US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Washington wanted to avoid a military build-up in the Arctic, a day after Russia defended its military activities in the strategic region.
“We have concerns about some of the increased military activities in the Arctic. That increases the dangers or prospects of accidents… and undermines the shared goal of a peaceful and sustainable future for the region,” Blinken told a press conference in Reykjavik.
“What we need to avoid is a militarisation of the region,” Blinken said on the eve of an Arctic Council meeting of foreign ministers on Wednesday and Thursday where he will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
As climate change makes the Arctic more accessible, interest in the region’s natural resources, its navigation routes, and its strategic position has grown among countries bordering the Arctic as well as China.
President Vladimir Putin has in recent years made Russia’s Arctic region a strategic priority and ordered investment in military infrastructure and mineral extraction, exacerbating tensions with Arctic Council members.
On Monday, Lavrov warned Western countries against staking claims in the Arctic.
“It has been absolutely clear for everyone for a long time that this is our territory, this is our land,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow. “We are responsible for ensuring our Arctic coast is safe,” he said.
The United States, for its part, has pushed back against what it considers Russian and Chinese “aggressivity” in the region.