U.S. Arctic rep: Russia’s Arctic buildup not necessarily martial

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Admiral Robert Papp (pictured here in 2013) is the U.S. Special Representative to the Arctic. (Sean D. Ellio / The Day / AP)
Admiral Robert Papp (pictured here in 2013) is the U.S. Special Representative to the Arctic. (Sean D. Ellio / The Day / AP)
Robert Papp, the U.S. special representative for the Arctic, says he questions reports that Russia has launched a major military buildup in the Arctic.

Papp says he’s asking U.S. intelligence agencies to look beyond Russia’s military swagger for a realistic view of its Arctic activity. Papp says Moscow could be adding infrastructure for general use in the north.

“One person can look at what’s going on in terms of what they call ‘military buildup’ and rightfully say they’ve got an awful long border along the Arctic, and if you’re going to have increased maritime traffic you should have search-and-rescue facilities, you should have modern airports and other things — things I’d like to have built in Alaska as maritime traffic increases,” he said.

Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno spoke yesterday of Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic.

“We have seen over the last several years an obvious increased interest in the Russians in the Arctic,” Odierno said at a U.S. Senate hearing. “There are clear indications … that they are increasing their presence and building bases so in the future they will be able to increase the presence and have an impact in the Arctic region.”

Important not to shut Russia out

Last week, the secretary of defense said much the same, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said Russia is activating four new brigades in the Arctic.

The U.S. and other Arctic nations have imposed sanctions on Russia for its incursions in Ukraine. But Papp says the Obama Administration and other Arctic countries also agree it’s important not to shut Russia out.

“For the good of the Arctic, for the environment and other important issues, we need to keep Russia in the fold and keep communications open,” he said. “We are all committed to that. ”

Papp, a retired Coast Guard admiral, spoke this morning at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Arctic Council: The evolving role of regions in Arctic governance, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Finland: US seeks Finnish support for Arctic goals, Yle News

Greenland:  Greenland urged to work with Arctic Council, CBC News

Iceland: Iceland conference draws on hopes, concerns for changing Arctic, Alaska Dispatch

Norway:   Permanent Arctic Council Secretariat opens in Tromso, Blog by Mia Bennett

Russia:  Russia still open for cooperation in the Arctic, Barents Observer

Sweden: Scandinavian Arctic should cooperate more: report, Radio Sweden

United Kingdom:  The British Invasion – The Arctic Circle and observer states, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

United States: 10 takeaways from the 2014 Arctic Circle Assembly, Alaska Dispatch

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Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

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