By Kenny Scarle
Alaskan NORAD Region/Alaskan Command/11th Air Force
Alaskan Command hosted its Arctic Speaker Series, September 16, 2021 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
This month’s speakers included the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States, Anniken Krutnes, the Consul General of Finland, Okko-Pekka Salmimies, and the Embassy of Finland’s Defense Attaché, Colonel Petteri Seppälä. The event focused on the importance of cooperation between Arctic nations, managing resources in an era of climate change and the implications of the Arctic to Homeland Defense.
“When people think of the Arctic, they think of this frozen, uninhabited wasteland of polar bears and ice,’ said Lt. Gen. David Krumm, commander, Alaska NORAD Region, Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force. “But really, it is a vibrant, economically-important, and environmentally-conscious area of the world that we have to protect. And working together is how we are going to do that.”
Ambassador Krutnes spoke about the importance of cooperation among Arctic nations and how it is vital in reaching mutual goals. She emphasized the significance of the Arctic Council, the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic nations, Indigenous peoples, and other populations, and how it is the most important organization for issues relating to the Arctic. Some of those issues include sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
“The sustainable development of natural resources of course is always a balance about conserving the environment and harvesting what nature gives to us,” said Ambassador Krutnes. “We need to just find the balance so then we are sure that we have a sustainable economic, environmental and socially sustainable region. So it’s not just environmental and not just economic – everything has to be balanced.”
The Consul General echoed the importance of cooperation – working to find ways to link policies to address concrete goals and bring stakeholders together to address common challenges. “We need to move fast in order to fight climate change, which is three times faster or even more, in the Arctic area than anywhere else,” said Mr. Salmimies.
One of the ways Finland is working toward that objective is to refocus their industrial efforts to be more environmentally focused. “We try to transform our strong forestry sector, adapting it to ‘green’ transition demands,” said Mr. Salmimies. “Instead of producing bulk products like paper, pulp and timber, we are now focusing more on developing added-value products – these include bio-fuels, bio-chemical products, and also fibers.” The Consul General said that new bio-fuels from organic sources can reduce 80% of the carbon emissions in comparison to traditional fossil fuels.
The Defense Attaché emphasized the important of the Arctic’s unique geostrategic location and how it creates choices that are affected by both like-minded nations and strategic competitors. “Nowadays when we talk about homeland defense, and the functions related to it, they are interlinked in the multi-domain environment,” said Col. Seppälä. “Everything affects everything else, and can be linked back to the Arctic.”
“I love that fact – that the Arctic has an influence on the world, but the world has an influence on the Arctic,” said Lt. Gen. Krumm. “The things that are going to happen in the arctic are going to influence the rest of world and we have to understand that.”
The Arctic Speaker Series is an unfunded program and relies solely on pro-bono volunteer efforts and the spirit of knowledge-sharing to host Arctic subject matter experts to address the audience. It first began in August 2011 when the Alaskan Command staff was notified the U.S. Department of State Senior Arctic Official Julie Gourley was going to be visiting Anchorage, and reached out to see if she would like to speak to the Alaskan Command staff.