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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

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.