Amid concerns about the progress of Russia and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the area, the United States will send Jim DeHart, a career diplomat, to settle there.
In the Trump administration’s mission to seek a greater role in the Arctic region to mitigate the growing influence of Russia and the CCP, the State Department appointed a special envoy to serve as U.S. Arctic coordinator.
According to the State Department, DeHart will lead and coordinate policy development and diplomatic engagement on Arctic issues to advance U.S. interests in the region related to security, sustainable economics, growth, and cooperation among Arctic states to support and strengthen a rules-based order in the region.
DeHart’s appointment came just one week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged increased U.S. engagement in the Arctic on a visit to Denmark.
The United States opened a consulate in the Danish semi-autonomous territory of Greenland earlier this year as part of its new Arctic strategy.
“The United States plays a critical leadership role on Arctic issues within the international community and remains committed to ensuring a peaceful region where U.S. interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected, and Arctic States work cooperatively to address shared challenges. (…) The appointment of Jim DeHart reaffirms the commitment of the United States to that mission,” Pompeo said in a press release.
Delighted to announce the appointment of Jim DeHart as U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region. I am fully confident Jim will lead efforts to advance U.S. interests related to safety and security, sustainable economic growth, and cooperation among Arctic States.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 29, 2020
DeHart has been a U.S. foreign service officer for 28 years, most recently serving as a senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements. He has also done diplomatic work in Norway, which has extensive interests in the Arctic.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal DeHart, he said, “People are going to look back at this summer as being a pivot point in our diplomatic engagement, our approach to the Arctic, and I think the beginning of what will be sustained effort comprehensive and integrated with all the tools and levers that we have.”
DeHart cited as one of the major factors in bringing back the region as the environmental changes that are making the Arctic more accessible.
“The receding sea ice opens up new opportunities for new sea lanes, transport opportunities, opportunities for resource extraction, seabed mining potential, all sorts of new opportunities, also tourism,” DeHeart said. He added, “The other important factor is an ‘evolving geopolitical situation.'”
He said that Russia has been increasingly active in the area, even creating a threat from a security perspective with the development of its armed forces’ capabilities in the region.
He also said that the Chinese Communist Party is not an Arctic nation, but is also becoming increasingly active there—with clear intentions to expand and invest in the area.
Finally, he expressed concern about this situation, understanding that the CCP may approach its activities in the Arctic without respecting the prevailing principles there of transparency, good governance, protection and support of local communities, taking into account its developments in other parts of the world.
In contrast, DeHart said the United States wants a peaceful and stress-free region, but with economic growth and development.