Norway’s New Ambassador

On September 17th, Ambassador Anniken Krutnes officially became Norway’s 15th ambassador to the United States. She is the first woman to fill the role. Prior to her American posting, Krutnes served as Norway’s Ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Ambassador Krutnes with the AMAP Secretariat Team in 2016.
A Great Diplomatic Career

Ambassador Krutnes has enjoyed a lengthy diplomatic career. Born September 15, 1968, Krutnes acquired degrees in both economics and law before entering Norway’s Foreign Service. Her first notable posting was Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, serving from 2004 to 2008.

Krutnes would go on to serve as Norway’s Ambassador to the Hague, working in this position from 2011 to 2016. During this time, Krutnes also served as the Facilitator for Cooperation in The Hague Working Group, from 2012 to 2015. As Facilitator, she improved cooperation and organization between Hague member states and the International Criminal Court. Her efforts resulted in improvements to witness protection, among other things.

Norway Adjusting to US’ Pivot to Arctic Focus

After completing her tenure at the Hague, Krutnes became Norway’s Ambassador for Arctic and Antarctic Affairs. With the Trump Administration’s pivot toward the Arctic, her expertise and insight will be essential for Norwegian-American relations going forward. She served in this capacity from 2016-2018.

Ambassador Krutnes also filled multiple leadership roles in Norway’s Foreign Service, and continued working in this capacity until being appointed Norway’s Ambassador to America this year. Her new appointment represents an opportunity to both clarify and reaffirm Norway and America’s partnership in the Arctic. This is doubly true given the new geopolitical challenges facing the High North. As the United States begins to take its Arctic responsibilities more seriously, Ambassador Krutnes will become an increasingly key figure in Arctic policy.


The Arctic Energy Office

Thanks to Alaska Senator Lisa Murowski, Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, and many others, the Arctic Energy Office (AEO) has been reestablished. Lost and forgotten amid bureaucratic reshuffle, the Office is now being opened on the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ campus. The AEO will oversee and coordinate scientific research and matters of regional security pertaining to energy.

America’s Arctic Energy Strategy

Oil and natural gas are and will remain the cornerstones of America’s Arctic energy strategy. However, the AEO will work to maximize the responsible use of fossil fuels, and expand research into supplemental sources like nuclear and renewables. Already, nearly a quarter thousand Alaskan communities regularly utilize renewable energy sources. 

Alaskans are subject to high energy costs due to the difficulty of transportation and lack of contiguous infrastructure. As a result, independent microgrids are the norm across a multitude of Alaskan communities. Per the AEO’s mission, innovation will be targeted toward reducing prices and increasing efficiency for both Alaska’s cities and far-flung communities.

“The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and the re-establishment of the Arctic Energy Office in Fairbanks will ensure greater collaboration between our state’s innovators and the Department of Energy’s cutting-edge researchers,”

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski

Research will be conducted according to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission’s five outlined goals. The AEO will investigate environmental change, Arctic infrastructure development, Alaskan public health outcomes, natural resource conditions, and possibilities for enhancing international scientific collaboration.

Purpose of the AEO

The AEO will also study the effects of “diminished physical and geopolitical barriers to resource access” on American regional security. With the Trump Administration and the Navy taking an interest in Alaska, the American Arctic is poised to undergo a revolution in investment and attention.

Decades of neglect have taken their toll, but the AEO’s establishment is a critical victory for America’s Arctic prospects. With proper organization, America can fulfill its responsibility to its Arctic citizens and create a safer, more prosperous High North.


The Barents Sea

This week, NATO naval and air forces conducted training operations in the Barents Sea. Norwegian, British, and American ships sailed through Russia’s exclusive economic zone north of the Kola Peninsula. The drills are a landmark moment in the region’s remilitarization.

Norway’s NATO Participation on the Rise

British and American forces conducted similar exercises in May, without Norway and Denmark. The latter pair’s participation this week is a symbol of Norway’s post-Crimea position toward Russia. At one point, Norwegian ships made cordial visits to Russian military ports. Now, they play war games in Russia’s backyard. These exercises are doubly significant considering Russia regularly uses the Barents Sea for its own drills.

Norway’s participation comes just months after PM Erna Solberg highlighted Russia and China as possible threats. Additionally, her administration also pledged to increase military spending by $1.7 billion over the next eight years. If this shift becomes permanent policy, Norway may become a regular presence in NATO drills north of the Arctic Circle.

“These [China and Russia] are countries where the authorities do not see the value of neither democracy, rule of law, nor the fact that people have undisputed rights… Over the last years, these forces have become increasingly visible and gained more influence.”

Norwegian Prime minister Erna Solberg

The United Kingdom justified its participation using familiar rhetoric, with Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stating: “The UK is the closest neighbour to the Arctic states. In addition to preserving UK interests we have a responsibility to support our Arctic allies such as Norway to preserve the security and stability of the region”. Although Norway surely welcomes the support, Russia has legitimate objections to the UK’s near-Arctic presence. These objections would carry more weight if Russia did not invite its own near-Arctic partner, China, into the region.

The Arctic as a Proving Ground

As competition over the region’s valuable resources and thoroughfares intensifies, NATO and non-NATO tit-for-tat activity will increase. Near-Arctic powers like Britain, China, Japan and Korea will inevitably complicate things further. The Arctic’s remilitarization is inevitable.


Alaska and America’s Arctic Future

This week, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan hosted Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite in his first visit to the Arctic state. Secretary Braithwaite’s tour comes at an important crossroads for the American Arctic.

Senator Sullivan’s Leadership in the Arctic

Senator Sullivan’s efforts to develop and defend Alaska are making headway. Six new icebreakers are slated for construction, the expansion of the Nome port has been approved, and the President has turned his attention toward the Arctic.

The Senator has championed Arctic issues since his election to the Senate. He sponsored the Strategic Arctic Naval Focus Act of 2019, outlining the geopolitical challenges posed by China and Russia in the Arctic. The senator also sponsored the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2019, which would extend critical funding for Arctic defense, supply, and research.

In his video recap, Sullivan says he pressed the Navy Secretary on domestic manufacturing of the new icebreaker fleet and other infrastructure. Should this come to pass, it would be an immense boon for Alaska’s west coast and the state at large.

Alaska’s Need for Investment

At present, Alaska’s economy depends almost entirely on energy, tourism, and fishing. Large-scale civilian and military infrastructure development would bring in much-needed jobs and funds. Senator Sullivan is hoping to succeed in ensuring Alaskans are employed to maintain new infrastructure.

Lack of Vision in the American Arctic

Development projects like Senator Sullivan’s are unfortunately restrained by the lack of an overarching, coherent plan for the American Arctic. As a result, the region’s future is uncertain. In the wake of the coronavirus and heightened tensions with China, an Arctic industrial policy guaranteeing the security of the Alaskan economy is necessary.