Kerry to Name Envoy for Arctic Region

John Kerry
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Feb. 14, 2014, 12:51 p.m.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry will name a “spe­cial rep­res­ent­at­ive” to the Arc­tic re­gion at a time when di­min­ish­ing ice is bring­ing new ship­ping ac­cess, com­pet­i­tion for en­ergy re­sources, and en­vir­on­ment­al risks.

Kerry an­nounced the plan in a let­ter to Sen. Mark Be­gich, D-Alaska, who has called for the po­s­i­tion.

“For a long time now, I’ve shared the view that the Arc­tic re­gion really is the last glob­al fron­ti­er, and the United States needs to el­ev­ate our at­ten­tion and ef­fort to keep up with the op­por­tun­it­ies and con­sequences presen­ted by the Arc­tic’s rap­id trans­form­a­tion,” Kerry said in the let­ter that Be­gich re­leased Fri­day.

He writes that it’s “vi­tal that we el­ev­ate the en­tirety of Arc­tic is­sues and in­terests — en­vir­on­ment­al, eco­nom­ic, en­ergy, geo­stra­tegic, na­tion­al se­cur­ity, and more with­in the State De­part­ment it­self.”

Kerry is craft­ing the new po­s­i­tion as the U.S. pre­pares to be­gin a two-year stint as the next chair of the mul­tina­tion Arc­tic Coun­cil in 2015.

The White House re­leased an Arc­tic strategy in May, while the De­fense De­part­ment un­veiled its own Arc­tic plan­ning doc­u­ment late last year.

“The Arc­tic is at a stra­tegic in­flec­tion point as its ice cap is di­min­ish­ing more rap­idly than pro­jec­ted and hu­man activ­ity, driv­en by eco­nom­ic op­por­tun­ity — ran­ging from oil, gas, and min­er­al ex­plor­a­tion to fish­ing, ship­ping, and tour­ism — is in­creas­ing in re­sponse to the grow­ing ac­cess­ib­il­ity,” the De­fense De­part­ment doc­u­ment states.

Be­gich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (who isn’t im­pressed with White House Arc­tic ef­forts) have both called for cre­at­ing an Arc­tic am­bas­sad­or po­s­i­tion.

Be­gich called State’s de­cision to cre­ate the en­voy po­s­i­tion “an im­port­ant step in the right dir­ec­tion.”

“The bot­tom line is that the changes we see in the Arc­tic war­rant a high­er level of in­volve­ment from the U.S. and this po­s­i­tion will al­low us to bet­ter ex­er­cise lead­er­ship and vis­ion in Arc­tic policy mov­ing for­ward,” Be­gich said in a state­ment Fri­day.

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