Arctic Review on Law and Politics, Vol 5, No 2, 2014, pp. 156-176.
The Arctic has been the object of heated political discussion in recent years, in the scholarly literature as in real life. The region went from a potential conflict zone during the Cold War to an arena for international cooperation immediately after. Since the mid-2000s, there has again been increased attention on the conflict potential of the Arctic, this time related to its resources. The literature on international relations (IR) in the Arctic has been mainly empirical in orientation, although framed in the major IR traditions of realism (traditional geopolitics), institutionalism and (to a lesser extent) constructivism. The English-language literature on Arctic politics is by and large framed in institutional terms. The discussion is not whether institutions matter in Arctic politics, but how they best can be crafted in order to maintain peace and stability in the region. Speculations about a ‘scramble for the Arctic’ have more or less unanimously been refuted in the literature. The French literature, on the other hand, is largely framed in a geopolitical context. French geopolitics is less concerned with the global power game than with the rivalry between states for strategic resources. The institutions of cooperation are, however, downplayed.