In early May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Rovaniemi, the capital of Finland's northernmost province, to deliver a speech to the Arctic Council, a group made up of the eight nations that border the Arctic, plus representatives of the region's indigenous peoples. For about 20 years the council has encouraged collegial debate, cooperation, and a progressive perspective on climate change. Pompeo's appearance, as the emissary of an administration that is opposed to that approach, made for an awkward moment.
"This is America's moment to stand up as an Arctic nation and for the Arctic's future," Pompeo declared at an event the night before the official meeting. "Because far from the barren backcountry that many thought it to be... the Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance."
The speech signaled the end of a truly bizarre rebranding of the Arctic that has been under way for more than a decade. What was once considered a frozen wasteland is now routinely described as an emerging frontier. The Arctic, in other words, is open for business.