Anchorage, AK --
Some are calling it the new Cold War -Russia, China, and the United States, all vying for influence and control - and the U.S. Seems to be falling behind.
Thursday was the 7th Annual Arctic Ambitions International Business Conference & Annual Trade Show. The event is the state's premier Arctic business event focused on trade, commerce, and investment in the region.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan conferenced into the event from Washington, D.C.
The keynote speaker was Real Admiral Paul Becker. Becker is a retired United States Navy admiral and the former Director for Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
"There's a new gold rush on in the Arctic. This time the prize isn't a precious metal, it's for maritime control and it's for global power, and if the U.S. wants to maintain advantage and to have a secure stable Arctic that's in our national security interest then we need to look at the challenges and opportunities and invest in both platforms and infrastructure," said Admiral Becker.
Those opportunities include increased commercial maritime traffic, ice breakers, advanced navigational charts and aids, and infrastructure such as deep water ports available year round in the Bering Sea.
However, many are opposed to any type of development in Arctic, believing that it should be preserved to prevent any more environmental impact as the Arctic is home to several endangered species such as bowhead whales, polar bears, and ringed seals.
"I would say we really welcome ideas for how to make it safer and better, but the idea to come in and say, "well we're going to completely shut it down,we don't want any Arctic shipping" -I don't even know how we would survive in Alaska if we didn't have Arctic shipping, we wouldn't be able to supply ourselves, so it's kind of an extreme position. We'd welcome their help as far as good ideas for how to do things better," said Paul Fuhs, the Military Liaison for the Aleut Corporation.
Environmental measures have improved over the years but some don’t think enough has been done. But one thing is for sure, Russia and China are gaining control.
"If we don't change our course, they'll maintain advantage, and dictate terms in the future that they'd like as opposed to us. So we need congressional support for both funding at a national level and public-private partnerships," said Admiral Becker.
The Alaska delegation has made it clear that they all support development in the Arctic, but time will tell if others will follow suit.
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