U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered a keynote address this morning at the 2014 Henry Bacon Breakfast Seminar in Washington, D.C. where he spoke about the impact of global climate change on the Arctic environment and the resulting implications for U.S. security, economic, and diplomatic interests.
"What we are seeing in our generation -- before our very eyes -- is the revealing of a new and an enormously important ocean resource with respect to energy, security, commerce -- all of the same issues that have arisen throughout world history with regard to seafaring nations," Senator King said. "It's one where I think we have an extraordinary opportunity to work cooperatively, to make significant progress in human relations, and to demonstrate how this kind of situation can be peacefully and thoughtfully developed while avoiding the history of conflict that has attached itself to similar situations in our past."
Senator King also announced his support for U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the U.S. is largely adhering to already and would allow the U.S. greater sovereignty claims in the Arctic, as well as the appointment of an Ambassador to the Arctic to represent the interests of the United States, to include at the Arctic Council. The Council is a high level intergovernmental forum established by The Ottawa Declaration of 1996 to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States. Senator King also discussed the need to start planning today for acquiring capabilities, such as ice breakers, that will be necessary to support U.S. interests in the Arctic in the future.
In late March, Senator King traveled to the Arctic with U.S. defense officials where he observed and participated in a Navy training exercise known as Ice Exercise (ICEX) to gain a deeper understanding of U.S. military operations in the region and the Arctic's strategic value to the United States.
The Arctic Ocean is of increasing strategic importance to the United States. Not only does it border several nations, including the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark, but it also serves as an increasingly important waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, particularly as the accelerating melting of Arctic ice creates the potential to open up global shipping routes, new energy sources, and other commercial interests.
In May 2013, President Obama released a National Strategy for the Arctic Region, which states that the United States has "broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic" and that the U.S. must advance "national security interests, pursue responsible stewardship, and strengthen international collaboration and cooperation, as we work to meet the challenges of rapid climate-driven environmental change" in the region. The Department of Defense released its Arctic Strategy in November 2013 and the U.S. Navy released its Arctic Roadmap 2014-2030 in February 2014 to enhance the Navy's ability to operate in the Arctic region in the future.