March 20, 2023
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Co-Chairs of the Senate Arctic Caucus, today introduced legislation to make the current Ambassador-At-Large for the Arctic Region position a permanent one. As competition with Russia and China grows in the High North, the bipartisan bill would codify the important ambassador position created last year by President Joe Biden after persistent urging from the Senators.
“The United States is an Arctic Nation, and has significant economic and national security interests in the High North. We must be ready to capitalize on new opportunities while confronting areas of growing tension – including Russia’s blatant disregard for global norms and China’s increasing aggression – and that includes an authoritative diplomatic voice,” said Senator Angus King. “While it’s important that President Biden established and appointed an Arctic Ambassador, we must make this position permanent to show the global community we take our role in the Arctic seriously. As nations from outside the region venture northward, there should be no doubt the United States is bringing the full weight of our nation to the expanding domain.”
“Before the State Department announced last year that they would create the position of Arctic Ambassador, the United States was the only Arctic nation without a dedicated regional representative at the ambassador level or higher. Even some non-Arctic nations, including China, have established similar positions—giving them a leg-up on diplomacy, trade, and international norms in the region. It was welcome news that Dr. Mike Sfraga was nominated for the position, but we need to make it permanent, in law, so it endures across administrations,” Senator Murkowski said. “I’ve represented the United States at hundreds of Arctic events, so I’ve seen and heard firsthand the many benefits this permanent position would bring. The Arctic is rapidly changing, as are its geopolitical dynamics. If we want to have a voice in ensuring the region remains a zone of peace and prosperity, we have to have the people in place as well as the policies.”
This legislation would formally authorize the Ambassador-At-Large for the Arctic Region position to represent the United States in matters and cases relevant to Arctic affairs. The Ambassador is responsible for advancing U.S. policy in the Arctic, engaging with counterparts in Arctic and non-Arctic nations as well as Indigenous groups, and working closely with domestic stakeholders, including state, local, and Tribal governments, businesses, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, other federal government agencies and Congress.
In August 2022, after calls from King and Murkowski, the State Department announced that the President planned to elevate the Arctic Coordinator position by appointing an Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic Region. On February 16, 2023, President Biden nominated Dr. Mike Sfraga, an Alaskan and the chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, to be the nation’s first Arctic Ambassador.
The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Armed Services Committee, and Co-Chair of the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, Senator King is an advocate for Maine and America’s interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic region. Along with Caucus co-chair Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), King introduced the Arctic Commitment Act earlier last year to improve America’s posture and opportunities in the Arctic. He’s been calling for the appointment of an Arctic Ambassador since 2015, and has continued to press the Administration on the effort this year. King also recently laid out the challenges and opportunities of a warming arctic in an article in the Wilson Quarterly, and in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, he successfully secured the inclusion of provisions to increase America’s activity and opportunities in the Far North.