U.S. State Department Announces Plan to Establish Ambassador for the Arctic Region
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus, today applauded the announcement that the U.S. State Department has established an Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic Region—an initiative she has persistently advocated for.
“Before today, the U.S. was the only Arctic nation without dedicated diplomatic representation for the Arctic Region at the Ambassador level or higher. For years I have advocated for our country to elevate our Arctic leadership and diplomatic efforts to properly represent our nation’s Arctic interests. I’ve kept pressure on the State Department, and introduced legislation, consistently emphasizing that it must uphold its duty to America by creating a position commensurate with our responsibilities in this rapidly evolving region,” said Senator Murkowski. “By establishing this role, America will solidify its dedication, commitment, and leadership to this strategically important region and have greater opportunities to spur the diplomacy necessary to preserve a peaceful, prosperous Arctic. This announcement—which dovetails the recent opening of the new Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies—sends a strong signal to our allies and adversaries that America is all-hands-on-deck in the Arctic. Make no mistake, because of Alaska, America is not only an Arctic nation, but an Arctic leader. I look forward to the announcing of a nominee and urge the State Department to quickly move forward with the next steps.”
Background: Senator Murkowski is the leading expert in Congress 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. Senator Murkowski is the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. She has co-led multiple U.S. delegations to the Arctic Council Plenary Assembly – the leading intergovernmental forum for Arctic affairs. Murkowski has also led the charge to recapitalize and expand America’s fleet of Polar Security Cutters (icebreakers).
Through her legislative efforts, Senator Murkowski has comprehensively developed Arctic leadership throughout the federal government. In just the last two years, she has created the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies – a Department of Defense Regional Center dedicated to the Arctic located in Anchorage, Alaska. The aim of the Ted Stevens Center 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. 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. Murkowski served as a distinguished guest during the grand opening of the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies in Anchorage. Senator Murkowski was also behind the reactivation of the Arctic Executive Steering Committee within the Executive Office of the President to enhance coordination of federal Arctic policies. She also led legislation that created the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arctic and Global Resilience ensuring that the Arctic was properly represented in senior levels within the Pentagon. And finally, Senator Murkowski has been the catalyst behind every military service crafting new Arctic strategies which has resulted in the reactivation of the 11th Airborne Division – the Arctic Angels - in Alaska.
In addition to her dedicated efforts to establish the new Center for Security Studies, Senator Murkowski has worked diligently to build out a comprehensive Arctic strategy to spur greater diplomacy in the region. In October 2021, Senator Murkowski and U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) 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. In February 2022, she continued her push through a letter alongside U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) and 10 of their Senate Colleagues, to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Within the letter, Senator Murkowski stressed the importance of developing a comprehensive Arctic strategy, including establishing the position of Arctic Ambassador in order to best advance our nation’s interests in the Arctic.
Murkowski is heavily engaged in international mediums dedicated to sustaining the Arctic as a zone of peace. She is the U.S. Representative for the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, where she serves as Vice Chair, and participates in events held by the Arctic Council. In 2021, Murkowski was presented with the Icelandic Order of the Falcon, the highest honor Iceland can bestow on individuals, in recognition of her efforts on Arctic diplomacy.