Interview with Louis Crishock, the United States' Senior Arctic Official

14 September 2021
Louis Crishock has over 20 years of experience with the U.S. Foreign Service and was most recently posted in Russia. However, his time serving in the Eastern Caribbean has taught him a valuable lesson for work in the Arctic. Learn more about Louis, his background and what he looks forward to most as he begins his new role as Senior Arctic Official.

What is your background, and how do you feel it has prepared you for your role as a Senior Arctic Official?

Thanks for the opportunity to introduce myself! I’m a native of Virginia, on the Atlantic Coast of the United States. I have graduate degrees in both sociology and political science, and once taught sociology at the Ural State University in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

I joined the Foreign Service in 1999 and have served in a variety of overseas posts, including, most recently, as Consul General of the United States in Vladivostok, Russia. While serving in Vladivostok, my consular district included much of Russia’s Arctic including the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug -- the part of Russia’s Arctic that shares a maritime boundary with the United States near Alaska. I speak Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Ukrainian.

From 2012-2015 I served as U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Grenada, a tri-island state in the Eastern Caribbean. Believe it or not, I think that my time in the tropics taught me a valuable lesson for work in the Arctic. While working with colleagues in Grenada on erosion mitigation measures and marine protected areas, I learned what I think will be a valuable lesson for my work in the Arctic Council: that conservation and environmental protection efforts are sustainable and effective when consideration of the lives and livelihoods of citizens plays a central role.

I’m grateful to the government of the United States for the trust it has placed in me by selecting me to serve as Senior Arctic Official for the United States of America and it is an honor to serve the American people in this role. I look forward to working with colleagues from the Arctic States, the Permanent Participants and the Arctic Council Secretariat as we address the challenges faced by our common Arctic home.

What elements of your work with the Arctic Council are you most looking forward to?

This is a very difficult question, chiefly because the Arctic Council, like the Arctic itself, is fascinating in so many ways. That said, it’s important in life to set priorities, so I’ll try to share some of the things I am looking forward to the most.

First of all, I’m eager to learn more about the prodigious work being done by Arctic Council Working Groups. From my first few days as U.S. Senior Arctic Official, it’s clear to me that the Working Groups, their Chairs, secretariats and members, are among the real heroes of the Arctic Council. These people enable the circumpolar cooperation that helps the Arctic Council address the issues that face our shared Arctic home. I hope that, working together with the Chair, and my SAO and Arctic Council Secretariat colleagues, we can help to facilitate the work of the Working Groups and the communication and cooperation between them to maintain the Arctic Council as the region’s premier multilateral forum for such engagement.

Another unique aspect of the work of the Arctic Council that I find fascinating is the status and role of the Permanent Participants. I’m proud that the Arctic Council has facilitated the robust participation of Arctic Indigenous Peoples from its very start. I’m eager to learn more about the native peoples of the High North, their histories and cultures, and working with them to integrate Indigenous knowledge and expertise in all our work under the auspices of the Arctic Council.

Finally, I am looking forward to meeting my colleagues from the other seven Arctic States and the Permanent Participants, throughout the Russian Chairmanship.

What are some of the challenges that you see for the Arctic Council that you are looking forward to tackling in your new position?

It is an honor to start my work as United States SAO right as we prepare to mark the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Declaration. One challenge (and opportunity) that I look forward to tackling, together with all of my Arctic Council colleagues, is to maintain the tradition of cooperation and strong results that have marked the first quarter century of this forum as we begin the second.

As we address this challenge together, we are fortunate to have many tools at our disposal, not the least of which are the historic Arctic Council Strategic Plan for 2021-2030 approved at the Reykjavik Ministerial and the spirit, ideas and energy of everyone in the Arctic Council family. Based on my initial interactions with many of my colleagues, I am certain we will address this challenge successfully.

What is your most memorable Arctic experience?

Forgive me, but I have to mention two very memorable experiences: one which initiated my appreciation of and fascination with the Arctic and another which cemented it.

Though I was intrigued by the High North from a young age, I first visited Alaska in July 2010. Though the trip was less than a week and mostly in the city of Anchorage, Alaska’s connection both to nature and to the sea were palpable, as was the central role Alaska Natives played in its past, present and future. During that trip, it was an honor to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Museum, and to experience the culture of Alaska Natives firsthand. Intrigue had developed into interest.

SAO Louis Crishock on Mt. Alyeska, Alaska, 2010
Detail from the Alaska Native Heritage Museum, Anchorage, AK

The second event, the one that cemented my fascination with the Arctic, was my first visit as U.S. Consul General in Vladivostok to Russia’s Arctic. It was an honor and pleasure to represent the United States at a conference in Anadyr, Chukotka on efforts to preserve the Chukchi Sea polar bear population.

CG Crishock, “Universe of the Polar Bear,” Anadyr, Chukotka 2019

Though it might sound silly, the Autumn sun there seemed to shine a little brighter, and as it set over the water near Anadyr’s cathedral, the view was breathtaking. When I had the opportunity to meet the Chukchi and other Indigenous Peoples of Russia, and to explore their histories and culture at the Chukotka Heritage Museum, I was struck by the similarities to what I had experienced of the art and life of Alaska Natives and I understood experientially what we mean when we use the term “One Arctic.”

Celebration of Chukchi Culture, Chukotka, 2019

During my service as U.S. Senior Arctic Official, I look forward to many opportunities not just to experience our common circumpolar home, but to work with you to help to ensure its bright future.