Over the years, the Arctic has gradually begun to play a more important role when it comes to the shipping of goods between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, and now a couple of elected officials are trying to ensure that the role in it by one of America’s biggest geopolitical adversaries is minimized.
Two U.S. senators have put forward legislation that they say would eliminate Russia’s monopoly on Arctic shipping by establishing a permanent U.S. maritime presence in the region.
The bill, known as the Arctic Commitment Act, was introduced Aug. 3 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). It is co-sponsored by Sen. Angus King (I-ME) who, with Murkowski, co-chairs the Senate Arctic Caucus.
The legislation includes a variety of Arctic-focused provisions pertaining to national security, shipping, research, and trade. It requires reports on eliminating Russia’s monopoly on Arctic shipping and establishing a permanent U.S. maritime presence in the Arctic. It also calls for investments in deepwater Arctic ports and improves coordination among federal agencies on Arctic matters.
“I have long raised the importance of Alaska’s location and the immense value being an Arctic nation provides to our nation,” Murkowski said in a statement. “This leadership role requires our attention, stewardship and active effort. I am proud to introduce this comprehensive Arctic bill (which covers) everything from arctic shipping to national security, to domain awareness and presence and strengthening our relationships with fellow Arctic nations.”
“Opportunities abound in the Arctic, but accompanying them are great challenges and serious competition. This legislation takes measures to help protect our Arctic interests, project our capabilities in the High North, leverage our strategic location, and deepen relations with Arctic allies. The United States is an Arctic nation, and we must invest and lead in the region.”
“We cannot be bystanders in the region when we are at a true inflection point in the Arctic,” King said in a statement of his own. “We must be participants – and part of that leadership role includes investments in infrastructure, and standing up for our national interests through military and policy means that demonstrate our commitment and vision to making our presence a priority there.”
Among the things the bill aims to do are:
- Eliminate a perceived Russian monopoly on Arctic shipping by requiring the Department of Transportation to submit a report to Congress describing the control and influence of the Russian Federation on shipping in the Arctic and plan for eliminating or preventing a Russian monopoly to enable an increased U.S. presence in the Arctic shipping domain.
- Establish a permanent maritime presence in the U.S. Arctic by requiring the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report that outlines the requirements necessary to establish a persistent, year-round presence of the Navy and the Coast Guard in the Arctic region.
- Require the Secretary of the Navy, in consultation with the Commandant of the Coast Guard, to coordinate with the Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that the Port of Nome can be used for various Arctic-focused military service strategies.
- Expand investment by the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) in Arctic countries by authorizing the DFC to provide financing to entities in Arctic countries for projects that involve the responsible extraction and development of critical minerals and projects that are determined to be in the strategic interest of the United States. Russia is excluded from the definition of an Arctic country.
We’ll keep you posted regarding the status of the bill in Congress, but in the meantime, the full text of the proposed legislation is available at https://www.murkowski.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Arctic%20Committment%20Act.pdf
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.