Arctic Encounter symposium features discussion on Arctic security concerns

Arctic Encounter symposium features discussion on Arctic security concerns
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:05 PM AKDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 6:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A gathering of people from circumpolar nations is taking place in Anchorage this week. Arctic Encounter is a three-day event at the Dena’ina Center featuring representatives from 25 countries and more than 200 speakers.

A symposium on Wednesday featured a panel of speakers from the United States, Denmark, Sweden and Greenland who discussed security concerns in the region. When asked how concerned people should be about a serious conflict in the Arctic, Douglas Jones of the U.S. State Department said the United States doesn’t believe it is a strong possibility.

“Our assessment is still the chances of conflict in the Arctic is low,” Jones said. “We don’t think there’s likelihood of conflict arising because of the Arctic, but there is a chance of spillover from the conflict in Russia and Ukraine.”

But Jones said that Russia is still a concern.

“Because Russia has shown its willingness to use force, even to violate sovereignty and territorial integrity and violate internationally recognized borders,” Jones said. “So that is a risk, as we see an increasingly aggressive and dangerous Russia. But from our perspective, what that means is that we do need to have strong deterrence and defense globally, but including the Arctic.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown a wrench in arctic relations according to Swedish Ambassador to the Arctic Louise Calais and other panel members.

“I can’t really see, as long as the war is ongoing, that it will be possible to return to any kind of business as usual with Russia in the Arctic,” Calais said.

Jones said China — which is looking to raise its presence in the region — is also a concern, including launching what is believed to have been a spy balloon that was shot down in Alaska airspace over the Arctic Ocean.

“This is a nation that has fundamentally different perspectives on democratic freedoms on human rights than we do,” Jones said.

Jones also said that Arctic nations will need to work together to deter threats and continue to keep the arctic a peaceful place.

“International cooperation in the arctic is a priority for the United States. It’s a key part of our strategy for achieving our goals in the Arctic,” Jones said. “The good news on this front is some of our closest allies are also arctic states — Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, these are among our closest allies and we’re really like-minded and we cooperate well.