Murkowski, King, Colleagues Work to Advance Arctic Diplomacy

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Angus King (I-ME), co-chairs of the Senate Arctic Caucus, this week led a letter with 10 of their Senate colleagues to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to address critical Arctic issues. In their letter, the Senators raised the need for a comprehensive Arctic strategy and to lead with diplomacy and questioned the State Department’s organizational approach to the region.

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).

“It is imperative the Arctic receives the appropriate attention to promote American interests in a world where we compete for ideas, resources, and relationships. As you consider your options to either fill the Arctic Coordinator vacancy or take another direction altogether, we write to convey our thoughts about the importance of this issue and the dedication required by your Department to credibly impart our sincerity on Arctic issues to our friends and competitors.”

The Senators asked Secretary Blinken to elevate the position of Arctic Coordinator to the Ambassador level or higher in order to best advance our nation’s interests in the Arctic.

“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 also outlined issues stemming from the lack of a clearly articulated Arctic strategy, a lack of communication across bureaus within the State Department, and the need for roles and responsibilities for Arctic affairs to be clearly defined.

“We find it paramount to ensure the Arctic Coordinator position (or its future equivalent) receives appropriate support and guidance from Department leadership and be empowered to delineate these responsibilities, establish effective internal communication and responsibilities, and represent U.S. interests outwardly. These factors must be considered for the future of this position and its role in your Department.”

The Senators raised the fact the Department of Defense released an Arctic Strategy in 2019, with each military service branch having since subsequently released their own Arctic strategies. Meanwhile, the State Department has neither led nor followed suit with such a document.

“As the lead agency in international affairs, we ask that you ensure the Arctic receives the attention required of our nation’s leading agency.”

The Senators asked for a timely response on how the State Department will address their concerns with 1) the future of the Arctic Coordinator position, 2) the status of a comprehensive and holistic Arctic strategy for the Department, and 3) how the Secretary is aligning or redistributing assets, resources, and personnel within the Department to address issues identified in a recent Inspector General’s report. 

Click here for the full letter.