Arne O. Holm says: Biden Will Mean A Lot to the Arctic, But First Trump the Toddler Must Be Kicked Out

Mike Pompeo firing verbal shots immediately prior to the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland. (Photo: Arne O. Holm)

Commentary: Donald Trump has occupied the White House in Washington D.C. outside the bunkers, discussions abound about how the USA’s relationship with Europe and the Arctic will develop when Trump the Toddler is back out on the street. Overall, expectations are rather measured.

There is no reason for that. From Day 1 in the presidential chair, Joe Biden will make a difference, also in the High North.

A cool, scientific analysis of political differences between the two presidents is not sufficient when looking for potential changes. Nor the fact that Joe Biden barely mentioned the High North during the election campaign period. That would have been wasted anyway in meeting potential voters, who for the past four years have been bombarded with nationalist thinking.

Go to hell

The changes come anyway, simply because there is a difference between asking your family and neighbors to go to hell versus and inviting them over for coffee.

I could have chosen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel last Thursday as an example. The USA spearheaded the sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Crimea, yet uses its final breaths under the Trump administration to hail Israel’s occupation of another country.

Though I will stick to what goes on in the Arctic. Mentioning the last Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland in May 2019 will suffice.

The Arctic states were gathered for the family gathering of the year. Instead of a joint effort for cooperation and dialogue, they fell victim to the verbal bullets from the very same Pompeo. The final evidence of Mike Pompeo’s incompetence is the fact that he has survived every massacre in the Trump administration. That is only possible for people of no integrity or competence. Those who have tried to be truthful and diplomatic have received their notices via Twitter.

The Arctic Council

Mike Pompeo used his lack of international insight to try put a wedge into Arctic cooperation, the way the USA has been in the habit of doing in every international organization for the past four years. For the first time ever, the member states of the Arctic Council parted without having agreed on a joint statement.

Fell victim to Mike Pompeo’s verbal gunshots

Since then, we have hardly heard from the Arctic Council. Iceland, which took over the organization’s presidency, got the worst start one can imagine of its important work.

With Joe Biden in the head chair, the Arctic council can maneuver its way back to the position of being an important forum for international collaboration in the Arctic. That is very important, in particular when Russia takes over the chairmanship next year. It does not mean that Joe Biden will be less firm towards Russia, but he will be predictable.

After Mike Pompeo made his debut in the Arctic Circle through  abusing one of the member states (in addition to China, an observer state), the climate issue ended up being decisive for the Council to part ways without a joint statement for the first time ever.

The Paris Accord

When the USA continues its cooperation with the Arctic Council, the Trump administration’s denial of climate changes – a denial only comparable to the same administration’s relationship to 250,000 Americans dead from the Corona virus – will not longer be an obstacle.

Denies climate changes and Corona

Joe Biden has made it clear that he will return he USA to the Paris Accord.

Saying that this will not be significant for people in the Arctic is like saying the Paris Accord does not matter in and of itself. If you believe the Accord will make a difference to our future climate, the Arctic societies will be one of the winners of the future.

European leaders, Arctic leaders, NATO, trade organisations, the WHO all have placed much of their optimism for the future in Donald Trump’s presidency representing but a short-lasting hell on earth. Russia is nevertheless an exception among the Arctic states. It is easy to see why a western breakdown, created by Donald Trump, would not be a problem in the eyes of the Kremlin.

Decency is back

Political analysis build on a set of factors. Yet just as little as experts saw Donald Trump coming to power and turning the international world order upside down will those who try to tone down the significance of a change of presidents in the USA be right this time.

Joe Biden does not in any way represent the future when he takes the oath in January, but he reintroduces some sort of decency into American politics.

Not even the Republican majority of the Senate can prevent that.


This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.