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Safeguarding the Arctic - Why the U.S. Must Lead in the High North

As the United States assumes the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, it is more important than ever that we have a coordinated national effort that takes advantage of our combined expertise and efforts in the Arctic region to promote our shared values and priorities.

— President Obama, Executive Order on Enhancing Coordination of National Efforts in the Arctic, January 21, 2015


While many Americans do not consider the United States to be an Arctic nation, Alaska—which constitutes 16 percent of the country’s landmass and sits on the Arctic Circle—puts the country solidly in that category. Consequently, it is with good reason that the United States has a seat on the Arctic Council. As Arctic warming accelerates, U.S. leadership in the High North is key not only to the public health and safety of Americans and other people in the region, but also to U.S. national security and the fate of the planet.

In just three months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will become chairman of the Arctic Council. The two-year position rotates among the eight Arctic nations—Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United States, and Denmark, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands—and is a powerful platform for shaping how the risks and opportunities of increasing commercial activity at the top of the world are managed.

To ready the administration for Secretary Kerry’s turn to hold the Arctic Council gavel from 2015 to 2017, President Barack Obama recently issued an executive order to better coordinate national efforts in the Arctic. The executive order is the latest signal from the White House that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are focused on preparing the nation for dramatic changes in the Arctic and protecting U.S. national interests in the region—even more so than their predecessors—and that the Arctic Council U.S. chairmanship is a priority for the administration.

For the complete article, please see Center for American Progress.