The Arctic security region: misconceptions and contradictions

Polar Geography, published online 28.02.2021, 20 p. DOI: 10.1080/1088937X.2021.1881645

The security interests of Arctic states are increasingly described as intertwined. The Arctic is seen either as a region where great power rivalries or resource wars are likely, or as a part of the world defined by cooperative traits and shared security interests. These depictions often implicitly lean on notions of a security region and regionalism, albeit without utilizing such frameworks to unpack security interactions in the Arctic. An increasing number of Arctic-focused scholars refer to the Arctic as a region in terms of security interests, but is this really the case if we make use of the different ways a security region has been outlined as an analytical tool? Leaning on different levels of analysis, this article questions several assumptions underpinning recent work on military security in the Arctic, advancing our understanding of security dynamics in the north and adding to our knowledge of security regions as a concept within international studies. It is argued that descriptions of the Arctic as a new security region are based on mixing and equating two distinct features of the region: the changing climate and related increases in economic ventures; and Russia’s military build-up and regional hegemony.