Blog: Hearing on U.S. Policy in the Arctic – ‘Let Russia do it for us…’?

The Russian nuclear icebreaker Yamal stops close to the North Pole. Will the U.S. eventually become dependant on Russia for icebreaker support? (iStock)
The Russian nuclear icebreaker Yamal stops close to the North Pole. Will the U.S. eventually become dependant on Russia for icebreaker support? (iStock)

There was so much going on at the Inuit Circumpolar Conference last week, I almost missed  THIS VIDEO  from the U.S. Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

If you’ve read some of the stories and blogs on Eye on the Arctic on the U.S. icebreaker problem and how the U.S. is gearing up for their Arctic Council chairmanship in 2015, you’ll find it  interesting. (See some links in the box at the end of this post.)

This first panel focused mostly on icebreakers: Should more be built? Leased? Who would pay – the Navy? the Coast Guard?


The first panel ended on a fiery note with the chairman Congressman Duncan Hunter  lambasting  both the panel and the lack of political will to support heavy icebreaker capacity in the American Arctic.

“You see us with one heavy icebreaker – everybody else with more than that,” Hunter said.

“In twenty years you’re going to see all of them in the Arctic doing what we should be doing and not doing it as well as us , or as environmentally safe as we would do it.  And we’ll be watching and we’ll be talking about all these policy things we’d like to implement and these neat Arctic groups that we talk to ourselves in . But with no actual presence in the area.”

He ended his comments saying that “If we’re happy to let Russia do it for us, then we’ll have Russia do it for us. We’re happy to let them take us into space too.

“It’s all talk and no action. It seems like it’s not that important that we’re in the Arctic. Message received here. ”

(You can watch his full comments HERE at the 1hour 28minute mark).

If you want to compare how the U.S. stacks up to other countries, the latest figures on international icebreaker capacity I’ve seen are from 2013 HERE on the United States Coast Guard website. Though if any of our readers have updated figures feel free to post the links the comments below.)

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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