Stresses Need to Establish Sovereignty in the Region
With rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia coupled with an increasingly open Arctic, U.S. Senator Mark Begich today emphasized the importance of having a strong and credible military presence in the Arctic during a speech delivered at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (J-BER).
"When I first arrived in the Senate five years ago, I got a lot of puzzled looks when I mentioned the Arctic," said Begich. "But I have made every effort to make sure my colleagues understand the strategic importance of the region and today, virtually every federal agency is engaged on this issue. With unpleasant reminders of the Cold War and the vast potential for resource development in the region, a military presence is more important than ever."
The speech was part of Alaskan Command's Arctic Lecture Series, at the invitation of ALCOM Commander Lieutenant General Russell Handy. Begich spoke to senior military leaders at JBER with several other bases attending by teleconference. The discussion focused on the direction U.S. policy must take for this area based upon its growing strategic importance. During his speech, Begich noted that the lack of infrastructure, climate change, unique Arctic environment, and growing commercial activity must be addressed for this region.
A positive development is the administration's recent decision, at Begich's request, to appoint an ambassador for the Arctic. This new ambassador will assure equivalent footing with other nations in negotiating Arctic issues and allow integration of the plans and policies of the various federal departments involved. Begich emphasized he is committed to assuring that our military and Coast Guard has the resources they need to operate in this environment. Most recently, Begich introduced the Coast Guard Arctic Preparedness Act to help meet this need. Senator Begich has been instrumental in assuring that the United States provides appropriate focus on the Arctic to take advantage of the incredible opportunity it offers for the United States and for Alaska.
Begich also stressed the importance of approving the Law of the Sea Treaty, giving the United States a seat at the table and the ability to take full advantage of the resources in the Arctic. Begich continues to press his colleagues to approve the treaty so that the U.S. may exercise its full sovereignty in the region.
"Hand in hand with that sovereignty is the ability to protect our national interest in the region, something the Department of Defense and our nation's military will be crucial in carrying out," said Begich.