Sen. Cruz: The Arctic Circle Has Strategic Economic and Military Significance for the United States
Participates in Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing focused on the importance of the U.S. Coast Guards capabilities and presence in the Arctic
December 9, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Commerce Committee, this week participated in a subcommittee hearing examining the U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) capabilities for safeguarding U.S. national interests and promoting economic security in the Arctic. There, Sen. Cruz questioned Admiral Charles Ray, Vice Commandant USCG, on the importance of the USCG’s presence in the Arctic and the security threats posed by China and Russia’s growing influent in the region. Watch Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning here. Excerpts below.
On combatting the geopolitical threat China poses to the United States and our allies by addressing its growing influence including the Arctic region, Sen. Cruz said:
“The Arctic Circle has strategic economic and military significance for the United States. And I want to thank the Coast Guard for your continued presence in the region, your leadership, working to protect America’s interests. I’ve said for a long time that China is an adversary who would benefit from an American retreat all across the globe. President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party are investing heavily in the military as is Russia.”
On how the U.S. can address Chinese and Russian influence in the Arctic, Sen. Cruz asked:
“In your assessment today, who is the dominant power in the Arctic Circle? [...] In your assessment, what would be the effect to the United States if we were to cede control of the Arctic to the Russians and the Chinese?”
Admiral Charles Ray, responded:
“From the analysis that we’ve done, I mean, obviously, if you look at the planet from the north down, looking down at the North Pole, you can see the extensive shoreline that Russia has. You know that they are a force to be reckoned with just because of geography. They’ve got the geography and they’ve got the natural resources there. […]
“But we cannot ever take our eyes off the ball on China. I think that the behavior they're displaying in the Polar Regions, not just the Arctic but the Antarctic and not just the Alaska Arctic but by Greenland as well. They are displaying similar activity following, in my opinion analysis I've done, this is all unclassified, with regards to their -- following the same playbook they followed in the South China Sea and following the places they do everywhere else, get a toehold, start working in the name of science, in the name of other things. And the next thing you know, they're moving forward their agenda there. […]
“I would say we should be planning to be able to exert our sovereignty, protect our resources, provide support for those who need access and these are eco-tourists, they are Americans, a lot of them or also the folks who are Alaska natives who live and make their living up there. We need to be the same Coast Guard, I’m speaking from a Coast Guard perspective for them as I am for any other states in our country.”
Sen. Cruz also asked about the issue of Coast Guardsmen not receiving pay during the 2019 government shutdown:
“Admiral, the question you raised about the shutdown, that shutdown in 2019 was unfortunate. Senator Sullivan and I together teamed up on legislation to pay the men and women of the Coast Guard and took to the Senate floor trying to get the Senate to adopt it.
“Unfortunately, a Democratic Senator raised an objection and held the men and women of the Coast Guard hostage to that. So, I’m hopeful we don’t see a reprise of that in the days and weeks to come.”
In 2019, Sens. Cruz and John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced a bill to provide paychecks for essential federal employees, including the men and women of the USCG, during the government shutdown. In response, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats cynically objected to that legislation and killed it on the Senate floor. Sen. Cruz has remained a strong supporter of efforts to ensure that federal employees, including Coast Guardsmen, who worked during the government shutdown receive backpay for their service.