US opens its northernmost diplomatic station, in Arctic Norway

By Gwladys Fouche, Reuters - October 27, 2023
A scientist drives his snowmobile across an icefield of the arctic near Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway, April 10, 2023. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo 

OSLO—The United States will on Friday open its northernmost diplomatic station in the world, a symbol of the Arctic’s increased importance in Washington, at a time when cooperation among Arctic nations has been hit by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the opening of the station, in Tromsø, northern Norway, in June, as a means for the US to have a “diplomatic footprint above the Arctic Circle”, he said.

Called a “presence post”, it will not offer consular services.

A general view of snowcapped mountains of the arctic landscape near Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

“Symbolically, it is significant,” Andreas Østhagen, a senior research fellow at the Oslo-based Fridtjof Nansen Institute, told Reuters.

“It is a gesture that showcases just how much more important the US sees the Arctic now than only five or ten years ago.”

Tromsø is the largest city in Arctic Norway, located about 400km (250 miles) to the west of Russia. Norway and Russia share a border in the Arctic.

During the Cold War, Washington had a station in Tromsø but closed it in 1994.

Tromsø is also the seat of the Arctic Council, a polar body comprising the eight Arctic states of Russia, the US, Canada, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.

Cooperation within the Arctic Council between Moscow and the Western Arctic states was put on hold after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

More recently, some cooperation on the council has resumed, but remains limited to the level of senior diplomats, with no discussions among political leaders.

A general view of sea ice in the arctic ocean close the coast of Svalbard, Norway, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Terje Solsvik and Deborah Kyvrikosaios)