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I recently attended the Arctic Circle Forum in Nuuk, Greenland to discuss the evolving US role in the Arctic and the important role Greenland plays in the region and around the globe. I leave Nuuk with three broad impressions. 

First, of course, is the sheer beauty of Greenland’s environment and its people. As I gazed out my hotel window, I reveled in the majesty of the mountains beside Nuuk. It is unlike any environment I’ve seen before. The industriousness of the Greenlandic people then impressed me as they strive to make a living, provide for their children, all while charting a sustainable path forward. To create an economy from scratch without destroying the beauty and resources around them requires strategy, determination, and patience.

Second, the refrain and patience from Greenlanders as they ascertain how to gain economic value from the many resources in Greenland, and how to gain a strategic foothold in the larger geopolitical competition inside and out of the Arctic. In many ways, I was reminded of my previous work in the developing world where farsighted leaders attempted to explain their desire for partners, as well as investors. Partners help to develop the capacity of countries and communities to undertake challenges in their own way; partners approach communities not by exclaiming they have every answer but rather that they may have experienced “all the mistakes” communities may encounter. As I explained to those with whom I partnered in Africa and those with whom I met in Greenland, what partners—like the Wilson Center—truly offer is the chance for you to benefit from our successes and mistakes.

Third, I was encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the breadth of US representation at the Arctic Circle Forum. I spoke on a panel alongside representatives of the State Department, US Arctic Research Commission, and the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies—all leading entities in the federal government’s Arctic portfolio. We endeavored to convey that the US will walk alongside Greenlanders in their journey, helping them realize their vision with the benefit of our experiences and tools. Perhaps most gratifying was the applause received when I announced the Polar Institute’s staff additions that will help expand its effort and influence; the Wilson Center named Dr. Rebecca Pincus as the Director of the Institute, and that Dr. Mike Sfraga will continue to support the Institute as Chair & Distinguished Fellow.

In short, at the Arctic Circle Forum, the Greenlandic government, entrepreneurs, and people spoke of their openness to engage with partners that may support Greenland realizing their vision. The various US Government officials at the Forum emphasized the US government’s dedication to Greenland and the Arctic. Ultimately, it’s Greenland’s vision, and they must steer, but we are certainly willing to help however they see fit.

About the Author

Ambassador Mark Green

Ambassador Mark Green

President, Director, & CEO, Wilson Center
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Polar Institute

Since its inception in 2017, the Polar Institute has become a premier forum for discussion and policy analysis of Arctic and Antarctic issues, and is known in Washington, DC and elsewhere as the Arctic Public Square. The Institute holistically studies the central policy issues facing these regions—with an emphasis on Arctic governance, climate change, economic development, scientific research, security, and Indigenous communities—and communicates trusted analysis to policymakers and other stakeholders.  Read more