America’s Forgotten Borders Merit More Attention

The U.S. is an arctic nation. It’s also a Caribbean nation.

While Alaska and Puerto Rico put the U.S. into those categories of nations, the interests of those states don’t typically make it to the top tier of American concerns. These forgotten borders were the topic of the International Committee meeting discussion Friday morning.

In Puerto Rico, drug trafficking has increased 350 percent, from 2 metric tons of cocaine in 2009 to 7 metric tons in 2010, according to Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock. He added that is just the increase in the amount of drugs being seized, not what is getting through.

The U.S. spends $1 for securing the Caribbean border for every $11 to secure the Mexican border, he said.

“You’ve pinched the balloon over there and balloon expands over here,” he said.

The Caribbean has become a gateway for drug trafficking into the U.S. As a result, the murder rate due to drug trafficking in Puerto Rico, McClintock said, has increased more than six times the national average.

The U.S. faces similar peril by ignoring its arctic needs, said Alaska Senate President Gary Stevens, vice chair of The Council of State Governments.

“We are the only arctic nation that doesn’t have an arctic strategy,” Stevens said. “Canada is miles ahead of us. I believe there is a real value in looking at how Canadians view the arctic.”

The natural resources in the arctic draw the interests of other nations.

“We must defend, prepare and protect the arctic,” he said. “If we don’t, others will.”

Alaska Rep. Craig Johnson pointed out that China, which has no arctic borders, has eight icebreakers to the U.S.’s zero.

“They are not even close, but they see the natural resources there and the ability to buy their way into the arctic,” he said.

Washington Sen. Karen Fraser said water is an unnoticed border, but an important one. She represented CSG West at the sixth triennial world water forum in France. As with the Caribbean and arctic borders, Fraser said, the water issue merits more attention than it has received.