Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic

In Mark Nuttall, Torben R. Christensen and Martin Siegert (eds), Routledge Handbook of the Polar Regions. Abingdon, Routledge, 2018, pp. 348-356. 

As economic and political interests in the Arctic region have peaked over the last decade, statements about future conflict in the north occur regularly in media headlines as well as in academic writings. One common fallacy is equating strategic interests in resources and a changing geographic space with conflicting interests between Arctic states. Preserving the primacy of coastal state rights through UNCLOS, as well as enabling Arctic industrial endeavours, dampen the chance of a regional “scramble”. Another fallacy is a tendency to describe the Arctic as one region in terms of security interests and concerns. This ignores the variation in climatic conditions as well as the location of the Arctic populations, in tandem with the differing role the various Arctic regions hold in each country’s national security strategies. At the same time, local disputes and conflict escalation are not unthinkable, as parts of the Arctic stands as a theatre for interaction between NATO-members and Russia. This chapter explores these dynamics and outlines these arguments further.