Kerry: Arctic climate change goals more important than containing Russia

US Secretary of State John Kerry assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and immediately made it clear that despite worrisome Russian military moves in the Arctic, the US would not challenge them.

Washington Examiner:

In assuming the leadership role, Kerry laid out a robust agenda to face the threat of climate change in the Arctic, which he says is being affected by global warming more than anywhere else in the world.

But when faced with questions over whether the U.S. will use its new leadership position to address threats posed by Russia, Kerry said no.

Kerry said the idea of using the Arctic forum to confront Russia on its actions in Ukraine and elsewhere was "kicked around," but concerns that it would "complicate" the council's environmental agenda forced the U.S. to decide against it.

More than half of the Arctic Council's eight members — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland — signed a pact earlier this month to guard against a new wave of Russian military aggression not seen since the Cold War.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting in Canada, Russia had intensified a campaign of unauthorized flights along the borders of these countries, as well as off the shores of Alaska.

At the same time, Russian state media reported a range of planned military operations in the Arctic, including a drone surveillance program, the construction of floating bases and plans for creating a self-sustaining military force in the icy north.

"Someone may like that or not, but it's their problems," Russia's official news service TASS quoted a senior Russian military official saying earlier in the week. "The most important thing for us should be that we like it and that it is useful for our country."

The news service was quoting Dimitry Rogozin, Russia's vice premier who is in charge of the military. Rogozin made the remarks while inspecting the construction of new floating bases that Russia seeks to deploy in the Arctic. Rogozin added that it was time for Russia to come to the Arctic and "conquer it," TASS reported.

"What is Russia up to in the Arctic," querries Newsweek? A lot.

Although Moscow isn’t threatening the West with anything near the number of warplanes deployed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, its air sorties around Norway have increased dramatically each year since 2007, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his strategic bombers to resume flights in international airspace.

But late last year, with the world’s attention riveted on Ukraine, Putin put a little-noticed exclamation mark on his Arctic strategy. For the first time, the Kremlin’s announced military doctrine included instructions to prepare to defend Russia’s interests in the Arctic. Plans for two new Arctic army brigades were drawn up. An abandoned military base at Alakurtti, Russia, less than 30 miles from the Finnish border, was reopened. And military construction crews began refurbishing a string of Cold War–era bases on islands in the Arctic. “Our main objective is research and evaluation of conditions in the Arctic and the suitability of our weapons and equipment this far north,” Vladimir Kondratov, commander of the surface ships group of the Northern Fleet, told Russia Today.

And global warming is a more pressing issue than Russian militarization of the Arctic? We have a bunch of idiots running our foreign policy.

To ignore an immediate threat in favor of a long term problem is loony. The Arctic Council - made up of countries that border the Arctic - is the perfect venue to try and halt Russian military expansion in the region. At the very least, the Russians should be forced to explain their motives for their increasing military presence.

Putin must be laughing about Kerry's priorities.

US Secretary of State John Kerry assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and immediately made it clear that despite worrisome Russian military moves in the Arctic, the US would not challenge them.

Washington Examiner:

In assuming the leadership role, Kerry laid out a robust agenda to face the threat of climate change in the Arctic, which he says is being affected by global warming more than anywhere else in the world.

But when faced with questions over whether the U.S. will use its new leadership position to address threats posed by Russia, Kerry said no.

Kerry said the idea of using the Arctic forum to confront Russia on its actions in Ukraine and elsewhere was "kicked around," but concerns that it would "complicate" the council's environmental agenda forced the U.S. to decide against it.

More than half of the Arctic Council's eight members — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland — signed a pact earlier this month to guard against a new wave of Russian military aggression not seen since the Cold War.

In the weeks leading up to the meeting in Canada, Russia had intensified a campaign of unauthorized flights along the borders of these countries, as well as off the shores of Alaska.

At the same time, Russian state media reported a range of planned military operations in the Arctic, including a drone surveillance program, the construction of floating bases and plans for creating a self-sustaining military force in the icy north.

"Someone may like that or not, but it's their problems," Russia's official news service TASS quoted a senior Russian military official saying earlier in the week. "The most important thing for us should be that we like it and that it is useful for our country."

The news service was quoting Dimitry Rogozin, Russia's vice premier who is in charge of the military. Rogozin made the remarks while inspecting the construction of new floating bases that Russia seeks to deploy in the Arctic. Rogozin added that it was time for Russia to come to the Arctic and "conquer it," TASS reported.

"What is Russia up to in the Arctic," querries Newsweek? A lot.

Although Moscow isn’t threatening the West with anything near the number of warplanes deployed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, its air sorties around Norway have increased dramatically each year since 2007, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his strategic bombers to resume flights in international airspace.

But late last year, with the world’s attention riveted on Ukraine, Putin put a little-noticed exclamation mark on his Arctic strategy. For the first time, the Kremlin’s announced military doctrine included instructions to prepare to defend Russia’s interests in the Arctic. Plans for two new Arctic army brigades were drawn up. An abandoned military base at Alakurtti, Russia, less than 30 miles from the Finnish border, was reopened. And military construction crews began refurbishing a string of Cold War–era bases on islands in the Arctic. “Our main objective is research and evaluation of conditions in the Arctic and the suitability of our weapons and equipment this far north,” Vladimir Kondratov, commander of the surface ships group of the Northern Fleet, told Russia Today.

And global warming is a more pressing issue than Russian militarization of the Arctic? We have a bunch of idiots running our foreign policy.

To ignore an immediate threat in favor of a long term problem is loony. The Arctic Council - made up of countries that border the Arctic - is the perfect venue to try and halt Russian military expansion in the region. At the very least, the Russians should be forced to explain their motives for their increasing military presence.

Putin must be laughing about Kerry's priorities.