Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of making "unlawful" claims in the Arctic, a region that the US military is increasingly focused on. Blinken made the comments from Iceland, where he is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later this week for the first high-level in-person meeting between US and Russian officials of the Biden administration.
"We’ve seen Russia advance unlawful maritime claims, particularly its regulation of foreign vessels transiting the Northern Sea Route, which are inconsistent with international law. And that is something that we have and will respond to," Blinken said at a joint press conference with Iceland’s foreign minister.
While in Iceland, Blinken will attend meetings of ministers of the Arctic Council, a group of eight Arctic nations, including the US and Russia. While he had harsh words for Moscow, Blinken also recognized the importance of cooperation with Russia in the Arctic and the danger of increased military activity in the region.
"We have concerns about some of the increased military activities in the Arctic that increases the dangers or prospects of accidents, miscalculations, and undermines the shared goal of a peaceful and sustainable future for the region," he said.
Militarizing the Arctic is a key strategy in Washington’s confrontational approach to Moscow. Each branch of the US military has released strategy papers that call for more focus on the Arctic.
Newspaper @izvestia_ru reported today that Russia is to deploy Su-34 fighter-bombers the in icy Arctic.— Bryan MacDonald (@27khv) May 19, 2021
The move comes as the US accuses Moscow of ‘provocations’ in the region and warns they may have ramifications for its national security.https://t.co/GDwBokRJZK
When the US Navy released its Arctic Strategy in January, then-Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite said the US could counter Russia’s claims by sailing warships through waters near Russia’s coast, similar to how the US challenges Beijing in the South China Sea.
Braithwaite said at the time that "near-peer competitors" believe certain bodies of water in the Arctic belong to them. "Well, the international community recognizes that those are international waters we’re gonna operate there," he said. "That’s the more bold posturing that we feel is our right, and our responsibility, frankly, as the predominant naval force in the world."