Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to Tromso and Participation in the Arctic

DE RUEHNY #0062/01 0311353
R 311352Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ambassador's Visit to Tromso and Participation in the Arctic
Frontiers Conference

1. (U) Summary: In his first visit to Tromso, the Ambassador gave
a well-received presentation on U.S. Arctic policy, and met with
the head of the Arctic Council Secretariat, local government
officials, Tromso University representatives, a satellite services
company, the leader of a global reindeer herders' association, and
a group of U.S. Fulbright scholars studying in Tromso. Speeches by
Russian and Chinese officials stressed interest in cooperation in
Arctic affairs, with the Chinese official's implied criticism of
the United States for not joining the Law of the Sea Convention.
Press coverage of the Ambassador was largely favorable. End

U.S., Russian and Chinese Speakers on Arctic Cooperation

2. (U) The Arctic Frontiers network holds an annual conference in
Tromso, Norway to bring together policymakers, government
officials, industry representatives, regional interest groups, top
scientists, and NGOs from the Arctic nations as well as from other
interested countries. The theme of this year's fourth Arctic
Frontiers conference held January 24 - 29 was "Living in the High
North." In addition to Ambassador White, key speakers included
Erik Lahnstein, Deputy Minister Foreign Affairs, Norway; Tang
Guoqiang, Chinese Ambassador to Norway; and Maxim Travnikov, Deputy
Minister, Ministry for Regional Development. Senator Mark Begich
(D-Alaska) recorded remarks for the conference, but did not attend.

3. (U) United States: On January 25, the Ambassador delivered a
well-received speech emphasizing the strong multilateral and
bilateral relationships in the Arctic region, where cooperation,
not conflict, is the norm. The United States has a strong interest
in Arctic issues and is working with other members of the Arctic
Council to ensure developments in the Arctic do not harm the
fragile ecological environment. In response to a follow-up
question on U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention, the
Ambassador related the strong support of the Obama Administration
and its predecessors in joining the Convention, while noting the
uncertainties surrounding the process of U.S. Senate ratification.

4. (U) Senator Begich's recorded remarks mentioned his experience
as Mayor of Anchorage, and his cooperation with Tromso, a sister
city. He emphasized the problems posed by climate change in Alaska
and discussed draft legislation to promote infrastructure
development in Alaska.

5. (U) Norway: In the wake of the last-minute cancellation by
Norwegian Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Minister Lisbeth
Berg-Hansen, the GON did not have Minister-level participation in
the Conference. Erik Lahnstein, Norway's Deputy Minister of
Foreign Affairs, became the GON's keynote speaker. Lahnstein's
remarks highlighted the international legal framework for the
Arctic, the need for peace and stability in the region, support for
the Arctic Council, the need for integrated ocean management and
cooperation on fisheries. At a separate session on January 26,
Statoil's Hege Marie Norheim discussed the majority state-owned
firm's strong investments in technology to protect the environment
and Norway's fisheries in connection with opening new offshore
acreage to oil exploration and production.

6. (U) China: In his presentation to the Conference that same
morning, Chinese Ambassador Tang Guoqiang stressed China's interest
in Arctic affairs, including the impact of climate change on
Chinese sustainable development and China's contributions to Arctic
research. Tang noted China's ratification/accession to the UN
Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol and
its efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. Recalling China's
participation in the Arctic Council as an ad hoc observer, Tang
called on the Council to take a decision on acceptance of new
observers. He also called for wider involvement (e.g. inclusion of
China) in the Arctic Council's work on search and rescue and other
shipping-related matters. The Chinese Ambassador listed
international treaties that provided the basic legal framework for

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addressing Arctic affairs, beginning with the Law of the Sea
Convention (which one observer later characterized for the local
press as a dig at the United States, which has not ratified the

7. (U) Russia: Maxim Travnikov, Russian Deputy Minister for
Regional Development, stressed his nation's interest in the Arctic
and in cooperation with neighboring countries and non-governmental
stakeholders. He noted that the Russian Federation's Arctic
regions accounted for little more than one percent of the
population, but more than 12 percent of national income and over 20
percent of exports. Environmental protection and attention to the
development needs of indigenous peoples are key issues for the GOR.

8. (U) Many of these presentations can be downloaded at the Arctic
Frontiers website:

9. (U) Ambassador White's speech garnered favorable coverage in the
local press, which interpreted his remarks and his visit to Tromso
as a sign of continued U.S. interest in cooperation in the region.
In remarks at the Conference banquet on January 26, retired
Ambassador and former UN official Hans Connell praised the United
States, Russia and China for their engagement and cooperation on
Arctic issues.

Arctic Council Secretariat

10. (SBU) In a January 26 meeting, Arctic Council (AC) Secretariat
Leader Nina Buvang Vaaja described the AC's work and plans. Vaaja
comes from a position in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs'
Section for the High North, Resources and Russia. Vaaja noted that
the Tromso-based Secretariat is not permanent, and that a decision
on whether to make it permanent will be taken at the end of the
Swedish Chairmanship of the AC in 2013. She noted that Canada,
which will take the chair in 2013, is thus far cool to the idea of
a permanent Secretariat in Tromso. Norway is fully funding the AC
Secretariat's 3-4 million NOK budget (approximately USD 600,000).
AC is a "decision-shaping" rather than a "decision-making" body.
The GON is not interested in turning the AC into a full-fledged
international organization, but wants to ensure that it is the
"relevant forum" on the Arctic.

11. (SBU) Vaaja also highlighted the need to find a resolution on
applications for permanent observer status from China, the European
Commission and others. In the past, ad hoc observers had been
routinely approved as permanent observers, but this practice ceased
at the 2009 AC Ministerial given the increasing number and
geographical diversity of observers (ranging as far as Argentina,
which requested observer status based on its role in Antarctica).
She told the Ambassador China was keenly interested in joining the
Russia-U.S. co-chaired search and rescue task force, but that the
GOR was firmly (though not openly) opposed to China's request.

12. (U) The next Ministerial will be hosted in Greenland by Denmark
in April 2011. May 2010 will mark the first Arctic Council meeting
of deputy ministers in Copenhagen.

Other Meetings

13. (U) Association of World Reindeer Herders: On January 25,
Anders Oskdal, Executive Director of the International Center for
Reindeer Husbandry briefed the Ambassador on the Center, which
works with over 20 indigenous peoples in 9 Arctic countries,
including the Inuit reindeer herding communities in Alaska. These

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peoples are now facing profound and rapid changes and challenges of
globalization, including climate change, loss of pastures/ land use
change, as well as societal changes. The Center has an ongoing
project in the Arctic Council addressing the challenges of
adaptation to climate change and land use change in circumpolar
reindeer herding societies, including in Alaska. The Association
of World Reindeer Herders is an official observer organization of
the Arctic Council, and they do valuable work within the
Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) of the Council.

14. (U) Oskdal also related the history of the emigration of S????mi
reindeer herders from Kautokeino, Norway in 1894-1898. Nearly 1/5
of that reindeer herding community emigrated to Alaska with the
support of the U.S. Government, building up the world's largest
reindeer husbandry for a time in collaboration with the Inuit. The
Reindeer Husbandry Center seeks to strengthen and develop ties with
Alaska. Oskdal is interested in organizing a workshop in Alaska
and perhaps applying for USG financial support, but he did not give
us a detailed description of his project. He invited the
Ambassador to visit his center in the Norwegian county of Finnmark.
In a separate meeting on the margins of the conference, Laila
Susanne Vars, Vice President of the Sami Parliament, also invited
the Ambassador to visit the Parliament in Karasjok, in Finnmark.

Other Meetings

15. (U) Governor and Mayor: In separate meetings on January 25 and
26, the Ambassador discussed challenges and opportunities facing
the county and city with Troms County Governor Svein Ludvigsen and
Tromso Mayor Arild Hausberg. Among the issues discussed were
Tromso's strengths as a center of knowledge and education thanks to
the University of Tromso.

16. (U) University of Tromso: The Ambassador met with Rector Jarle
Aarbakke, Curt Rice, VP for Research, Hospital Director Tor
Ingebrigtsen and Center for Telemedicine Director Toralf Hasvold on
January 25 for a presentation on the university and a discussion of
the challenges involved in increasing student exchanges and study
in the United States for Norwegians. Ingebrigtsen provided the
Ambassador with a tour of the University Hospital, and Hasvold
demonstrated the University's telemedicine capabilities. There was
keen interest in additional collaboration with U.S. researchers and
educational institutions, including contact with Embassy Science

17. (U) Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT): On January 26,
Arnulf Kjeldsen, KSAT Vice President for Technical Systems, and Jan
Petter Pedersen, Vice President for Products and Services, briefed
the Ambassador and Emboffs on the company's services. Its
best-known satellite station, SvalSat, based on an ice plateau in
Svalbard, was built as a result of cooperation between NASA and the
Norwegian Space Center. KSAT provides services based on data from
polar orbiting satellites. In addition to Svalbard, the company
currently operates ground stations in Tromso, Grimstad, and the
Antarctic. The head office of KSAT is located in Troms????, and
employs 52 of the 67 employees at KSAT. The remaining 15 are
located at the SvalSat ground station. The Norwegian Space Centre
and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace
own KSAT on a 50/50 basis.
About 30 percent of the company's revenue comes from U.S. clients.

18. (U) Polar Institute: Meeting on January 26, Polar Institute
Director Jan-Gunnar Winther highlighted U.S. - Norwegian
collaboration in research in both polar regions, including work
with NASA, the National Science Foundation and the University of
Alaska at Fairbanks. Scientists from the United States, as well as
from 14 other nations, work at the Polar Institute. The Institute
reports to the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment
. The Institute
employs 110 persons (divided between the Institute in Troms????,
Svalbard and Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica), and activities are
concentrated on environmental management, global climate,

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long-range transported pollution, the effect of pollutants on the
environment, biodiversity and topographical mapping of the regions
and environmental collaboration in the Barents Region. The
Institute equips and organizes expeditions to both poles, owns the
research vessel "Lance ". Winther
provided us with a copy of his Institute's report on melting snow
and ice, commissioned by former Vice President Gore and Norwegian
FM Store.

19. (U) American Fulbright Scholars and other U.S. academics: At
the close of his visit, the Ambassador met with Fulbright scholars
studying Arctic and climate issues as well as American citizens who
are permanent academic staff at the University of Tromso.

© Scoop Media

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