October 12, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – The Office of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced today that Senators King and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) – co-chairs of the Senate Arctic Caucus – have introduced the Arctic Diplomacy Act of 2021, legislation designed to 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 Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are original cosponsors.
“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.”
“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.”
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Co-Chair of the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, Senator King is an advocate for Maine’s interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic region. In this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, he successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a provision creating the Arctic Security Initiative to improve the Department of Defense’s efforts in the region; the provision is based on legislation Senator King introduced earlier this year with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Earlier this year, Senator King applauded the U.S. Navy’s recently-released Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic – the publication represents a forward-thinking approach to achieving U.S. priorities in the Arctic, and stresses Maine’s critical strategic importance in the region. Senator King previously introduced the Arctic Naval Focus Act of 2019 with Senators Sullivan and Murkowski, a bill that would direct the federal government to recognize the importance of the Arctic region to the United States’ national and economic security interests. He also invited Senator Sullivan on his monthly Inside Maine podcast to discuss U.S. military challenges and opportunities in the Arctic.
The full text of the legislation can be read here.