Murkowski, King Introduce Bill to Strengthen Diplomacy in the Arctic

Legislation Establishes Assistant Secretary of State for Arctic Affairs

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Angus King (I-ME)—co-chairs of the Senate Arctic Caucus—today introduced the Arctic Diplomacy Act of 2021, legislation which will elevate Arctic issues in U.S. foreign policy by establishing an Assistant Secretary of State for Arctic Affairs who will lead and conduct U.S. foreign policy in the Arctic region and on Arctic issues. The Senate confirmed position will be responsible for influencing decisions and behavior of Arctic nations, Arctic issues, and activities in the Arctic region which includes establishing an Arctic diplomacy strategy; strengthening cooperation among Arctic countries; promoting responsible natural resource management and economic development; scientific monitoring and research; protecting the Arctic environment and conserving its biological resources; and Arctic indigenous knowledge and input. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are original cosponsors.

Click here for bill text.

“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. In fact, even non-Arctic countries, including China, have this designation. As an Arctic nation, this is unacceptable.  Having represented the United States at hundreds of Arctic events around the world, I know first-hand the value this position will bring to our country. It is important that the U.S. play an active and influential diplomatic role in the region,” said Senator Murkowski. “As the Arctic continues to see change, and activity in the region increases, the Arctic is an emerging geopolitical ‘grey zone’ that requires vigilance and diligent diplomacy. It is pivotal that the U.S. establish this position in order to conduct the type of diplomacy necessary to preserve a peaceful, prosperous Arctic. America and our Arctic allies desire the region to remain exceptional—but that requires a concerted effort from us all.”

“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,” said Senator King. “The old saying goes ‘where you sit is where you stand,’ and not having a formal seat at the diplomatic table with a Senate-confirmed official means we have less standing in the region.  As the security environment changes so must our leadership, and we need an official to advance and protect America’s Arctic interests; as we continue to look ‘North to the Future’, I urge my Congressional colleagues to pass this forward-looking legislation with clear, tangible diplomatic and economic benefits.”

Background: Senator Murkowski is the leading expert among her Congressional colleagues on Arctic issues and has worked continuously to raise awareness of the region. At the beginning of the 114th Congress, Senator Murkowski and Senator King formed the Senate Arctic Caucus to advance issues important to the Arctic and to the people who live there. Murkowski is the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. Murkowski has also led the charge to recapitalize and expand America’s fleet of Polar Security Cutters.

Through her legislative efforts, Senator Murkowski paved the way for the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies to be established and in her role as an appropriator, she secured $10 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations package to fund the center. The Center’s aim is to support defense strategy objectives and policy priorities through a unique academic forum and to foster strong international networks of security leaders to support multilateralism and diplomacy in the region.

Most recently, Murkowski welcomed the news that Major General (Ret.) Randy “Church” Kee was selected by the Department of Defense (DoD) to serve as the Senior Advisor for Arctic Security Affairs. And, at the urging of Senator Murkowski, the Arctic Executive Steering Committee was reactivated within the Executive Office of the President.  

Related Issues: Arctic