The Iceman Is Coming: Biden Creates Arctic Ambassador
The Arctic is of increasing interest to the United States and its major rivals, in part because of climate change. Although the region’s warming could have cataclysmic effects on global sea levels, the reduction in ice has opened up new shipping lanes and made possible opportunities for energy extraction. With its long Arctic coastline, Russia is leaving its mark on the region, in particular by strengthening its military presence. China also has its eyes on the territory, calling itself a “near-Arctic state” and looking for ways to expand its access for economic and other reasons.
The United States currently has an “Arctic Coordinator” position; the State Department announcement says the plan is to « elevate » the role of coordinator to that of ambassador. The decision comes amid unusually strained relations between Washington and Moscow due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, and it was made following consultations with US lawmakers and others.
Earlier this summer, the Arctic portfolio was temporarily handed over to State Department adviser Derek Chollet. He told POLITICO at the time that, as far as the region is concerned, the Biden administration sees “this moment as a strategic opportunity.”
The ministry’s announcement says the new ambassador « will engage with counterparts in Arctic and non-Arctic countries as well as indigenous groups, and work closely with national stakeholders, including state, local and tribal organizations, businesses, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, other federal government agencies and Congress.
The department is also calling for prompt confirmation of the person nominated for the position.