Aug 26, 2022 - World

U.S. to appoint Arctic ambassador in sign of region's growing importance

U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker moves through Arctic sea ice.

Ice floes surround the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean in 2017. Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced Friday it will nominate an ambassador-at-large for the Arctic, raising the profile of American policymaking for the region.

Why it matters: The move comes at a time of increased militarization in the far north, with NATO members squaring off against Russia, and at a time of rapid climate change that is making the Arctic more accessible.

The big picture: U.S. Arctic policy is currently handled by a coordinator within the State Department. The White House is seeking to elevate such a role to a full ambassadorship, pending confirmation from the Senate.

  • In recent years, Russia has moved to establish multiple military bases in its Arctic territory, while NATO members have conducted drills and worked to counter the Russian threat.
  • With the region's temperatures increasing three times faster than the rest of the world, melting sea ice is opening the Arctic Ocean up to trade and military patrols.

Context: Until recently, the Arctic was a region characterized by cooperation, rather than competition.

  • That dynamic began changing prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the war led Arctic countries to suspend their participation in the Arctic Council.

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