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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on Arctic policy at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland on Monday. Photo: Mendel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told diplomats at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland on Monday that the rapidly warming Arctic region presents a land of "opportunity and abundance," citing untapped resources like oil, gas, uranium and gold and rare earth minerals.

"And its centerpiece, the Arctic Ocean, is rapidly taking on new strategic significance. Offshore resources, which are helping the respective coastal states, are the subject of renewed competition. Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passage ways and new opportunities for trade."

Why it matters: As Axios Science editor Andrew Freedman explains, the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe, setting in motion the transformation of a once-frozen region. Melting sea ice is quickly making the Far North more accessible, and marine traffic from container ships and cruise vessels is becoming more common, particularly in Russian and Canadian waters. As one of 8 Arctic nations, the U.S. plays a key role in setting policy for the region.

Details: In his speech, Pompeo also pointedly warned about China and Russia's growing "aggressive behavior" in the Arctic.

  • "Do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims?” he asked.
  • Pompeo later added: "We know Russian territorial ambitions can turn violent,” pointing to the conflict in Ukraine. "Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness."
  • As for the U.S., Pompeo said the Trump administration is boosting security and diplomatic presence with new military exercises, icebreakers and expanding Coast Guard operations.

Yes, but: Pompeo’s remark shocked many diplomats and observers, who said the council was intended to address climate change, not security issues.

"Everything has been focused on constructive cooperation where you don’t bring outside problems in. All of a sudden, the speech today shifted everyone’s attention to, ‘Are we looking at next conflict in Arctic?’ when the real issue here is still climate change. No speech will change that."
— Malgorzata Smieszek, a political scientist and a fellow at the International Arctic Science Committee, told the New York Times.
"The Arctic is changing fast. Global warming will change the environmental and economic landscapes of the region. New sea routes and easier access to natural resources will become a reality."
— Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, per the AP.

According to the AP, Pompeo’s 2,400-word speech did not once mention the words "climate change."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

5 hours ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."