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12

OCTOBER 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

TALKING POINTS

Arctic: Geopolitics of

Climate Change

I n August, Russia’s resubmission of a bid to the United Nations on 1.2 mil- lion square kilometers of Arctic territory

triggered press speculation that the Arctic

is set to become the next geopolitical

flashpoint in a race

for unclaimed, and

newly accessible,

land and resources.

As a resource repository, the Arctic is becoming more attractive than ever; climate change

has thinned thick

areas of ice, and

improved technol-

ogy has allowed

boats to venture

ever farther into the

Arctic zone.

Russia and other Arctic nations have expanded northern military capabilities

, while remaining in

their own borders. Norway, Canada and Denmark have submitted similar bids,

each of which will be decided by UN sci-

entists who will examine each country’s

findings regarding the extent of their

territorial shelves.

However, most Arctic security experts

see little cause for concern over potential

conflicts and are instead encouraged by

several recent cooperative steps taken

by the Arctic nations: Canada, Denmark,

Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Rus-

sia and the United States.

In May 2015, the United States and

Russia, backed by Denmark, Canada and

Norway, signed a new pact on commer-

cial fishing in Oslo. It was originally to be

signed in early 2014, but tensions over

Russia’s actions in Ukraine prevented this.

The agreement will regulate fishing

in areas near the North Pole which, until

very recently, were entirely covered by

ice, prohibiting activity in international

waters beyond the exclusive economic

zones of the five signatories.

This pact builds on past cooperative

frameworks, one of the most significant

being the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, in

which signatories reconfirmed their

belief that international law governs

actions in the Arctic and committed to

regional cooperation.

The International Maritime Orga-

nization, of which the United States is

a member, has drawn up a mandatory

Polar Code that will regulate shipping in

polar areas beginning January 2017.

—Shannon Mizzi, Editorial Intern

Citizenship for Sale?

C

ongress is considering reform of the

EB-5 “immigrant investor program,”

which is up for renewal this year after

being transitioned from a pilot to an offi-

cial program by President Barack Obama

in 2012.

Some legislators argue that the pro-

gram should be expanded, as a domestic

job creation strategy. Others feel that the

program is unfair and essentially allows

wealthy foreign investors to buy their

way into eventual citizenship over poorer

applicants.

To obtain an EB-5 visa, a citizen of a

foreign country must invest a minimum

of $1 million in a new commercial enter-

prise and create or preserve at least 10

American jobs within two years of admis-

sion to the United States as a conditional

permanent resident. Alternatively, they

may invest $500,000 in a high-unemploy-

ment or rural area.

Administered by U.S. Citizenship and

Immigration Services, part of the Depart-

ment of Homeland Security, the program

began in 1990 but was little used until

recently. In 2005, only 346 visas were

issued.

By 2011, that figure had jumped to

3,340; and 2014 saw 10,692 visas, the limit,

issued. In 2014, 85 percent of the visas

went to Chinese investors. According to

the

Washington Post ,

the EB-5 “brought

more than $1.5 billion and 31,000 jobs to

the U.S. economy in 2013.” Investments

are most often made in building hotels,

casinos and shopping malls.

USCIS estimates that EB-5 has

brought in almost $7 billion in invest-

ment funds since 1990. The program is

well supported in the business world, and

Sheldon Adelson, Bill Gates and Warren

Buffett wrote a joint op-ed defending it in

the

New York Times

last year.

However, critics of the program argue

it has become a magnet for domestic

scammers looking for foreign investors to

fund less-than-legitimate ventures. Many

question the validity of the economic and

job-creation statistics attributed to the

program.

Indeed, in 2013 the DHS Inspec-

U.S.DEPARTMENTOFSTATE

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the GLACIER meeting

(a conference on “Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation,

Innovation, Engagement and Resilience”) in Anchorage, Alaska,

on Aug. 31. The U.S.-sponsored event brought together foreign

ministers, scientists and policymakers to focus attention on

climate change and other challenges emerging in the region.