United States: To appoint first Arctic Ambassador

The United States is planning to appoint an Ambassador for the Arctic, amid increased Russian military activity in the region.

The Ambassador-at-Large will be put in place to advance US policy in the northern polar region, a Department of State spokesman said.

On Friday, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg warned of the threat posed by Russia in the northern polar regions.

He also voiced concern about China’s reach into the Arctic.

The new US ambassador will engage with the seven other Arctic nations – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia – as well as indigenous groups and other stakeholders, said State Department spokesman Vedant Patel.

Peace and stability in the region are of “critical strategic importance” to the US and a priority for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he added.

Mr Blinken will soon name the ambassador, whose appointment is subject to Senate approval.

The announcement comes as Russia steps up its presence near the North Pole, while China has been building Arctic research stations.

United States: To appoint first Arctic Ambassador
A nuclear-powered battle cruiser at the Russian Northern Fleet’s Arctic base in Severomorsk

Nato’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited the Canadian Arctic on Friday, where he said Russia’s capabilities in the North are a strategic challenge for the military alliance.

He said the challenges include the reopening of “hundreds of new and former Soviet-era Arctic military sites” and Russia’s use of the high north “as a testbed for the most advanced weapons including hypersonic missiles”.

Mr Stoltenberg also expressed concern about China’s reach into the Arctic for shipping and resources exploration.

“Beijing and Moscow have also pledged to intensify practical operation in the Arctic. This forms part of the deepening strategic partnership that challenges our values and our interests,” he said.

He also outlined how climate change is making the high north more important, because melting ice is making the area more accessible.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican Senator for Alaska, welcomed the appointment of an Arctic Ambassador. She said the US had been the only Arctic nation without dedicated diplomatic representation for the region at ambassador level.

The new ambassador will replace the previous US position of Arctic Coordinator, held by career diplomat Jim DeHart.

United States: To appoint first Arctic Ambassador
Jens Stoltenberg (third from right) with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, on Thursday

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