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Day 1: The Wilson Center-Arctic Circle Forum

The Wilson Center and the Arctic Circle hosted this important two-day forum to explore the crucial relationship between the United States and Russia in the Arctic and the implications for all Arctic nations, the communities that call the region home, and the countries and organizations that have a vested interest in a peaceful and sustainable Arctic.

Date & Time

Jun. 21, 2017
8:30am – 5:30pm ET


Ronald Reagan Building, Amphitheatre 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC
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The Arctic is a region of international dialogue and potential competition, of varied challenges and diverse opportunities. It is also a region that is gaining in both geopolitical significance and public awareness every day. The complex relationship between the United States and Russia, along with the approaches of the six other Arctic nations, will continue to shape the region’s social, economic, political, and environmental issues far into the future.

To explore these and other aspects, Wilson partnered with the Arctic Circle to host the year’s most prominent Arctic-focused event in the lower 48 states. The two-day forum drew hundreds of attendees and featured more than 50 speakers, including members of the U.S. Congress and the Russian, Finnish, and Norwegian parliaments; other international officials and dignitaries; members of indigenous communities; and a wide array of experts from the policy, science, and business spheres. 

The complete agenda for Day 2 can be found here.


Mike Sfraga

"The Arctic is no longer an emerging issue. As you heard, it’s very much a contemporary issue. Who’s interested in the Arctic? Many, many nations. You heard about motivating factors about why these nations are interested in the Arctic -- everything from investment models to indigenous peoples to Arctic shipping.”

Hon. Jane Harman

“The Arctic and the issues around the Arctic, I have learned late in my life, are probably the issues we can afford to be optimistic about... We have the opportunity to get this right if we work together.”

Hon. Ólafur Grímsson

Day 1:

“The future role of the United States and Russia in the Arctic is so important, not just for the Arctic, but also for the entire world; not just for the United States and Russia, but also for the entire world.”

“In this circus of stories, media discussions, television shows, investigations, and whatever you want to call it about Russia and the United States, it’s very important not to lose sight of the fact that in the last two years, these important countries have demonstrated to the world that they can have a very constructive, productive relationship with regards to one of the most important parts of the planet.”

Day 2:

“Russia and the United States work closely on Arctic issues in a wide variety of international organizations… The two countries work seamlessly on Arctic issues at IMO... the International Maritime Organization; IHO, the International Hydrographic Organization… and then, finally, WMO [the World Meteorological Organization].”

“Some challenges for the Polar Code… There are many… Most important will be, I think, the [implementation] cost and the enforcement… How this Polar Code is enforced, either individually by the coastal states… or, perhaps, hopefully, kind of integrated enforcement.”

Hon. Lisa Murkowski

“When relationships are strained, as they are today, I think it can be helpful to look to the Arctic as a path forward, an area where collaboration and cooperation has been, and is, occurring.”

“What we see with Russia is that they have made investment in the Arctic a priority. And quite frankly, to this point in time, we have not seen that same commitment to that priority [from the United States].”

Alice Rogoff

“We are going to take every opportunity, [with] our Russian friends, to get together and talk about our common seaway, among other things that we have in common.”

“I think, because I am such a believer in people-to-people knowledge, that Arctic tourism is going to be a key to the development of the region in good and sustainable and non-harmful ways. And yet, we all know that even tourism can be done in ways that can be harmful.”

Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi

“If we lose the Arctic, we lose the whole globe. Just to reiterate some of the facts: [the] impact of climate change in the Arctic is more than double elsewhere… The increasing scope and interest in economic activity in the Arctic means that there’s a growing need to ensure that this economic activity happens in a sustainable manner. And finally, the interests of the Arctic peoples have to be safeguarded in these developments.”

“In a sense, the cooperation in the Arctic is a peace dividend after the Cold War… We are very convinced that it must be possible to continue the cooperation in the Arctic, and that it is in the interest of everybody to continue the cooperation. It is good to note that the international tensions have not affected the work in the Arctic Council.”

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski

"Washington... must be involved in the dialogue on the future of the Arctic because we are an Arctic nation. Too few Americans know that. And that is to our disadvantage.”

“For President Obama, the looming crisis in the Arctic [was] a tangible preview of the looming crisis of the global condition. The Arctic is a foreshadow. It is an opportunity to see the challenges and opportunities that are coming our way because of what is impacting there first.”

Adm. Paul Zukunft

“About 33% of the world’s gas [and] about 13% of the world’s oil is up in the Arctic… I think we really need to… abide by rules of behavior by ratifying the Law of the Sea Convention, state what is rightfully ours, and [recognize] there are significant competing claims in the Arctic -- to include Russia claiming all the way up to the North Pole.”

“We have an awakening at the national level -- that we have got to pay attention to what’s happening in the Arctic... What is our strategic approach? Is it going to be the next military campaign, or is it going to [be] working among coast guards, looking at rising sea levels, northern migrations of fish stocks?”


View the Roster of Confirmed Speakers

  • Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, former U.S Ambassador to Sweden and former Executive Director, Arctic Executive Steering Committee, Office of the White House
  • Senator Igor Chernyshenko, Murmansk Oblast, Russian Federation
  • The Honorable Ólafur Grímsson, Chairman, Arctic Circle and former President of Iceland  
  • Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador for Finland to the United States
  • The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator (R-AK) 
  • Alice Rogoff, Publisher and Owner of Alaska Dispatch News; Co-chair, Polar Initiative, Wilson Center
  • Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant, U.S Coast Guard




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8:25am: Opening: Mike Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative, Wilson Center

8:30am: Introduction: The Honorable Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Chairman, Arctic Circle and former President of Iceland

8:35am: Welcome: The Honorable Jane Harman, Director, President & CEO, Wilson Center

8:40am to 9:05am: Keynote withThe Honorable Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator (R-AK)


9:05am to 9:10am: Alice Rogoff, Publisher and Owner of Alaska Dispatch News; Co-Chair, Polar Initiative

9:10am to 10:00am: The Next Investment Territory

  • Anthony E. Edwardsen, President and CEO, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation
  • Kirill Mangush, Senior Counselor, Federal Assembly, Russian Federation               
  • Tina Pidgeon, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Governmental Affairs, GCI
  • Mark D. Ein, Chairman & CEO, Capitol Acquisition Corp.  
  • Moderator: Tero Vauraste, CEO, Arctia Limited

10:00am to 10:45am: Arctic Shipping, Commerce and Tourism

  • Gylfi Sigfússon, President and CEO, Eimskip
  • Sven Lindblad, Founder, Lindblad Expedition
  • Senator Igor Chernyshenko, Murmansk, Russian Federation
  • Mead Treadwell, Co-Chair, Polar Initiative, Wilson Center and President, PT Capital and former Lt. Governor, Alaska
  • Moderator: Lawson Brigham, Distinguished Fellow and Faculty at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

10:45am to 11:00am: Coffee Break


11:00am to 11:20am: Keynote Interview with Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador for Finland to the United States

11:20am to 12:10pm: A Record of Cooperation in the Arctic

  • Ambassador David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries U.S Department of State
  • The Honorable Don Young, U.S Representative (R-AK)
  • Georgy Karlov, Deputy Chairman, State Duma, Russian Federation
  • Elena Kudryashova, Professor, DSc, Rector of the Northern (Arctic) Federal University
  • Katri Kulmuni, Member of Parliament for Lapland, Finland
  • Moderator:  Matt Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center

12:10pm to 12:55pm: AView from Outside the Arctic

  • Ambassador Young-jun Kim, Ambassador for Arctic Affairs, Republic of Korea
  • Sheryl Shum, Deputy Chief of Mission and Counsellor, Embassy of Singapore Washington, DC
  • Eirik Sivertsen, Member of Parliament for Arbeiderparteit, Norway and Chair, Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region
  • Moderator: Sherri Goodman, Senior Fellow, Wilson Center and former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, US Department of Defense

12:55pm to 2:00pm: Lunch


2:00pm to 2:20pm: Keynote Interview with Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, former U.S Ambassador to Sweden and former Executive Director, Arctic Executive Steering Committee, Office of the White House

2:20pm to 3:05pm: Arctic Research Cooperation: Policy, Sponsors, and Programs

  • Kelly Falkner, Director, Division of Polar Programs at National Science Foundation
  • Evan Bloom, Director, Oceans and Polar Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Martin Jeffries, Assistant Director-Polar Sciences, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
  • David Kennedy, Senior Advisor for the Arctic Region, NOAA
  • ModeratorJohn Farrell, Executive Director, U.S Arctic Research Commission     

3:05pm to 3:50pm: Arctic Research Cooperation: Perspectives from the Field

  • Lee Cooper, Research Professor, University of Maryland
  • Kath​y Crane, University of Hawaii, SOEST and ArcticLynx 
  • Nagruk Harcharek, General Manager, UIC Science
  • Dmitry Streletskiy, George Washington University, Assistant Professor of Geography and International Affairs
  • Moderator: John Farrell, Executive Director, U.S Arctic Research Commission                


3:50pm to 4:10pm: Keynote Interview with Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant, United States Coast Guard; moderated by David Martin, National Security Correspondent, CBS News

4:10:pm to 4:55pm: Coast Guard Cooperation, Needs, and Challenges in the Arctic

  • Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant, United States Coast Guard
  • The Honorable Dan Sullivan, U.S Senator (R-AK)
  • CDRE Ásgrímur L Ásgrímsson, Chief of Operations, Icelandic Coast Guard
  • Paul Berkman, Professor of Practice in Science Diplomacy, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Moderator: Mike Sfraga, Director Polar Initiative, Wilson Center

4:55pm to 5:45pm: The Bering Strait: Shared Opportunity and Responsibility                  

  • Gail Schubert, President & CEO, Bering Straits Native Corporation
  • William M. Eichbaum, Senior Fellow, Arctic Policy, World Wildlife Fund US
  • Melanie Bahnke, President & CEO, Kawerak, Inc.
  • Paul Fuhs, President, Alaska Marine Exchange
  • Moderator: Craig Fleener, Senior Advisor,  Arctic Policy, Office of the Govenor of Alaska                

5:45pm to 5:50pm: Closing Remarks: Mike Sfraga, Director, Polar Initiative, Wilson Center

5:50pm to 7:00pm: Reception

Confirmed Speakers

Cooperating Partners:

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Hosted By

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

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