Several U.S. Senators have sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to address critical Arctic issues. The Senators hold that the State Department lacks a clearly articulated Arctic strategy.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Angus King (I-ME), as well as ten of their Senate colleagues, have sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to address critical Arctic issues.
In the letter, the 12 Senators raise the need for a comprehensive Arctic strategy and question the State Department’s organizational approach to the region, a press release states.
The Senators outline issues stemming from the lack of a clearly articulated Arctic strategy. Furthermore, they ask Secretary of State Blinken to provide a back brief at the staff level no later than 1 April on how the Department will address their concerns on the status of a comprehensive Arctic strategy for the Department of State.
They point to the fact that the Department of Defense released an Arctic Strategy in 2019, and that each of the military service branches have since released their own Arctic strategies. High North News has earlier reported on these documents from the US Army, the Navy as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
"We understand no such strategic document exists for the Department of State", they say and add:
“As the lead agency in international affairs, we ask that you ensure the Arctic receives the attention required of our nation’s leading agency.”
Another issue the Senators point to is the lack of communication across bureaus within the State Department, and the need for roles and responsibilities for Arctic affairs to be clearly defined.
"We also understand responsibility within the State Department for Arctic issues is spread between several bureaus", they add.
They further refer to a August 2021 report from the State Department Office of Inspector General on the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, which revealed that roles and responsibilities for Arctic affairs are not clearly defined, communication between bureaus is lacking, and that the Department does not possess a clearly articulated Arctic strategy.
They ask how the Secretary is aligning or redistributing assets, resources, and personnel within the Department to address issues identified in the recent Inspector General’s report.
The Senators moreover asked Secretary Blinken to elevate the position of Arctic Coordinator to the Ambassador level or higher in order to best advance the nation’s interests in the Arctic.
As High North News has reported, several Congressmen have earlier launched bills to establish a US Arctic Ambassador in a push to bolster US diplomacy in the region
“The U.S. is the only Arctic nation without a dedicated Ambassador to the region. While we know other nations will always hear our perspective because of our international standing, it is important to demonstrate the sincerity our government holds in its engagement by ensuring the position is given a title commensurate with its responsibilities", the Senators write in the letter.
In addition to Senators Murkowski and King, the letter was signed by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).