The Foreign Service Journal, November 2015

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2015 23 >> AMERICA’S ARCTIC DIPLOMACY Ásgeir Sigfússon is director of communications at AFSA. A native Icelander, he has been a close observer of Arctic issues for years. He writes here in his personal capacity; the article does not reflect AFSA policy or positions. Climate change is opening up new opportunities and challenges in the Arctic. Is the United States ready to lead? BY ÁSGE I R S I GFÚSSON COVER STORY W hen new diplomatic opportuni- ties appear, the United States is typically quick to react and establish a presence. After the fall of the Soviet Union, new embas- sies were staffed up and opened in record time across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The breakup of Yugoslavia and Czecho- slovakia saw similar quick responses from the United States, as did the appearance of new nation states such as Timor-Leste and South Sudan. U.S. embassies opened soon and resources were allocated swiftly. So why has Washington been comparatively slow in responding to the explosion of opportunity in the Arctic? The scientific consensus is that climate change is mostly behind the swift warming of the Arctic, and other Arctic nations, as well as China, have moved decisively to stake their claims in this new arena. As the climate heats up, the race for the Arctic’s resources will do the same; new shipping lanes will become avail- able; environmental changes will accelerate; and large popula- tions will be affected. Under the circumstances, is the United GETTING INTO THE GAME: AFSA/JEFF LAU