The United States has warned it will become more active in the Arctic, to counter growing Russian influence and efforts by China to position itself in the resource-rich region.
During a brief visit to Denmark, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed the reopening of the US consulate in the semi-autonomous Danish territory of Greenland and unveiled a sustainable fisheries and commercial engagement agreement with the Faroe Islands, another Danish territory in the North Atlantic.
“It’s a new day for the United States in Greenland,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint news conference with Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod on Wednesday.
The far north has long been too distant, too cold and too hostile for commercial and military exploration.
But with global warming and the melting of its ice sheet, that’s now changing – and world powers are racing for a share of its oil, gas and other mineral resources.
“The Arctic is opening up. That gives completely new opportunities,” said Jonas Parello-Plesner, Executive Director of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation.
“But that also means there’s a new great power competition,” he told Euronews.
Last month, the United States reopened its consulate in Greenland, which had been closed since 1953.
“Reopening the US Consulate in Nuuk reinvigorates an American presence that was dormant for far too long,” Pompeo said.
The move attracted attention because of President Donald Trump’s stated interest last year in purchasing Greenland from Denmark.
“We are very worried that the Arctics will become a playground or a theatre of war for the great powers,” Faroe Islands’ foreign minister Jenis av Rana told reporters before Pompeo’s arrival.
But Denmark’s Kofod said the idea of purchasing Greenland, which has been rejected and ridiculed by both Greenlandic and Danish officials, was not raised during his latest talks with Pompeo.
Throughout his various meetings in Denmark, Pompeo said he stressed the importance of energy independence, particularly from Russia.
The Trump administration is fiercely opposed to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is being built under the Baltic Sea to connect Russia to Germany.
Last week, Washington warned that companies involved in the project would be hit by US sanctions unless they halted their work.
Parello-Plesner, of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, said the United States had a strong argument in opposing Nord Stream 2.
“If we want to avoid dependency on autocracies, then, of course, we shouldn’t have a pipeline with Russian gas, which we’re seeing Putin use as a political weapon into Europe,” he said.
“We should diversify more, rely on energy efficiency, and rely less on Russian gas in general.”