Russia’s presence in the Arctic

The US announcement came as China has been constructing Arctic research stations and as Russia expands its presence close to the North Pole. In the meantime, Jens Stoltenberg, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), issued a warning on Friday about the danger that Russia poses in the northern polar areas. He also expressed worry over Chinese influence in the Arctic, BBC reported.

During a visit to the Canadian Arctic, the NATO chief further asserted that the military alliance faces a strategic challenge due to Russia’s capabilities in the region

The reopening of “hundreds of new and former Soviet-era Arctic military sites,” according to him, and Russia’s utilisation of the high north “as a testbed for the most advanced weapons, including hypersonic missiles,” are two of the difficulties, BBC reported. Concern over China’s encroachment into the Arctic for shipping and resource development was another issue raised by Stoltenberg.

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