America’s first assistant secretary of state for Arctic Affairs would be established under a bill that Sen. Lisa Murkowski is sponsoring in Congress.
The Arctic Diplomacy Act of 2021 was introduced by Murkowski and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, co-chairs of the Senate Arctic Caucus. The bill creates a position within the State Department to lead and conduct U.S. foreign policy in the Arctic region and on Arctic issues.
“As it stands, the United States is the only Arctic nation that does not have diplomatic representation in the Arctic at the ambassador level or higher,” Murkowski said. “In fact, even non-Arctic countries, including China, have this designation. As an Arctic nation, this is unacceptable.”
Under the legislation, the assistant secretary of state would establish an Arctic diplomacy strategy, strengthen cooperation among Arctic nations and promote and manage natural resources and economic development, among other responsibilities, according to Murkowski’s office.
“The Arctic is known to be a region of peace, but as maritime traffic and economic activity increase to the north, this stability must be maintained through careful, steady leadership and engagement with the rest of the Arctic community,” King said.
Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have signed on as original co-sponsors of the bill.
The proposal for an assistant secretary of state for Arctic Affairs comes as the Defense Department is poised to establish the nation’s first Arctic regional center, an initiative Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan sponsored in the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Murkowski secured $10 million in the fiscal 2021 appropriations package to fund the future Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies. The center’s mission will be to support defense strategy and policy priorities in an academic environment.
The role of an assistant secretary of state for Arctic Affairs is critical for the diplomacy needed to ensure “a peaceful, prosperous Arctic,” Murkowski said.
She described the Arctic region as an “emerging geo-political gray zone that requires vigilance and diligent diplomacy.”
“America and our Arctic allies desire the region to remain exceptional — but that requires a concerted effort from us all.”
The other Arctic nations are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden.
The United States is a member of the Arctic Council, described as an intergovernmental forum that addresses Arctic issues.
The Arctic Council operates in a cooperative manner on consensus.