On First Visit to Alaska, French Ambassador talks about climate change, Russia and the issue of the missing French sled dog – Alaska Public Media

French Ambassador Philip Etienne (Embassy of France)

France’s ambassador to the United States is in Alaska, with a stop in Anchorage before heading to the village of Quinhagak to visit the Nunnallik Center for Culture and Archeology, headed by a French archaeologist.

It’s Ambassador Philip Etienne’s first trip to the state, and on his first day in Anchorage, he hadn’t yet seen any of the city’s captivating megafauna. But Etienne has She met with state and local leaders and the local French community.

Etienne says he was discussing everything from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, his diplomatic position in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed, and of course climate change.


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The following text has been slightly edited for clarity.

Philip Etienne: Well, we (climate change) are all feeling very sharply. I mean, on all continents. We just had, in Europe, two heat waves already this summer. We are also affected by droughts, fires and wildfires like the United States, but like many, many other parts of the world. So it’s really important for all of us in the world, to achieve our goals and reduce global warming. It’s really important to have the United States on board. It would have been good for us to have the United States return to the Paris Climate Accords, as well as the United States as a leader in these global negotiations.

Casey Grove: Kind of changing gears, I saw on your itinerary that you’re heading to Koenhagac Village. And maybe you can tell me about it. Why are you heading there?

PE: Yes, indeed, after Anchorage, we will visit with my colleagues in Cuenhagac, because there we have a collaboration between the local community and a French archaeologist, which is supported by our government. This collaboration relates to excavations in their area, in the ancient village of Nunnaliq. It’s really important, because it’s about finding things, artifacts, that would have disappeared if they weren’t looked for, because of global warming, because this, permafrost, is not frozen now. And things, which were held under the previous conditions, can no longer be held.

CG: Where do you expect? I mean, did you see the pictures? Do you know?

PE: Yes, I have seen some pictures of the result of the investigations, the artifacts that were found. And I must say, this morning, we were also very lucky to be able to visit both, here in Anchorage, the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum. I learned a lot this morning by visiting these two places.

CG: Yes that’s great. We have a nice museum here, right?

PE: Yes, you can be proud of your museum, definitely a great museum.

CG: My wife pulls me there sometimes. She’s also the one who helps me with the French words in the crossword puzzle.

PE: yes! Well, thank her!

CG: I do that too, all the time!

I have to ask you about Russia. I know this is a broad question, but as a diplomat, do you feel there is any hope that diplomacy will help resolve the situation in Ukraine? And I say that while I’m sitting here in Alaska, where we’re close to the other side of Russia, right? What do you think that?

PE: We, especially our president, have tried very hard to prevent this war, this invasion by Russia. You probably remember that our President Macron traveled to Moscow a few days ago, to try to convince the Russian President that negotiations were possible, because we all need to rethink the security system in Europe, once Russia begins its very brutal invasion of Ukraine. While France held the presidency of the Council of the European Union, it was also responsible for running the entire European Union. We have been very clear in our resolute support for Ukraine. But to return to your first question, of course we want to resolve these issues with diplomacy. We have always said that this is the reason why our president has been in contact not only with the Ukrainian president all the time, but also with the Russian president. Right now, we see the war going on, with many casualties, many casualties and even crimes, and war crimes. So we have to do it, we can’t accept this. We continue to support the Ukrainian people in their brave fight against this aggression.

CG: You mentioned that you held a position in Moscow about 30 years ago. And I was trying to do the math, if it was just before the collapse of the USSR or …

PE: At the time of the end of the Soviet Union.

CG: What was it like? I mean, that you saw it for yourself?

PE: Well, history was in the making, and of course it was not easy for the Russian people. We should understand that better. It was also a period of freedom, of opportunity, for everyone, including Russians, also for countries in Central Europe and other countries of the former Soviet Union. So, it is a difficult time, a transition, a time of opportunity, but also a time of hope.

CG: yes. That’s interesting. A lot of us just watched it on TV, you know, and I was just a boy. So it’s exciting to meet someone who has been there.

PE: It was really cool. Impressive, yes, to be there at the time.

CG: Well, I wanted to ask you, and I don’t want to say that this is a lighter question, because there was some seriousness, but there are a couple of French dogs competing in the Iditarod. And last year, I think it was a rookie, named Sebastian dos Santos Borges, who lost a dog on the road, Leon. And there was a search for Leon, I think three months passed. Have you heard about it? And I mean, do you think this situation could have been helped by some diplomacy?

PE: I only heard about it when I got to Alaska, I’m so glad Sebastian found his dog again. We have here (in Anchorage) an honorary consulate. And we have our Consulate General in San Francisco, which is for the French communities here in Alaska. (There are) very, very nice people who are active in many, many areas, including tourism and sports, but also education, business or art. So I don’t know if diplomacy will help in finding the poor dog more quickly, but of course, we are there whenever needed if the French nationals need some help. Again, I don’t know to what extent we were able to help but we are ready for any problem.

CG: So that was a good answer to a silly question.

PE: No, no, there is no silly question. I understand the feelings caused by this dog’s fate. These are really nice and cute dogs, how do you say, who paints these sleds?

CG: yes.

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