Arcitc Yearbook 2012
Such rhetoric may represent little beyond symbolism and political posturing, however. In spite of
Harper’s repeated public calls for increased militarization, cables released by WikiLeaks reveal his
belief that an Arctic military clash is highly unlikely, and that a NATO presence in the region could
backfire by exacerbating tensions with Russia (The Globe and Mail, 2011). Furthermore, military
presence as a projection of national identity is not warmongering, as citizens may support their
military without supporting militarism. Recent evidence suggests that while nationalist sentiments
persist throughout the North, international approaches to governance also enjoy widespread support.
A survey of 9000 residents in the eight Arctic states found pluralities of respondents favoring a “firm
line in defending its sections of the Arctic” in Canada (42%), Iceland (36%), and Russia (34%), but
greater numbers of respondents from these countries favoring either negotiating compromises with
other countries, or designating the Arctic as an international territory (Canada, 52%; Iceland, 53%;
Russia, 47%) (EKOS Research Associates, 2011, page numbers?). These attitudes comprised strong
majorities of the responses from other states (Denmark, 88%; Finland; 87%; Norway, 84%; Sweden,
83%; United States, 55%).
These results appear to vindicate efforts to develop international governance regimes in the Arctic.
International governance has had a place in discussions on Arctic politics since the final years of the
Cold War, as Mikhail Gorbachev’s famous “Murmansk Initiative” speech in 1987 initiated a move
toward thinking of the region as a zone of international cooperation rather than a military theater
(Osherenko and Young, 1993; Young, 2009). Perhaps the most significant development in this
regard was the 1996 inception of the Arctic Council, which established the first circumpolar
intergovernmental body intended to promote shared governance among states and indigenous
groups. The Arctic Council has succeeded in fostering dialogue among stakeholders concerning
sustainable development, environmental protection, and scientific collaboration, culminating with the
release of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) in 2004. It has raised the geopolitical profile
of the Arctic (numerous non-Arctic states have applied for observer status) and is an important
forum for the advancement of indigenous interests. Most recently, the landmark May 2011
agreement to coordinate search-and-rescue operations jointly among the eight states marked the first
legally binding agreement adopted under the auspices of the Council (Arctic Council, 2011a).
This recent success notwithstanding, many of the most important issues in the region today remain
confined to engagement at the national level. The Arctic Council retains little binding regulatory
authority over many sensitive issues of national interest, such as border control, security policy and