Some in U.S. Say Russia Should Be an Arctic Council Priority

Photo: LT Tim Smith, NOAA
Photo: LT Tim Smith, NOAA

Recent actions in the Arctic have some asking whether a tougher line with Russia should be a priority as the U.S. prepares to assume a 2-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

A report by Alaska Public Radio Network discusses comments by an Arctic expert and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) at a recent forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Russia has been flexing its military might in northern skies and waters, and Swedish authorities last year reported a near miss with a Russian spy plane. Nordic ministers this week described Russia as the greatest threat to northern Europe’s security. Yet the U.S. says it still wants Russia to be its partner in the Arctic. Heather Conley, an Arctic expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says she’s unsure what to make of it.

“I am struggling with the concept of ‘partner,’ yet I’m seeing extraordinary aggressive actions, missing civilian airliners, a lot of military exercises in the Arctic,” Conley said.

…Sen. Lisa Murkowski, at the same forum, said she’s committed to the Arctic “zone of peace” concept, but it requires that countries respect each other and Russia hasn’t been living up to that standard…The senator says the U.S. government needs to send an equally strong message to Russia to let it know its actions are unacceptable.

Alaska Public Radio Network notes that Russia’s foreign minister will not be attending the Arctic Council’s upcoming meeting in Canada.

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