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Archive for the ‘U.S. Department of State’ Category

Every year, the U.S. Department of State issues a Human Rights Report based on data collected from sources operating in U.N. member states and countries receiving U.S. assistance.  Upon the release of the 2009 Human Rights Report, Hillary Clinton announced that the United States would be added to the list of countries under review.  Republicans and conservatives did not take this news well.

Human rights are universal, but their experience is local. This is why we are committed to holding everyone to the same standard, including ourselves. This year, the United States is participating in the Universal Periodic Review process in conjunction with our participation in the UN Human Rights Council. In the fall, we will present a report, based on the input of citizens and NGOs, gathered online and in face-to-face meetings across the country attended by senior government officials. Assessing opportunities for progress and soliciting citizen engagement is one way that we demonstrate our commitment in word and deed to the basic principles that guide us toward a more perfect union and a more peaceful world.

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The U.N. also reviews human rights conditions among member states.

It should be no secret to readers here that an organization exists that formulates legislation to be put forth in multiple states. If you were watching MSNBC in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing, you saw Karen Finney unveil ALEC.

One example of  Karen’s  effect at MSNBC was her unmasking of ALEC  (American Legislative Exchange Council) behind the Stand Your Ground laws in many states, including Florida, in the wake of George Zimmerman’s fatal attack on Trayvon Martin.  No one, in my experience of viewing multiple hours of MSNBC,  had ever mentioned ALEC.  But after Karen filled in for Bashir that day, it seemed that not an hour went by without some anchor bringing up ALEC.

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This comes as disturbing news.

The UN Has Stepped In To Issue A Severe Warning To GOP After Their Plans To Strip Americans Of Freedoms Is Exposed

If you thought your rights are protected in the USA, think again. There are lawmakers who are working hard to under-handedly take them away. Sixteen states have proposed bills that would criminalize peaceful protests. This is a worrying trend that may result in fatal blows to our rights and freedom to peacefully protest, assemble, and express our opinions and voices.

It is so concerning, that even the United Nations has weighed in on the trend. In an unprecedented move, representatives from the UN have sent a letter to the US government offering a strong condemnation for proposed legislation in sixteen states that is meant to limit peaceful protest.

The letter, penned by David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, claims that if passed, these bills would be “incompatible with US obligations under international human rights law.”

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There is a link to a PDF of the 19-page letter in the body of the article. I encourage you to take a look. At the end of the letter, there is a link to the U.N. Human Rights website.  Please also see that. Here are the letters sent regarding the U.S. in 2017 according to that page.

United States of America

  • 9 May 2017 – Intensified screening of travellers at the US border based on their religious affiliation – OL USA 6/2017

United States of America

  • 1 May 2017 – Intensified social media screening of travellers at the US border – OL USA 7/2016

United States of America

  • 27 March 2017 – Draft bills on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression – OL USA 3/2017

Those are the letters sent this year.  Further down the same page is a list of  all communications sent since 2011 divided by country. Here are the letters sent to the U.S.

United States of America

  • 30 September 2016: Proposal to request travelers’ social media information on immigration forms – USA 9/2016.
  • 20/04/2016 – Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement –USA 4/2016

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There is a danger of rapid erosion of human rights afoot. The U.N. is watching. It is not clear the degree to which such pending legislations will make their way into the State Department’s Human Right Report for 2017.  The easy out for this administration would be for DOS to exclude the U.S. from that report as it had been until Hillary Clinton included us.

The multiple pending legislations are most likely the work of ALEC. When you look at the menu bar on their website,  you see a “more” category.  There is a drop-down where you can access their “free speech” position.  The proposed curtailment of protest rights appears to be tied to recent protests against right wing speakers on university campuses.

This is going to become a matter of framing as our friend George Lakoff often reminds us. We need to make sure that protest remains framed as freedom of expression and not as the enemy or abrogation of someone else’s right to speak. That, from what I see on their page, is how they plan to frame these legislations.

While it is encouraging that the U.N. Human Rights folks are looking out for us, it also raises concerns that our own local governments are working formally to curtail our rights. The federal government, specifically the State Department, could potentially stand down on reviewing and reporting on rights violations within our borders. Lastly, and most dangerously, this administration, already inimical to the U.N. having its headquarters here, could move to exit the U.N. altogether.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but we ought to keep that in mind. Though I doubt it would ever pass, there are factions in our country that despise the U.N.  We need to be vigilant.

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Here is Rex Tillerson’s address to the Arctic Council in Fairbanks. Bolded emphasis is mine.

Remarks

Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
Fairbanks, Alaska
May 11, 2017

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, it’s my pleasure to welcome all of you, foreign ministers, permanent participant heads of delegation, Arctic Council observers, and honored guests. And I want to thank again the tribal leaders of the aboriginal groups for their greeting this morning and their very meaningful message to all of us, and we appreciate their opening this session for us.

I want to welcome all of you to the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting and this beautiful city of Fairbanks, and we thank them again for their great hospitality in hosting us.

I would now call your attention to the provisional agenda for this meeting and seek its adoption.

(No response.)

SECRETARY TILLERSON: As I see no delegates seeking the floor, I take it that the agenda can be adopted without change. It is so decided.

As the next agenda point, I would like to call for the adoption of the SAO Report to Ministers.

(No response.)

SECRETARY TILLERSON: As I see no delegations seeking the floor, I take it that the report can be adopted without change. It is so decided.

Let’s turn to the agenda item on the accomplishments of the Arctic Council during the U.S. chairmanship.

The United States had been privileged to lead the Arctic Council at a time when the Arctic Region has been facing unprecedented change and challenges.

I am grateful for the level of cooperation that the nations and the peoples of the Arctic have demonstrated as they continue to address these challenges.

The Arctic Council, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, has proven to be an indispensable forum in which we can pursue cooperation. I want to affirm that the United States will continue to be an active member in this council. The opportunity to chair the Council has only strengthened our commitment to continuing its work in the future.

We look forward to working with Finland as they assume the leadership role of this council. There are still issues of great concern to each of us that we can address, including advancing the welfare and living conditions of those who call the Arctic home; recognizing that each country has a strategic interest in being part of the Arctic’s future; and making sure that we continue to be vigilant in protecting the fragile environment.

In the United States, we are currently reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change. We are appreciative that each of you has an important point of view, and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns. We’re not going to rush to make a decision. We’re going to work to make the right decision for the United States. The Arctic Council will continue to be an important platform as we deliberate on these issues.

I could not hope to mention all of the individual initiatives and programs that the Council has brought to fruition over the past two years under U.S. chairmanship. Each of the Council’s subsidiary bodies has done outstanding work in this respect, and I do wish to acknowledge and commend all of their efforts, even as I highlight but a few.

The signing of the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation will facilitate the movement of scientists, scientific equipment, and importantly, data sharing across the international boundaries of the Arctic.

The Council has produced the first-ever assessment of telecommunications infrastructure in the Arctic. During the Finnish chairmanship, the Arctic Council will build on this work in conjunction with the private sector to advance this ongoing effort to strengthen connectivity throughout the Arctic Region.

Arctic Council members have conducted multiple exercises to prepare for potential search-and-rescue events in the Arctic as well as to coordinate responses to environmental incidents. These exercises significantly advanced our capacity to address risks inherent in the increased human activity that is undergoing and will continue to expand in the Arctic Region.

At the community level, the council broke new ground in a number of ways. A compelling initiative known as RISING SUN has produced resources that will prove truly valuable to Arctic residents in addressing suicide prevention, particularly among indigenous youth. The council also built on work initiated by the State of Alaska to improve water and sanitation capacity in rural Arctic communities.

As Arctic shipping continues to increase, the Council took a number of measures designed to ensure that such shipping remains safe and reliable, including the Arctic Ship Traffic Database that will improve our understanding of the ship traffic in the Arctic, including the number and types of vessels in the Arctic, their exact routing, and other important information.

And finally, the Council has strengthened resilience at the national and local levels in the face of environmental and other change.

I could go on at length about our shared accomplishment, but I am certain other speakers today will mention the many other Arctic Council projects deserving of recognition.

Let me close my remarks by thanking again all of those involved in these initiatives – the many government officials, the permanent participants, the working group and task force chairs, the secretariats, the observers and invited experts. The last two years have witnessed remarkable growth in the reach and productivity of the Arctic Council, thanks to all of you. And I am confident that, under the leadership of Finland, the Council is poised to do even more.

With that, we’re ready to move to the next agenda item, which is the statements from the Arctic States and from the permanent participants. I now offer the floor to each of the other heads of delegation in turn for these statements, beginning with Canada.

Here is an update on the administration’s position on the Paris Agreement.  It remains no position.

The Paris Climate Agreement: Why is President Trump Still Waffling?

By Joel B. Stronberg

Predictably there’s been a lot written over the last few weeks about the Paris Climate Agreement and whether the Trump administration will continue to sit with other nations.

Driving the coverage is the on-again off-again meeting between Trump and a pace of senior advisors. The ultimate decision will be his to make—purportedly after the G-7 summit at the end of May. His advisors are divided. EPA Administrator Pruitt leads the leavers, while Secretary of State Tillerson, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are shepherding those advising to stay.

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Looks like there might be a big battle there.

Here is Hillary Clinton’s statement on the Paris Agreement issued in December, 2015.

Hillary Clinton Statement on the Paris Climate Change Agreement

Hillary Clinton released the below statement following the conclusion of an international climate agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement solidifies greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets from more than 180 countries accounting for more than 90 percent of global emissions; establishes transparency provisions to measure global progress and hold countries accountable; and mobilizes financial support and private-sector investment to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and achieve sustainable economic growth.

“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and our negotiating team for helping deliver a new, ambitious international climate agreement in Paris. This is an historic step forward in meeting one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century—the global crisis of climate change.

“The Paris agreement is testament to America’s ability to lead the world in building a clean energy future where no one is left out or left behind. And it was made possible in part by every person, business owner, and community in the United States and around the world that stepped up to prove we don’t have to choose between growing our economy and protecting our kids’ health and future—we can do both.

“But we will only succeed if we redouble our efforts going forward to drive innovation, increase investment, and reap the benefits of the good-paying jobs that will come from transitioning to a clean energy economy. The next decade of action is critical—because if we do not press forward with driving clean energy growth and cutting carbon pollution across the economy, we will not be able to avoid catastrophic consequences.

“We cannot afford to be slowed by the climate skeptics or deterred by the defeatists who doubt America’s ability to meet this challenge. That’s why as President, I will make combating climate change a top priority from day one, and secure America’s future as the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.”

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2016_campaign_pic

This is no longer about a political campaign and should not be a political football.  It is about the future, and it is urgent!

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You probably saw some photos like this from yesterday kindly provided by the Russian Foreign Ministry since American photo journalists were barred from the Oval Office during this meeting.

My prediction was incorrect about a Lavrov/Tillerson meeting. They did indeed meet at the State Department although Tillerson was not included in the White House sit-down.

Then there is this. The bolded emphasis is mine.

The Arctic Council: Fostering Cooperation, Preservation, and Prosperity in the Far North

By: David A. Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Icebergs float off the port of Ilulissat, Greenland. June 17, 2016.

The Arctic is a special place.

Its awe-inspiring natural beauty suggests a land untouched by time. But it is not a park — people have been living in the Arctic for thousands of years. Today, the ways of life of Arctic peoples, along with the Arctic itself, is changing rapidly and profoundly. Many of these changes — environmental, social and economic — transcend national borders, making international cooperation critical for the Arctic’s future.

The Arctic Council serves as the forum where Arctic nations and peoples collaborate to protect the Arctic’s environment while also fostering development of its economic potential in responsible and sustainable ways. This week in Fairbanks, Alaska, the United States will proudly conclude a successful two-year Arctic Council Chairmanship with concrete achievements that will improve economic and living conditions in the Arctic region; enhance Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and strengthen the resilience and adaptation capabilities of Arctic communities in the face of climate change.

Several of our achievements during our Chairmanship deserve special attention. The Council completed an assessment that identifies gaps in telecommunications capabilities across the region which, when remedied, will improve the lives and boost the economies of the countries in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council has also created a groundbreaking new tool, the Arctic Ship Traffic Database, to track shipping routes and prepare for an anticipated increase in activity. This surge in shipping will stimulate investment in infrastructure and benefit the economies of Arctic nations.

To ensure continued responsible development in the Arctic, the Arctic Council focused on initiatives that enhance the safety and good stewardship of the region. As we see more human activity in the Arctic, we need to be better prepared to protect the people who live and work there. Under U.S. leadership, the Council worked together to enhanced search and rescue readiness through live exercises. The recent entry into force of an agreement to cooperate on oil spills in the Arctic and an updated guide on how to respond if one happens help prepare and protect us from potential challenges in the future.

We are especially proud to announce a landmark scientific cooperation agreement, through negotiations led by the United States and Russia, which will usher in a new era of Arctic science by breaking down the barriers to research and exploration in the region. Together, we will increase our knowledge about the challenges and opportunities in the Arctic.

Left: Alaskan Sunset in July near Anchorage — 12:10 am. Right: placid view in Tutka Bay with near mirror-like conditions reflecting grand mountain scenery off the waters. Alaska, Kenai Peninsula, Kachemak Bay. (NOAA National Ocean Service)

Alaska is America’s Arctic. It is tough, beautiful, and complex.

The United States looks forward to hosting the foreign ministers of the other Arctic nations and leaders of indigenous Arctic groups in Fairbanks this week to celebrate the conclusion of our successful chairmanship. We wish great success to Finland which will serve as the next chair. Thanks to the dedication of the many groups and individuals supporting it, we know the Arctic Council will continue to preserve and protect the economic opportunities and unique beauty of the Arctic for future generations.


Originally published on blogs.state.gov on May 10, 2017.

Oh those shipping routes! And about those “challenges and opportunities,” does oil figure in there in some sneaky way? Sigh!

Related:

Hillary Clinton to Canadians: Watch Putin in the Arctic as well as in Europe

#WatchThis Space: Arctic Activity

Arctic Activity…. #WatchThisSpace! Keep Watching!

 

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When I posted Tillerson’s Folly,  my thinking was that, in barring the press from his first official trip, Rex Tillerson was alienating a potentially valuable set of allies. Brassy Rebel pointed out, in her comment there, that his attitude vis-à-vis the press might indicate a broader administration policy of downgrading diplomacy. Indeed, Trump’s cabinet picks in general seem to indicate antagonism toward the very departments these folks head.

Hillary Clinton spent her first weeks at the State Department roaming the halls when she had a chance and popping into offices to ask what the folks there did.  Foreign Policy‘s article by Robert Jervis, presents a secretary of state cut off from others in the building and even from the Oval Office.

Remember when everyone said Hillary got off on the wrong foot with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with her reset button?

She did go on to work very successfully with him on New START, didn’t she?

Did you wonder when Tillerson was going to meet with Lavrov? Well, according to Jervis, he already has and that did not go swimmingly.

A minor indicator was his ignorance of the protocol to be followed when he met his Russian counterpart and neglected to make the standard introductory remarks. This shows that Tillerson was disconnected from his building’s expertise, that he ignored what he was told, or that his subordinates went out of their way to embarrass him.

The reason we did not know about it, of course, is the absence of press and paucity of press briefings under Tillerson. Here is the schedule for March so far. There was no briefing today. In contrast, here is the schedule for January – the last three weeks of John Kerry’s tenure.  Here is the schedule for March 2012, five years ago this month and the last year Hillary was secretary of state.  There is definitely something going on there. Mark Toner is still the spokesperson, but he is speaking far less these days than under Hillary and John Kerry.  It is also a little odd that Tillerson has not appointed his own spokesperson.

Jervis’s analysis is well worth a read. He takes a broad look at Tillerson’s State Department and his conclusions bode ill for the department and for diplomacy.  It reminds me of George W. Bush appointing Christie Whitman to head the EPA and then knee-capping her at every turn. She finally left in frustration after only  two-and-a-half years.  Fine thanks for giving him Barney!

 

Argument

Rex Tillerson Might Be the Weakest Secretary of State Ever

 

The administration that promised to drain the swamp is draining Foggy Bottom.  This, from The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove also offers some interesting insights. They are blaming the smaller plane on budget cuts. Just wondering what effect those cuts will have on embassy and consulate security.  This passage is particularly ironic.

Tillerson found himself being lectured on press freedoms during a visit to Bonn, Germany, last month by none other than Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the foreign policy czar of journalist-snuffing strong man Vladimir Putin.

“Why did you shush them out?” Lavrov demanded after Tillerson’s handlers ejected reporters from a bilateral meeting as the Secretary of State began to speak; Lavrov, who frequently travels with a full complement of journalists on his official plane, had already taken a press question. (Due to lack of witnesses from the Fourth Estate, Tillerson’s reply, if any, went unrecorded.)

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You might want to rethink canceling your subscription to The Guardian.

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The State Department press corps had boarded and had been logged in – both by the crew and on their social nets – when the secretary of state’s motorcade drove up. Hillary Clinton was about to board for her first official tour in Africa as secretary of state.  It was very exciting, but her press corps, all logged into Twitter, were disconcerted.  There was another motorcade on the tarmac. Another plane was preparing for takeoff.  The State Department press corps did not like it, and they said so on Twitter and other social nets.

What’s he doing, they queried. He’s stealing her light! There was a tweetstorm of monumental proportions.

The “he” in this case was the secretary of state’s husband and the former president who was off on a mission to rescue two journalists captured and imprisoned in North Korea.


They were employed by his former vice president, and the former POTUS went at his behest with the approval of the new president and his secretary of state, about to be bound to Africa. She knew all about it, of course. For the sake of convenience and perhaps to some degree for the sake of last minute preps and briefings, they had left their Georgetown residence together and arrived at Andrews for their separate missions. It was well-coordinated as such events go.

The DOS press corps, however did not see it that way that particular morning. They circled their wagons around the secretary of state, whose coverage was their job, and expressed their disgruntlement on Twitter where I was following several of the younger members of the corps.

Their loyalty to and protectiveness of Hillary was plain to see. No one should be stealing her steam, not even her husband, a two-term former POTUS.  This was her big trip.  They were there to make it visible to the world.

Apparently the current SOS, Rex Tillerson, missed class that day and in the days following Hillary Clinton’s flu and subsequent fainting spell and concussion, or even her bouts with spring allergies, or he would know the fealty and concern with which the DOS press corps treats coverage of the secretary of state.

Instead of giving them a fair chance to get to know him, bond, and explain and defend him in the press, he has opted to treat them as the enemy and barred them from the plane on his first official excursion to Asia. N.B. Asia was also Hillary’s first official trip as SOS.

This decision is not only folly but also speaks to the general attitude of this administration toward the press.  Without giving them the chance to get to know him and perhaps develop a sympathy toward him and his work, he has chosen to banish them as inimical – the general stance of the administration – and a dangerous and foolhardy one.

The State Department press corps tends to be very open, supportive, and defensive of the secretary of state. Tillerson, on his first official journey, has chosen to erect a wall, another symbol of this new administration, between him and those whose function is to cover his tenure.

He has decided to pare down. He will not be using the Big Blue Bird – so familiar via Condi, Hillary, and John Kerry.  He will use a smaller plane. N.B. that this does not necessarily represent any reduction of expenses since the news bureaus pay for the press transportation.  It represents, instead, a slap in the face to the free press.

The Trump administration and Tillerson as part of it have chosen to treat the press as the enemy.  They could have caught more flies with honey, but never mind. As Roseanne Rosannadanna might have said, Mr. Tillerson, you sound like a real attractive guy.  Truth is, when you have a name that sounds like it came out of an “Archie” comic book, you really needed all the help you could have gotten, and beggars cannot be choosers.

 

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Monday I posted this: #WatchThis Space: Arctic Activity.  Well you really have to watch! Things are moving fast, and there are a lot of moving parts. This, from Michael Grunwald in Politico.

Rex Tillerson Tried to Get This Rule Killed. Now Congress Is About To Do It For Him

Should oil companies disclose payments to foreign governments? The GOP, and former Exxon CEO, think not.

February 01, 2017

… back in 2010, ExxonMobil’s then-CEO, Rex Tillerson, was deeply worried about Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, a bipartisan amendment that required drilling and mining companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments. So Tillerson and one of his lobbyists paid a half-hour visit to the amendment’s Republican co-author, then-Senator Richard Lugar, to try to get it killed.

Tillerson argued that forcing U.S. oil firms to reveal corporate secrets—such as paying foreign governments—would put them at a competitive disadvantage. He also explained that the provision would make it especially difficult for Exxon to do business in Russia, where, as he did not need to explain, the government takes a rather active interest in the oil industry.

SNIP

Today, seven years later, Republicans confirmed Tillerson as President Trump’s Secretary of State, despite allegations that he’s too cozy with Russia. At the same time, the GOP is preparing to try to kill the disclosure rule created under Section 1504, despite warnings from international aid groups that the move would provide a wink-and-nod blessing to hidden corporate payments to petro-thugs. The House is expected to act this afternoon, and since the move relies on a special mechanism for reversing rules enacted late in a presidential term, Senate Republicans will need a mere majority rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes to follow suit.

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As you probably could have guessed …

U.S. House Passes Resolution to Kill Extractive Anti-Graft Rule

Four years to the day since Hillary Clinton exited the State Department, Tillerson will occupy Foggy Bottom, and Congressional Republicans have blown smoke and fog over corporate payments to foreign governments. This in conjunction with the Arctic activity slips past much of the MSM while they occupy themselves with Trump thinking Frederick Douglass is still alive.

Just a reminder: The Benghazi-cum-server-cum emails Oversight Committee railed and wailed a lot in the course of their hearings about Hillary’s State Department initiatives promoting American businesses overseas.  That is part of the Secretary of State’s job, and all of those initiatives were transparent.

John Kerry’s successor enters with a cloak of invisibility ready made.

02-01-13-Z-08

Keep watching this space!  The war in Urkraine is escalating.  Remember that plank in the Republican platform that Trump had removed?

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The United States has four coasts subject to the perils presented by climate change: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic. As a nation with land above the Arctic Circle, we belong to the Arctic Council.

When she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton participated regularly in Arctic Council summits hosted by a variety of the eight member nations. This was one. I have bolded the list of member states.

Lisa Murkowski  was nice enough to post this picture on her Facebook page along with this comment about an hour ago.

Lisa Murkowski

Heading home from the Arctic Council in Nuuk, Greenland. But wanted to share a picture: with the Ministers of the eight Arctic nations in attendance, as well as Secretary Clinton and Secretary Salazar.

Here is a fact sheet released by the State Department about the Arctic Council meeting results.

Secretary Clinton Signs the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement with Other Arctic Nations

Fact Sheet

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 12, 2011

On May 12, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined representatives of the other seven Member States of the Arctic Council (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, and Sweden) in signing an Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) in the Arctic (Agreement). The Agreement is the first legally-binding instrument negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. It coordinates life-saving international maritime and aeronautical SAR coverage and response among the Arctic States across an area of about 13 million square miles in the Arctic.

As Arctic sea ice coverage decreases, ship-borne activities are increasing significantly in the Arctic. Flight traffic is also on the rise as new polar aviation routes cross the Arctic air space in several directions. As human presence and activities in the Arctic expand, the potential for accidents increases as well. Limited rescue resources, challenging weather conditions, and the remoteness of the area render SAR operations difficult in the Arctic, making coordination among the Arctic nations imperative. The SAR Agreement will improve search and rescue response in the Arctic by committing all Parties to coordinate appropriate assistance to those in distress and to cooperate with each other in undertaking SAR operations. For each Party, the Agreement defines an area of the Arctic in which it will have lead responsibility in organizing responses to SAR incidents, both large and small. Parties to the Agreement commit to provide SAR assistance regardless of the nationality or status of persons who may need it.

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(See more like this here>>>>)

It is immediately apparent why there is a need for this council. Russia is a player.

After Hillary left the State Department, she launched a series of  speaking engagements. One of these was in Canada.

Speaking to the Montreal Board of Trade last night, Hillary Clinton warned the audience of increased Russian activity in the Arctic and hung responsibility for another Cold War on Vladimir Putin’s doorknob.

As Secretary of State,  Hillary was an active participant in the Arctic Council and repeatedly echoed the message that we are an Arctic nation.  The concerns she voiced in Canada are as much an issue for the U.S. as they are for Canada.

Along with the disquiet she expressed regarding Russia’s activities in the north came further comments about recent activities in Europe.

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In light of the above, this is of some concern or should be to all the member nations including ours.

Russian servicemen of the Northern Fleet’s Arctic mechanised infantry brigade participate in a military drill on riding reindeer and dog sleds near the settlement of Lovozero outside Murmansk, Russia January 23, 2017. Picture taken January 23, 2017. Lev Fedoseyev/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS
By Andrew Osborn | MURMANSK, Russia

The nuclear icebreaker Lenin, the pride and joy of the Soviet Union’s Arctic great game, lies at perpetual anchor in the frigid water here. A relic of the Cold War, it is now a museum.

But nearly three decades after the Lenin was taken out of service to be turned into a visitor attraction, Russia is again on the march in the Arctic and building new nuclear icebreakers.

It is part of a push to firm Moscow’s hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.

SNIP

Grigory Stratiy, deputy governor of the Murmansk Region, told Reuters there was strong interest in sea route from Asian nations however and that new icebreakers would allow for year-round navigation in the 2020s.

“Whatever the weather, the Northern Sea Route will be needed. Its use will definitely grow,” said Stratiy, who said Russia was keen to attract foreign investment to the Arctic.

When asked about his country’s military build-up, he smiled.

“There’s no reason to be afraid I can reassure you,” he said, saying it was driven only by a need to modernize.

“Russia has never had any aggressive aims and won’t have them. We are very friendly people.”

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Anyone thinking that Putin is playing nice friendly reindeer games up there is, of course, deluded despite the “peaceful and cooperative nature of the Arctic Region” as stated on the State Department page.  We should never trust Putin, as Hillary warned, especially when his military is involved. So this military build up is one thing to watch.

It’s nice to have ice breakers available when you need them, and the Russians were very helpful the time the whales were trapped under the ice as portrayed in that Drew Barrymore movie. Those missile installations, though. No wonder we sent troops to Norway.

The North Sea Route concept, characterized in the article as a mini Suez Canal, is an obvious business venture, but of course the real target is oil. Drilling in the Arctic is an enterprise popular with Republicans.

Lastly, how the hell did “newcomer China” get into this competition? It has no land above the Arctic Circle. Or does it?  Is it building synthetic islands up there, too?

The new administration has a dangerously narrow view of China’s adversarial scope. It goes beyond trans-Pacific trade and artificial islands to expand its continental limit in the South China Sea and East China Sea. China has invested in significant “development” enterprises in Africa centered largely on resource extraction with tandem infrastructure upgrades benefiting their ability to move products for shipment and not benefiting local residents or their farms or businesses in any way. I don’t think I have ever heard Donald Trump say the word “Africa.”  At the very least, China’s presence in the Arctic deserves a question.

As for Russia, and its military push, we always do well to heed the warnings of Hillary Clinton.

 

 

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