Arcitc Yearbook 2012
disagreement on their Barents Sea maritime boundary (Harding, 2010), and Canada and Russia
agreed that the United Nations would be the final arbiter of their overlapping claims in the Arctic
Ocean (BBC, 2010). The line of demarcation in the Beaufort Sea between Canada and the U.S.
remains un-delineated, but violent conflict between states with such amicable relations and shared
interests is practically unimaginable. Unclaimed deposits outside state EEZs may be in play following
a successful petition under Article 76, but the recoverability of these deposits is complicated by
greater ocean depth, distance to shorelines, and sheer statistical uncertainty of their presence, making
development of near-shore deposits a much more attractive prospect in the near and medium term
(AMAP, 2007). For example, nearly all offshore explored gas reserves lie in the Russian Barents Sea,
mostly in the Shtokman field 600 km off the coast of the Kola peninsula. It is unlikely that any
undiscovered deposits in Russia’s pending claim represent a prize of equal or greater value (IBRU,
2008; Gautier et al., 2009).
The commitment to the existing UNCLOS framework (and the preservation of national agendas that
it affords) may be motivated by a protectionist impulse, but it is a peaceful one nonetheless. As long
as the tenets of UNCLOS remain intact, there is little reason for states to pursue aggressive policies
to secure oil and gas, as Norway and Russia recently demonstrated with the Barents Sea boundary
dispute resolution. The Ilulissat Declaration set a regrettable precedent by excluding indigenous
groups and three states from the table. Yet, its unequivocal affirmation of UNCLOS may be the
single most significant step toward conflict avoidance in the Arctic.
Arctic Infrastructure: Scarcity and Investment
While the post-Cold War Arctic has sometimes been perceived as geopolitical backwater, the region’s
recent militarization reflects an elevated nationalist enterprise at work. This Northern nationalism is
linked to an imbalance between despotic and infrastructural power currently unfolding in the Arctic.
Michael Mann (1984) distinguishes between despotic power, or power over society by state elites;
and infrastructural power, or power to penetrate and coordinate the activities of civil society through
implementation of infrastructure. While despotic power works by directly imposing a state’s will over
its people, infrastructural power works by increasing the amount of contact states have with their
citizens and the benefits that result from this contact. For this reason, infrastructural power may be
viewed as a ‘positive’ type of power, as it is effectively a legitimacy to govern ultimately derived from
the assent of the people. For example, governments that tax their citizens directly at source without