Blinken heads to Iceland meeting with Russia on his mind

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to Europe and North Atlantic islands next week to put the Biden administration’s stamp on climate change policy in the Arctic and warn Russia against interference in the United States, Ukraine and elsewhere, the State Department said Friday.

Blinken will visit Denmark, Iceland and Greenland starting on Sunday to stress the U.S. commitment to green technology and preserving environmental stability in the Arctic, the department said. His message to a meeting of the Arctic Council in Iceland will be a marked change from the Trump administration, which had urged the group to take commercial advantage of global warming.

While in Reykjavik, Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the first high-level face-to-face talks between Moscow and Washington since President Joe Biden took office. That meeting, which comes amid heightened tensions over Ukraine and cyberattacks from Russia on the United States, will largely focus on preparing for a planned summit next month between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite the focus on Russia, Blinken plans to make climate change a main priority of his participation in the Arctic Council foreign ministers’ meeting. At the last such meeting in Finland in 2019, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. delegation raised eyebrows and concerns from other members by embracing the loss of sea ice as a way to boost maritime commerce.

Blinken, the State Department said, will use his participation “to advance efforts to sustain the Arctic as a region of peace, free of conflict, where Arctic Council members collaborate on shared priorities to protect the wellbeing of Arctic communities and address the ever-growing threat and impacts of the climate crisis.”