The Arctic is rapidly changing. While the Arctic region has experienced warming and cooling cycles over millennia, the current warming trend is unlike anything previously recorded. As sea ice diminishes, ocean resources are more readily accessible. This accessibility, along with recent scientific estimates indicating the presence of significant energy and other resources, have inspired strong interest for new commercial initiatives in the region, including energy production, increased shipping, scientific research, tourism, and related infrastructure development. As an Arctic nation, the United States must be proactive and disciplined in addressing changing regional conditions and in developing adaptive strategies to protect its interests. An undisciplined approach to exploring new opportunities in this frontier could result in significant harm to the region, to our national security interests, and to the global good.
Today, we are releasing the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. Through this strategy, we are setting the United States Government’s strategic priorities for the Arctic region. These priorities are intended to position the United States to respond effectively to emerging opportunities – while simultaneously pursuing efforts to protect and conserve this unique environment.
These priorities include: advancing our security interests, pursuing responsible Arctic region stewardship, and strengthening our international cooperation. We will advance these priorities in a manner that: safeguards peace and stability in the region, utilizes the best available information for decisions, emphasizes the use of innovative arrangements, and underscores the importance of consulting and coordinating with Alaskan Native communities.
The National Strategy for the Arctic Region recognizes our existing policy structure and ongoing efforts by more than 20 federal departments and agencies as well as Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, Representative Don Young, the State of Alaska, and Alaskan Native communities, which has been underway for decades. In the coming months, we will develop an implementation plan, as well as a document defining roles and responsibilities. To develop this implementation plan, we will seek opportunities to gain input from critical stakeholders. As a demonstration of our commitment to such input, Administration officials will be hosting roundtable discussions in Alaska in the coming weeks to discuss how best to move forward with the implementation of the concepts laid out in this National Strategy. The meetings will be held in mid-June, at a time and location that will be confirmed shortly.
Next week, Secretary of State Kerry will meet his seven Arctic state counterparts in Kiruna, Sweden at the biannual meeting of the Arctic Council. The eight Arctic states are planning for greater human activity in the region in the near term. The Council is providing a valuable forum for advancing important efforts, such as the 2011 search and rescue agreement and an agreement for preventing and responding to marine oil spills.
Through the release of this strategy, the United States is pleased to join our Arctic Council colleagues Canada, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Russia, and Sweden in articulating our strategic priorities for this critical region of the world.
Ultimately, the United States seeks an Arctic region that is stable and free of conflict, where nations act responsibly in a spirit of trust and cooperation, and where economic opportunities are pursued in a sustainable and responsible manner.