Tromsø, Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

U.S. set to open sole diplomatic post above Arctic Circle

The U.S. will establish a diplomatic post in the Arctic Norwegian city of Tromsø, something that will “deepen [U.S.] engagement in the High North,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Thursday.
June 02, 2023


By Eilís Quinn 

Once open, it will be Washington’s northernmost post, and only such American post above the Arctic Circle.

“The presence post in Tromsø is really an ability to have a diplomatic footprint above the Arctic Circle,” Blinken said at a news conference in Oslo where he was attending an informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers.

“Our entire approach is to make sure that the Arctic remains and area of peaceful cooperation, especially in a world that is evermore challenged, it’s also evermore vital to preserve, and we’re determined to do that.”

Engaging with Arctic Indigenous peoples, tackling climate change and managing natural resources, are all areas where the U.S. is looking to work more closely with its circumpolar partners, Blinken said.

“Having a diplomatic presence further North will only further enable and enhance those efforts,” he said.

Committed to the North

Marc Lanteigne, an Arctic expert from Canada and an associate professor of political science at the University of Tromsø, as well as chief editor of the Arctic news blog Over the Circle, says after an often erratic approach to Arctic policy under the previous Trump administration, Thursday’s announcement is another indication that the U.S. is increasingly serious about the strategic importance of the North.


“This will be a small post, and there is some symbolism involved, however this will be taken as a sign to the rest of the Arctic that the US is seeking to provide some stability and clarity to its Arctic policies, as well as send a signal to Russia that their moves in the Arctic are being carefully watched,” Lanteigne told Eye on the Arctic. 

“The Biden administration has been seeking to reassure European allies and friends that after an extremely mercurial approach to the region by the former Trump government, the US is seeking to address both climate change stresses and the growing securitisation of the Arctic. This announcement also comes on the heels of the current tour in Norway of the US aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, a visit which has been sharply criticized in Moscow.”

Russian question  

Blinken’s comments came just weeks after Norway took over the rotating Arctic Council chairship from Russia on May 11.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has strained relations at the Council since last year, with projects involving Moscow put on hold.

The western Arctic countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States, have said despite pausing political meetings with Russia, they remain committed to keeping global tensions elsewhere from disrupting longterm Arctic cooperation, and are looking for a way for the body to get back to work.


Tromsø is Norway’s largest city above the Arctic Circle. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Welcomes the U.S. initiative

“Norway and the U.S. share a long and proud history of close collaboration on Arctic issues,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt, said in a statement. 

“I welcome U.S. plans to establish a Presence Post in Tromsø this year, which I am sure will further strengthen our close cooperation.” 


This story is posted on the Barents Observer as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.



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