The ‘Common Arctic’: Legal Analysis of Arctic & non-Arctic Political Discourses
This paper takes a closer look at the references to commonality, which are a salient, albeit ambiguous feature of the current discussion on Arctic governance. It does so from a legal perspective and with the purpose to unveil a twofold divide in the discussion. Legal and political purposes intersect and they vary depending on whether they are made from an Arctic or a non-Arctic perspective. Despite similar rhetoric, intentions may differ greatly and it is not unusual that different players refer to the law in irreconcilable or controversial ways. In a first step, the variety of references to commonality is charted and the underlying rhetorical strategies are carved out. In a second step, the references’ legal accuracy and their conceptual contribution to the development of a legal framework for Arctic cooperation are analysed. This should enable a better understanding of the diverging intentions and strategies at play in the discussion and the difficulties to reach a common understanding of how to govern the Arctic region.
Foreign and Domestic Discourse on the Russian Arctic
The strained relations between the West and Russia regarding influence in Ukraine may lead to an increase in tension in other regions. The Arctic may become a potential zone of conflict due to its rich natural resources, new transportation routes, military significance, and unsolved territorial issues. The aim of this paper is to identify the governmental discourse of Russia’s top officials describing Russia’s state policy on the Arctic for foreign and domestic audiences. The paper focuses on the period from 2013 till 2015 when tensions in the relationship between Russia and the West increased due to the crisis in Ukraine. The units of analysis are public statements by senior officials of the Russian Federation in speeches and reports in the media. The major finding is that the Arctic should serve in Russian-Western rapprochement rather than becoming the next geopolitical hot spot.
Carving up the Arctic: The Continental Shelf Process between International Law and Geopolitics
A new chapter in Arctic relations opened when Danish diplomats submitted five boxes of evidence to the UN’s Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelve (CLCS) in New York. Denmark’s claim to 895,000 km2 of Arctic seabed that includes the geographical North Pole surprised analysts by going all the way from Greenland’s northern boundary to the border of the Russian EEZ. The claim is likely to overlap with future Canadian and Russian claims. Observers soon warned that this could lead to an unfortunate Russian reaction and spark tensions between Moscow and Copenhagen. This article examines how the Canadian, Danish, and Russian claims may spark tensions between the Arctic states, based on a review of the Arctic studies literature. How does the UNCLOS process fit within the political dynamics of the region and does the Ukraine crisis make a peaceful agreement less likely? The article argues that the claims process is largely disconnected from the geopolitical logic of the region and there is no reason to expect it to cause significant tensions between the High North states. As several authors have pointed out, most resources are located outside of the disputed areas. Instead, the process is driven by domestic concerns. Ownership of the Arctic is symbolically important in all three states, albeit in different ways. Whereas Arctic ownership is crucial for both Canadian and Russian audiences, in Denmark the claims process has more to do with the complex Danish-Greenlandic relationship. However, the Ukraine crisis may disrupt this peaceful state of affairs. The crisis may alter the Putin regime’s power base and thus force Moscow to become more attentive to domestic voices that call for a more bellicose approach to the Arctic.
Big Fish in a Small (Arctic) Pond: Regime Adherence as Status and Arctic State Identity in Norway
Ingrid A. Medby
Despite frequent reassurances that the Arctic region’s regime of governance rests soundly on two mutually reinforcing pillars: the Arctic Council intergovernmental cooperation and the international UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), doubt is still cast time and time again on the durability of Arctic peace and stability. Explanations for the regime’s strength are often based on classical theories of international relations, wherein traditional concepts of power-struggles ensure the relative benefit of state cooperation in the region. However, the case is here made that adherence to the present Arctic regime of governance is not just a matter of material or strategic importance for the eight so-called Arctic states. It is also a matter of status, pride, and identity; indeed, perceptions of a state’s role in the world are a powerful and often underestimated force in determining interstate relations.
Examining the specific case of one Arctic state, Norway, the paper explores how a state identity linked to the status granted by the current regime of governance guides political practices. This is done by drawing on a range of interviews with Norwegian state officials. For these, Arctic statehood is tied to political status, leverage, and legitimacy, thereby contributing to a positive selfperception and an advantageous international position. Furthermore, this is linked to pre-existing idea(l)s of ‘essential’ Norwegian history, culture, and values. Thus, through adopting a self-perception founded on the present Arctic regime of governance, the latter is discursively and normatively strengthened and reified, showing the potential potency of a political, state identity.
The Arctic Security Community: Proving Ground or Sub-Plot of a Tensed European Security Environment?
For a long time, economic, environmental and human challenges to security dominated the governmental discourse on Arctic security and the work of the Arctic Council. Projects and procedures of cross-border co-operation negated opportunities for any geopolitical tension in the region. Even the widely cited Arctic ‘dispute’, on the yet-to-be defined maritime borders in the High North, has so far followed international law under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. As a result, diplomats and many scholars optimistically assess the future of Arctic security. One could come to the conclusion that the Arctic represents “a transnational region comprised of sovereign states whose people maintain dependable expectations of peaceful change,” or a potential ‘Arctic Security Community.’ The rising geopolitical tensions surrounding the Ukrainian crisis, however, may have now stopped, probably even reversed, the long, slow and difficult process towards such a security community in the High North. One reason, as this article argues, is that over the years, military security has been excluded from much of the Arctic security discourse. This incomprehensive security approach has made the region vulnerable to spillover effects of geo-political tensions. Worse, this approach now seems to slowly threaten even the good track record of cooperation in economic, environmental and human security dimensions. Since many government-to-government contacts, espe-cially military-to-military ones, are currently completely immobilized, this article not only argues for a more com-prehensive approach towards Arctic security, but also for a strengthening and inclusion of the region’s strong levels of cross-border co-operations between research institutions, civil society actors and indigenous peoples into a ‘Com-prehensive Arctic Security Environment.’ If such a comprehensive approach can be achieved, this article argues finally that the Arctic might even be able to serve as a proving ground for restoring mutual trust and confidence beyond its regional borders, within the currently tensed European security environment.
Toward an Arctic Way: Regimes, Realignments, and the ASEAN Analogue
This paper explores the history behind today’s Arctic governance architecture, potential areas for realignments, and the analytical efficacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a guiding analogue. Calling upon a vast body of scholarly work on Arctic governing regimes, the author identifies weaknesses and voids limiting the ability of Arctic states and, most critically, the Arctic Council as the governing nucleus, from harnessing historic regional momentum. Grounded by international relations theories on regionalism, regional security, functionalism, and international law, the paper serves to instruct both the international affairs scholar and the regional policy-maker. Where previous papers have looked to the Circumpolar South and the Antarctic Treaty System as an analogue, the author instead finds value in the ASEAN analogue and the parallel structures, actions, and passions therein. The paper closes with various policy prescriptions for the Arctic Council in cooperation with Arctic states, indigenous peoples, and the region’s vibrant epistemic community. The author’s analysis seeks to answer this paper’s guiding question: Considering the region’s history alongside existing governing structures, what is the most instructive analogue to guide further regional integration in the Arctic and how can these lessons be best applied?
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